We were recently treated to a visit from our namesake, Sister Isaac; it was great to have her spend the week with us. She jumped right in, helping to serve those in need, as well as socializing with volunteers and guests alike, all of whom were thrilled to see her again. . One of my volunteers said, “You can take the woman out of Outreach, but you can’t take the Outreach out of the woman!”
For those of you new to the parish, I should mention that Sister Isaac started the Outreach ministry some 34 years ago. She relocated to St Mary to work on faith formation; it was suggested to her that she also look into doing work with the needy. She started her ministry to the poor handing out food out of the janitor’s closet in the school. When the Tileston building was purchased by the parish, she went about making changes to the lower level to accommodate her ministry, which became known as “St Mary Social Ministry, Tileston Outreach”. She always had a knack for attracting volunteers; there’s a plaque in our front entrance hall recognizing her, Fr Hadden and her team of 19 volunteers that were responsible for creating our workspace. I’ve always said that Sister was a magnet; once you met her, you were drawn to her, wanting to help her in her mission to give the poor a hand up, not a handout.
She expanded the ministry over time to provide all the services we offer today – food, clothing, hygiene items, diapers, household goods, furniture and financial assistance. She had a great following of volunteers, at times as many as 200, many of which are still with us today. Her volunteers weren’t just from the parish – they came from all areas of the community: the other Catholic churches, several Protestant churches, even a Buddhist and some non-churchgoers. She was a great role model to us all as she encouraged us to treat our guests with respect and dignity, setting aside any judgements and listening to them with an open heart.
She had left the parish to do other work for her community for several years in the late 90’s, but returned again to take charge of Outreach around 2003. Over the years, Sister was instrumental in the creation of Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, and Hadden Hall senior housing. She was heavily involved with the original Tileston Clinic. I remember when she used to walk over to the clinic on Wednesday evenings to hold the hands of people having teeth extracted; she also worked providing food for their diabetic patients, a need very near and dear to her. In her “spare time”, she ran the RCIA program.
Sister retired in December 2016. When she had announced her decision to retire, Fr Bob made a proclamation that we would be renamed “The Sister Isaac Center”, a very fitting honor in light of all she had done for the community.
I remember the day she left; first thing in the morning, she came over and made sure all the food was organized for our impending Christmas project; then she quietly, drove off in her van and headed north, home to her community in Rhinebeck NY in time for Christmas. We miss her dearly and we always look forward to her visits.