Friday, May 1, 2009

Congrats Sr. Mary Scullion, RSM, SJC '76

Congratulations Sr. Mary! A proud alumna of St. Martin of Tours Parish in the Oxford Circle section of Northeast Philadelphia, Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls, and St. Joseph's University, class of 1976.

Sr. Mary was also the first female recipient of St. Joseph's University's highest honor... the Shield of Loyola, in 1999. (and she's a buddy of Jon BonJovi)
To find out more click Project H.O.M.E

By GLORIA CAMPISIPhiladelphia Daily News 215-854-5935

Sister Mary Scullion, the daughter of Irish immigrants who grew up in Irish enclave in Oxford Circle, entered the convent at 19.

A member of the Sisters of Mercy, she taught parochial school, but it wasn't until she helped, in 1976, with the opening of Mercy Hospice, a shelter in Center City for homeless women and children, that she found her true calling.

Scullion was permitted to come to Mercy Hospice full time in 1978 and that mission set her on the path to becoming what some have called Philadelphia's "saint," a description the she angrily dismisses.

Despite her down-to-earth manner, Scullion, 55, has worked wonders in Philadelphia's homeless world, so much so that she has just been chosen one of Time magazine's "World's Most Influential People" of 2009.

"More than 95 percent of those who cycle through" the homeless program Scullion started with another woman, Joan McConnon, "have never returned to life on the streets - a success rate that has made the program a model for dozens of other U.S. cities," Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the book "Eat, Pray, Love," wrote in an article about Scullion in the current issue of Time.
According to a published biographical sketch, Scullion's social conscience was fired by the 41st Eucharistic Congress in 1976, held in Philadelphia and attended by one million pilgrims from 100 countries.

Among them were Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day, a well known Communist and co-founder of the Catholic Worker.

Known for her sense of humor and, now and then, a swear word or two, Scullion said she was "profoundly grateful" for being chosen by Time but accepted the honor "on behalf of the entire community of people committed to ending homelessness.

"Even while the nation and the city face tough economic times, this is an opportunity for us to make great progress," she said.

"We can't accept that our government can pour billions of dollars into failing corporations like AIG and not be able to fund permanent supportive housing which not only saves lives, but over time saves money."

Philadelphia has one of the lowest rates of people living on the streets among the country's largest cities, about 600, she said. "We are so proud of Sister Mary," Mayor Nutter said.
"Her quiet dignity belies her willingness to speak up for the voiceless and fight for those who cannot stand up for themselves."

The Lord isn’t the only one who works in mysterious ways. So do rock stars. One day a couple of years ago, Sister Mary Scullion — earthy yet spiritual co-founder of Philly’s celebrated Project H.O.M.E., and herself something of a rock star in social services circles — was concluding a public meeting about homelessness in North Philly when she was approached by a man who introduced himself as “O.B.” He was impressed with what he heard about Project H.O.M.E., which strives to help the poor and homeless become independent, and he wondered if Sister Mary might be able to tell him more. Sister Mary is not the type to say no — either to people in need or to people who might be able to help people in need — and so a few days later she took this … O.B. … on a tour of what her outfit has been up to for the past 20 years — its community center and café (staffed by the homeless) on Fairmount Avenue, its street outreach projects, its recently completed Honickman Learning Center.

When they finished, O.B. laid his cards on the table.“Sister,” he said, “I actually represent Jon Bon Jovi, and … ”Now, Sister Mary is a woman of great faith, but she is no rube. As she puts it, “We get all types up here.” And so her reaction was not what you might imagine from a nun.“Yeah, right,” she muttered.

No, O.B. insisted, he really was with Bon Jovi, and a few days later he proved it by bringing JBJ himself up to North Philly for a little of the Sister Mary treatment. The rocker — who along with local developer Craig Spencer had recently become owner of the Philadelphia Soul, the Arena Football League team — was impressed by what he saw at Project H.O.M.E., and he had a simple question for the nun: How can we help? Thus was born one of the more unlikely philanthropic partnerships in recent memory, a pairing so unexpected that it sounds like a pitch for a bad sitcom — über-rich entertainer teams up with vow-of-poverty-taking penguin. (Working title? Livin’ on a Prayer, of course.)

But in North Philly, you’ll see what the Philadelphia Soul Foundation and Sister Mary hath wrought: The Bon Jovi Homes, 15 rehabbed houses, many now filled with formerly homeless women.“It was almost like … well, nobody knew how to react,” Sister Mary says of that first day she took Bon Jovi around the neighborhood. “It was almost like it was too good to be true.”


  1. Nice to see your blog.

    One correction to the Philadelphia Daily News article:

    >> Among them were Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day, a well known Communist and co-founder of the Catholic Worker. <<

    In fact Dorothy was never a member of the Communist Party nor tempted to be one. But one could certainly call her a radical -- a word whose Latin root (radix) is "root": someone attempting to solve social problems by digging down to their roots.

    Jim Forest
    (author of "Love is the Measure," one of the biographies of Dorothy Day)

  2. serious question: Bonjovi is a supporter of Gov corzine, a pro choice supporter. Bonjovi has done fundraising for the gov and will do so in the future. considering that bonjovi is actively coupled politically with a pro choice candidate, should sister mary work with him and should she have taken his money as bonjovi is clearly an abortion supporter?

  3. Yeah - whatever she took is not going to support abortion. And maybe talking to Sr Mary will bring Bon Jovi into contact with people who can give him reasons to rethink his abortion support -- maybe somebody who survived one, or could have been a victim, eg.

    In supporting Corzine, JBJ is probably acting out of the same desire to sreve the good that shows in his helping Sr Mary. That desire is misdirected in supporting a pro-choicer, but it's probably real, nonethless. Slapping him in the face by spurning his money won't convert him. Taking his money for the homeless doesn't endorse his support for Corzine.
    S. Murphy

  4. when was she born?!?!?!?
    ive been looking for that information everywhere!