Thursday, July 9, 2009

Philly nun + Jersey rocker = great things

One person can make a difference, although get a group of good people together and you can really accomplish great things.

Sr. Mary Scullion, RSM is a religious in the Sisters of Mercy. I last saw her in September while dropping off two former players at 23rd and Norris Streets in North Philly. Walking across Judson Street was Sr. Mary herself... and everyone in the neighborhood knows her - and loves her. For someone who hobnobs with the rich and famous, was voted one of Time Magazine's "Most Influential Women"(Phila Nun Named to "Most Influential" -, and has Jon Bon Jovi's home phone number... she is as humble as they come, and does great things for the greater glory of God, for the least of her brothers and sisters.

There is, of course, a St. Joe's connection as well. Sr. Mary is an alumna of Hawk Hill, class of 1976, and the Jesuits once operated St. John the Evangelist Church. They moved the school there, ever so briefly, in the late 1850-60's. The school was then moved back to Old St. Joe's prior to Fr. Burchard Villiger, SJ (p 11) building the Gesu /Prep / College at 17th and Stiles (older alums would remember Villiger Hall, now Post Hall, and the Villiger Debating Society). St. John's is now run by the Capuchin Franciscan Friars - The Province of St. Augustine.


Sister Mary Scullion, who has helped the homeless for 30 years and is co-founder of the group Project H.O.M.E. in Philadelphia, has worked with Bon Jovi for nearly three years and said the singer is sincere in shining a worldwide spotlight on the plight of the homeless.

''He truly is a phenomenal rock star and it's hard to comprehend he's with us here in North Central Philadelphia celebrating these accomplishments,'' Scullion said.

Scullion said the Soul Foundation has donated $2 million to the local community and continues to aid Project H.O.M.E (Housing, Opportunities for Employment, Medical Care, Education).

''The Soul Foundation's romantic vision is that one street at a time, one neighborhood at a time, leads to one city at a time, to a state at a time, to a nation,'' Bon Jovi said. ''I'm just building the model.''

Wearing a white button-down shirt, sport coat and jeans, Bon Jovi took a break from his band's tour to show up in support of the project.

''I wouldn't be showing up for many people in the world, but with Sister Mary, you'll stand up here in attention,'' Bon Jovi said.
Philadelphia Soul - News

Philadelphia Inquirer - Construction begins on homeless shelter
By Jennifer Lin
Inquirer Staff Writer

Just a few nights ago, homeless men slept in the doorways of an empty two-story building along an alley between the Loews Hotel and St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Center City.

But yesterday, a crane arrived to begin tearing down the old school to make way for permanent housing for homeless men and women.

Eighteen months from now, 79 people battling mental illness or addictions will move into a $25 million, eight-story apartment building.

Five years in development, the project is a collaboration of two nonprofits that work with the homeless: the Bethesda Project and Project H.O.M.E. Dozens of private and public donors have put their money into the effort, from the city of Philadelphia to rock star Jon Bon Jovi.

More than 200 people, including Cardinal Justin Rigali, attended yesterday's unveiling of plans for the residence. It will be named after John and Josephine Connelly, founders of the Connelly Foundation, which also contributed money to the project.

Bon Jovi told those assembled in the alley behind SEPTA headquarters at 13th and Market Streets that the residence illustrated "the power of we."

"Improving the lives of Philadelphia's most vulnerable citizens improves the lives of all its citizens," said Bon Jovi, a major supporter of Project H.O.M.E. who has donated money to four of its recent housing projects.

Other supporters are the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, and the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco.
Joan Dawson McConnon, co-founder of Project H.O.M.E. with Sister Mary Scullion, called the effort "a miracle come true."

The last few years have been "like a roller coaster" in lining up financing, Scullion said. But in the end, she said, not only did the project draw the support of multiple public and private funders, but also the backing of neighbors - from the five-star Loews Hotel to Macy's at the Wanamaker Building and SEPTA.

With so little new construction east of City Hall, the conversion of the vacant building is a positive development for the neighborhood, said Rick Staub, Loews' general manager.

The Rev. Frank Yacobi, St. John's pastor, said he saw homeless men sleeping in the doorways of the old building the night before and had the same thought he had five years ago: "Can't we do better than this?"

Yacobi said that the church was not using the former school and youth center and that in 2004 it had approached Angelo Sgro, executive director of the Bethesda Project, about taking over the site. Sgro reached out to Project H.O.M.E.

The most urgent need seemed obvious to Sgro: permanent housing for the homeless.
The facility will have 24 rooms for formerly homeless men and women working with the Bethesda Project to recover from addictions, and 55 efficiency apartments for homeless people with mental illness working with Project H.O.M.E.

A majority of people living on the streets suffer from mental illness or addictions. The city estimates that 85 percent of them are dealing with one or both.

People with special needs often live on the margins of society and don't always have the ability to live independently, Sgro said. The Connelly residence will have case workers to help tenants. Rents will be subsidized with government money.

"This building is important," Sgro said, "because we are creating desperately needed permanent, supported housing for people with special needs in an area of the city with an abundance of social services, transportation, and social opportunities."

Philadelphia Daily News - H.O.M.E. is where they take in residents' ideas
'Green' building is next

Philadelphia Daily News

Homeless and struggling with bipolar disorder, Frank Bradley felt that he could trust no one. But in 2003, he got involved with Project H.O.M.E.

Most empowering, Bradley recalled, was when the nonprofit organization asked him for ideas in designing the first environmentally friendly housing facility for about 70 homeless men and women suffering from psychological or substance-abuse issues.

"It was a unique experience," Bradley said yesterday, after a ceremony announcing the groundbreaking of the facility, St. John the Evangelist House, at 13th and Market streets, in Center City.

"They wanted to make certain that some prospective residents had some input." The building will take about 18 months to complete, and Bradley - who now lives in Project H.O.M.E. housing at 12th and Chestnut streets - hopes to move into the new facility.
Rock superstar Jon Bon Jovi, a longtime advocate for the homeless, attended the groundbreaking yesterday, joining Sister Mary Scullion, executive director of Project H.O.M.E.; and representatives from the Bethesda Project homeless organization, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.

"This is an issue that I don't need a scientist or a pill to cure," Bon Jovi said.
"It takes money and determination, and I can give both, and with great people in the world like Sister Mary, I take what I have to give and utilize that."

The eight-story, 63,000-square-foot building will have 79 single-resident units, a multipurpose room, a laundry room, an exercise room, offices for both Project H.O.M.E and the Bethesda Project, kitchens, a computer lab and other amenities, according to Don Billingsley, the project manager for St. John the Evangelist House.

Environmentally friendly aspects will include highly insulated walls and a rainwater-collection system, and 20 percent of the materials used to build the house will be from recycled content, Billingsley said.

Scullion said she's learned a lot about the meaning of home during her many years as executive director of Project H.O.M.E.

"As we break ground for this remarkable new residence, our hope, of course, is that this will be more than just housing," Scullion said. "It will be a home."

For Bradley, whether he eventually moves into the new facility isn't of great importance.
"Project H.O.M.E has a motto: Nobody is home until all of us are home," he said. "But in my mind, because of them, I'm already home."

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