Ethel Williams - 1986 Lumen Christi Award Recipient

1986 Lumen Christi Award Winner
LLEFT: Ethel Williams created programs that helped young mothers in Paterson, New Jersey.
RIGHT: Williams (left) provided food, clothing, shelter and other forms of assistance to her neighbors in Paterson.

"On One Bedpost I Keep a Rosary and on the Other, a Club"

Ethel Williams was a retired teacher who was honored for her work running an emergency relief outreach to her needy inner-city neighbors in Paterson, New Jersey, deemed the nation’s fifth poorest community in 1986. In a city that was one-third African-American and without a single African-American priest or woman religious, Williams became the symbol of African-American leadership in the Catholic Church there.

Her outreach included finding temporary housing, food and clothing for those in need, along with providing counseling for victims of poverty, drug abuse and violence. She also helped organize a program in Paterson that taught young mothers “how to read baby formula along with Shakespeare, how to eat nutritiously and how to get a job.” Nearly 1,800 young women passed through this program. Williams was a blend of deep faith and tough pragmatism. “On one bedpost I keep a rosary and on the other, a club,” she said. “If one doesn’t protect me, I know the other will!”

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