From Darkness to Light

A dedicated religious sister brings hope to one of America's poorest communities.

In 1994, Time magazine labeled Lake Providence, Louisiana, "The Poorest Place in America." Eighteen years later, the situation remains dire. Most of the buildings along the main street are burned out. Stores are shuttered. Unemployment runs rampant and there is nothing to hold the attention of young people. According to a local resident, if people manage to find a way out of Lake Providence, they do.

But in the midst of this seemingly hopeless situation, there is light. And Sister Bernadette Barrett, SHSP, known affectionately as "Sr. Bernie," is the source. With the support of Catholic Extension donors, she has served the people of Lake Providence for 10 years, and though small in stature, she is a woman of great strength and unwavering faith.

Sister Bernie coordinates the Lake Providence Collaborative Ministry Project, an ecumenical group of residents actively working to transform their community. She brought these men and women together, knowing that true change should come from within. Each person involved has deep roots in the town—many have even come back after spending decades away—and all are distraught about what has become of their home. Though a large majority of these residents are not Catholic, they trust in Sister Bernie, and work diligently by her side to address local challenges.

Ethel, one of the group's long-time members, even joked, "If we ever need a mayor, we're all going to vote for Sister Bernie."

Father Mark Watson, pastor of St. Patrick's Church in the area, can echo this sentiment—he's enlisted the help of Sister Bernie in his plans for social justice. He spoke even further about her connection with St. Patrick's, describing a woman of faith who begins each day with Mass in the church. She spends the rest bringing the love of Christ outside of its walls, unleashing the transformative power of faith into the community.

Show your support for women religious, like Sister Bernie, who devote their lives to bringing Christ's light to those who need it most.
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