Great Need, Great Hope

For two sisters, and more than 12,000 people in Benton Harbor, the Catholic Community Center throws open the doors to Christ’s love

Not so very long ago, Benton Harbor was the place to be in western Michigan. Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, the town bustled with manufacturing, commerce and culture. But like so many other communities during the 1960s and ’70s, the once stable and prosperous community began struggling with unemployment, social tension and crime, becoming a shell of its former self.

Thirty-five years ago, the Catholic Community Center was established to meet the challenges of Benton Harbor’s residents. Today, Sister Maureen McGrath, OP, and Sister Mary Pung, CSJ, minister to the largely African American community. They offer a variety of social outreach services, and most importantly, spiritual support for their clients.

Orla Milewski, a center volunteer, said, “For the clients of the Catholic Community Center, the sisters share a positive image of the Catholic Church and faith. For Catholics, it brings us back to what we’re all here for—to serve.” One of these clients, a young woman named Linda, shared her story. “I’ve been through tragedy, and the sisters here took me in like I was one of their own. They have supported me with food and with clothing for my children. They’ve helped me with my budget to keep my utilities paid. I feel the presence of God when I come in here.”

Thanks to the generosity of Catholic Extension donors, the dedicated sisters in Benton Harbor receive salary support, enabling them to continue their essential service and spiritual outreach to this community as Benton Harbor strives toward a better tomorrow.

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