This Thanksgiving month is the ideal time to give a Texas-sized shout-out of gratitude to the hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers, donors and other supporters who have supported the work of Saint Louise House during our 20 years of existence. To say we wouldn’t be here without their generosity is a true understatement.
While we can’t name all of you in this limited space, we do want to remember one very special individual who has been instrumental in our history – the late Bishop John McCarthy. No question he was been our biggest ambassador, champion and tireless advocate until his death in August 2018 at age 88.
But not from Day 1, however. Saint Louise House had to convert him into a believer. In his 2013 book, “Off the Cuff and Over the Collar: Common Sense Catholicism,” the Bishop recounted his reaction when a group of parishioners shared their idea to create Saint Louise House:
I flat-out told them it couldn’t be done. I warned them about the liability and costs that would be involved. I mentioned the familiar dangers that could develop. Despite my words of ‘wisdom,’ they purchased a 12-unit apartment complex for $650,000.
I am delighted to share that I was dead wrong, and Saint Louise House is a thriving, vibrant social ministry dramatically and permanently changing the lives of women and their children.
He gave credit to the Daughters of Charity for having faith in the idea and investing with a large matching grant.
Bishop McCarthy never hesitated to open his heart and home (many of you may remember attending our fundraisers at his Northwest Austin house), provide counsel, recruit volunteers, raise money, sing our praises… and provide any other help we needed.
He likely had a special affinity for Saint Louise House families because he could relate to their struggles.
John Edward McCarthy was born in Houston during the Great Depression. His father died when he was 18 months old, leaving his mother to raise four children singlehandedly. Only monthly contributions from a generous uncle, assistance from the local church, and part-time jobs held by young John and his two brothers kept the family fed and clothed.
Shortly after entering the priesthood, creating parish social ministries to help those in need became a priority and a passion. Fighting poverty would be a focus throughout his career, which culminated in appointment as Bishop of Austin from 1986 through his retirement in 2001. At his death, the Diocese of Austin recognized him for providing “national leadership for the Church in its work to address systemic poverty.”
Even though Bishop McCarthy was involved in many social initiatives, from local to international levels, over the decades, he wrote in his book that Saint Louise House was “quite simply the most meaningful social effort with which I have ever been involved, and of which I am sinfully proud.” We could not be more honored.
While Bishop McCarthy, sadly, is no longer with us, he continues to provide for our families. All proceeds from his book benefit Saint Louise House (to “help them continue their extraordinary mission,” he wrote), as do a portion of donations to the Bishop John McCarthy Memorial Fund established by his family after his death.
We’re so thankful for Bishop McCarthy and are grateful we were able to publicly recognize his service in a small way by bestowing him with our Sister Sharon Groetsch “See the Need” Vincentian Spirit Award when celebrated our 15th anniversary.
It’s with him in mind that we want to tell all of you how much we appreciate you not just on our 20th anniversary or during the month of Thanksgiving – but each and every day. Saint Louise House exists only because so many are partners with us in our mission to empower women and their children to move beyond homelessness.
As the Bishop himself would often say, “Let us go forth, and let us go forth together.”