Last Sunday, Lydia’s House recognized All Saints Day a week early in our monthly worship service. At Lydia’s House, we are reminded of some great women of faith daily, since most rooms of the house are dedicated to one. To celebrate the saints, community members each selected a saint of the house, and shared that woman’s life with everyone, through theater, story, or song.

In this month’s worship, we learned about the lives of these amazing women:

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  • St. Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala “Mother Lupita,” (1878-1963), foundress, nurse, beggar on behalf of the poor in Mexico, one who sought to “be poor with the poor”
  • Sojourner Truth (1797-1883), activist and agitator for abolition and women’s rights
  • St. Brigid of Kildare (c. 453-524), early Christian nun of Ireland, abbess, foundress of  several monasteries
  • Mother Antonia Brenner (1926-2013), servant to prisoners by living with them, foundress, spiritual guide, activist on the margins
  • Dorothy Day (1897-1980), journalist, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement
  • Sister Thea Bowman (1937-1990), Franciscan, educator and speaker, advocate for black Catholics
  • St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231), contemporary of St. Francis, queen who dearly loved the poor and outsider
  • Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977), civil rights leader, gospel singer, advocate for children and poor people

This year, a new tradition was started to recognize a “Saint of the Year,” a person whose witness we want to call special attention to over the coming year. The first person selected was “Mother” Clara Hale, who we all learned about together by reading these bits about her life:

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  1. She was born in 1905. Despite losing both parents by the time she was 16 she still managed to finish high school.
  2. She married and moved to New York City, where she worked cleaning houses and theaters. When she was 27 her husband died, leaving her with three young children to raise on her own.
  3. She began an in-home daycare, taking care of her own kids and others’ kids. In 1940 she became a foster parent and cared for as many as 40 foster children over 25 years.
  4. At the age of 64 a young woman came to Clara’s apartment to ask for help taking care of her baby. While Clara was making a phone call the woman left the baby for Clara to take care of.
  5. Other desperate mothers started leaving their babies with Clara. Many of the babies had AIDS, or their mothers were addicted to drugs and could not care for them.
  6. She started a home to care for all of these babies, sometimes as many as 40 at once. Through the years more than 500 babies and toddlers were carried for by Hale House.
  7. When asked how they cared for the babies Clara said: “We hold them and touch them. They love you to tell them how great they are, how good they are. Somehow, even at a young age, they understand that.”
  8. Clara died in 1992. When asked how she’d like her work to be remembered Clara said: “I’d like for it to go down in history that we taught our children to be proud Black American citizens, and that they learned they could do anything, and that they could do it for themselves.”

After lighting a candle for each saint, we prayed that we might be able to find God’s path for us, a path that has already been lighted by the example of these women who came before us.