Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus. This translates as “We
hope for better things; It shall arise from the ashes.” The phrase is
the official motto of Detroit, Michigan, and has been particularly
appropriate for a city that has experienced dramatic fluctuations in
fortune. In 1990, after decades of economic decline, the pastor of
Saints Peter and Paul Jesuit Church in Detroit helped the city “arise
from the ashes” by beginning a ministry for the city’s homeless. The
parish operated a small Warming Center for the next 25 years, relying on
parishioners to volunteer and donate food.
In 2013, the Center was expanded to include an industrial kitchen,
showers, and laundry facilities. In 2015, Fr. Timothy McCabe, SJ, became
the Executive Director of the Warming Center. He changed the name to
the Pope Francis Center to honor the pope’s passionate commitment to the
homeless. Through generous donations from individuals and corporations,
Fr. McCabe has been able to expand the Center’s services dramatically.
It is now open six days a week and provides two nutritious meals each
day. Guests can meet with social workers, lawyers, medical
professionals, foot care professionals, barbers, and bike repair
specialists each week.
The Center also provides flu and hepatitis shots, periodic dental and
vision clinics, housing support, and medical education. When Fr. McCabe
assumed leadership of the Center it served 60-70 people each day.
Today, the Center serves an average of 175 people daily. The staff and
volunteers focus on building relationships with guests by recognizing
each person’s inherent dignity and value. Fr. McCabe stresses the idea
that there is no “us” and “them” - there is only “us.” Men and women who
are experiencing homelessness often describe a sense of invisibility.
People literally and figuratively walk over them as they rush past.
However, once guests enter the Pope Francis Center, they are greeted
warmly and recognized as beloved children of God. The Center’s staff
meet each person where they are and let guests share their stories on
their own timeline.