Nourishing souls one meal at a time

November 4, 1972 – On this date in 1972, our sisters’ leadership team agreed that province participation in the St. Benedict the Moor Meal Program in downtown Milwaukee would be a positive collaboration to continue the longstanding Salvatorian tradition of feeding the hungry. (Photo above features Sisters Vincentine Kehrer and Evelyn Zimbauer serving food)

Sister Mary Jo Stoffel and Lay Salvatorian Tom Hunt preparing food

The sisters recalled that at the height of the Great Depression in 1933, Salvatorian Sisters provided more than 6,200 meals, often to destitute, homeless men. These “men of the road and rails” or “uncles,” as our sisters affectionately called them, were always treated with respect, and served in a spirit of kinship. It was a custom that would continue into the mid ‘60s.

Sister Maureen Hopkins eating with guests Salvatorian Sisters served

During the 1930s, Milwaukee was struggling along with the rest of the country. Poverty and homelessness had a grip on thousands of our citizens. Daily meals were far from certain. Our sisters’ commitment to feeding the poor was a response to this community-wide hardship. Even after the Great Depression, Milwaukeeans were accustomed to Salvatorian Sisters serving soup and bread to anyone who showed up at our door.

Sister Clarice Steinfeldt (left) preparing food with others

The small “uncles’ room” at St. Mary’s Convent remained open into the 1960s until larger, more structured programs began to provide for Milwaukee’s needy residents.  Still, our sisters remained committed to serving the poor and homeless. When St. Benedict the Moor Parish at 10th & State Streets started a meal program, we were eager to lend a hand.

Sisters Alice Gindt and Clara Cáceres preparing food

By 1973, Salvatorian Sisters were preparing and serving large meals at St. Ben’s five times a year. With a deep concern for the needy, Sister Diane Goetzinger called on her organizational gifts to lead our community in this endeavor. Along with cooking and serving, our sisters grew the program’s corps of volunteers, which came to include family, friends and members of the entire Salvatorian Family.

Today, St. Benedict the Moor Community Meal program sponsored by Capuchin Community Services is a fixture in Milwaukee’s central city. Its 90,000 meals served each year far exceeds our sisters’ outreach in the 1930s, but Salvatorians played a vital role in building the program to become what it is today.

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