Small in numbers, big in faith, sisters building KCK shelter for women

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- The non-descript red brick building sits in the shadows of Blessed Sacrament Parish in a working class Kansas City, Kansas neighborhood. The brick in stark contrast to the stone work of the stately old church.

Inside, four nuns of a Brazilian order, The Fransiscan Sisters, Poor of Jesus Christ, work with volunteers to prepare soup and sandwiches for the twice weekly journey to about a half-dozen homeless camps.

Among the volunteers is a homeless woman herself: Geri Dockery and three other women live on the convent's second floor, a work in progress as the nuns work to fulfill their mission and their dream. With the help of donations and volunteers, they're turning the old convent into a homeless shelter for women.

"This is my room!", Geri proudly exclaimed as she shows a couple of visitors her modest new home. "I don't know where I would be. Homeless. Sleeping on the streets."

Sister Magdalena, who grew up in North Central Kansas, leads the three other sisters from Brazil in fulfilling their mission to serve the poor.

"So we try to live simple and poor lives ourselves, and together with the poor," she said.

And with the help of volunteers, on a recent Saturday a small army of parishioners from Overland Park's Ascension Parish, the sisters are updating the second floor to house more women.

"And when a woman is out on the streets," Sister Magdalena noted, "it's not an easy life, and it's dangerous. And they suffer a lot."

The order came from Brazil when Sister Magdalena herself heard the "call" from God at age 48 while in Brazil on a mission trip.

"I always wondered why God would call someone who first of all was such a sinful woman and already so old into religious life. And our founder said maybe it's to...take our community to the United States."

So Magdalena did, and now that "call" is bearing fruit in KCK. The shelter is slowly coming together, thanks to volunteers like Knights of Columbus member David Whitaker.

"This really is the season of giving...and it's very easy to get people this time of year," he said.

But the efforts need more elbow grease, and of course money.

"It changed my life so completely," said Sister Magdalena about her calling into the sisterhood. Now she and her fellow nuns are changing others lives too.

If you wish to donate, please visit the sisters' website and a GoFundMe page that supports their efforts.

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