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CHRISTUS Our Daily Bread Celebrates 35th Anniversary

Sister Ursula O’Keefe with client

For former clients like Stanley, Carter and Kacey, the services provided by CHRISTUS Our Daily Bread set them on a path from homelessness to self-sufficiency and stability. This March, CHRISTUS Our Daily Bread marks the 35th anniversary of providing healthcare and related services to Galveston’s homeless. Since 1986, five days a week, clients can depend on two hot meals, medical assistance, access to psychological services, clothing and hygiene products, and securing important documentation such as birth certificates.

In the mid-80’s, Sister Ursula O’Keefe, founder and original director, saw the need to care for those she found wandering the Galveston streets. Originally from Ireland, Sister Ursula came to the United States in 1963 to enter the novitiate training of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. She attended Dominican College in Houston earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing. After serving for a number of years in health care clinics, she was named director of the mental health department at Galveston’s St. Mary’s Hospital in 1978. During her time there, Sister Ursula established an AA recovery community, which eventually lead to her developing and implanting a substance abuse program at the hospital and the New Horizons halfway house for recovering alcoholics.

With no program to assist Galveston’s homeless, Sister Ursula worked with her congregation to establish CHRISTUS Our Daily Bread. On March 25, 1986, Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza officially dedicated the facility. Thirty-five years later, Sister Ursula’s founding philosophy still remains – to recognize the dignity of the person. One of the ways this philosophy is enacted is through the restaurant-style meal, which is served by volunteer waiters and waitresses directly to clients seated at tables.

“For 35 years, we have been helping Galveston’s homeless put their lives back together,” Angela Joseph, Director of CHRISTUS Our Daily Bread, said. “We understand the process of re-establishing our clients after years of homelessness is not an easy one. It can take many times of clients trying and failing before they are finally able to succeed in holding down a job and keeping an apartment.”

Last March, the onslaught of COVID-19 forced CHRISTUS Our Daily Bread to pull back some services due to social distancing and the need to restrict clients from gathering in the facility. Since then, the program has continued to provide to-go meals twice a day, clothing and hygiene needs, temporary restroom and hand-washing stations in the parking lot, and securing documentation. According to Joseph, the staff has also worked towards trying to get clients connected with family and are seeing many reconnect as a result of COVID.

As with the last 35 years, CHRISTUS Our Daily Bread and its team have a mission to see clients succeed in restoring their lives and to provide the daily necessities, compassion and guidance to help them get there.

“Our services are just as relevant today as they were when Sister Ursula shared her vision to establish Our Daily Bread,” Joseph said.  “It also means that we have gained the trust of the community and those who look to us for support, by remaining true to our core values…Dignity, Respect, and Compassion to name a few.”

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