Author and episcopal priest Becca Stevens founded the residential community of Thistle Farms-Magdalene in 1997 by meeting and speaking with women on the streets that had survived prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. Then, as now, Becca Stevens leads the organization under the motto:
“Love is the most powerful force for social change in the world.”
In 1995, around the time that Becca Stevens was talking to women in the streets of Nashville, Father Robert Wheelock and Father Michael Sullivan took to the streets of Milwaukee with a similar vision of love and compassion. Today, twenty years later, Franciscan Peacemakers’ Street Ministry includes the Clare Community – a sister organization to Magdalene House. Last month, seven women were brought into the community from the streets. Last week, the Thistle Farms community was saddened to hear that Deanna – one of the residents of Clare Community – had trouble standing on the new ground she found with the Franciscan Peacemakers’ Street Ministry. Deanna passed away shortly after relapsing.
Deanna’s cousin, Ms. Dugan, wrote Deacon Steve and Carmen a letter to express her gratitude. In the letter, she writes, “I am so glad there were kind, caring and compassionate people there for [Deanna] to help her when she truly needed it. This was probably the closest she has come to recapturing her life in several years. Although it did not happen for her, I still believe she is finally free of the prison she was suffering…. I just wanted to thank you for how much you helped Deanna and how much you do for all the other woman out there who are struggling to escape the life that they have somehow fallen into.”
Ms. Dugan’s letter and Deanna’s life tell a story of loss and sorrow, of sadness and addiction. But they teach us much more than that: they encourage us to persevere despite setbacks; they tell us that the communities of Magdalene and Clare reach much farther than the women we work with; they remind us that we are all still learning and growing from one another. Most of all, Deanna’s story has taught us that we are all trying to find our way home.
Thistle Farms and the Magdalene community send warm prayers and messages of healing to the Clare Community and to Deanna’s family and friends. Love is the most powerful force for social change; only through love will we continue to live, continue to heal, and continue to make a difference.
Written by Tamar Alexian, guest blogger and incredible Thistle Farms intern.