Sister Judy Tensing
Cincinnati, OH 

All I Want for Christmas is a Job

Sister Judy Tensing PictureSometimes Sister Judy would see him. She knew the places he went.

In the summer, it was on the corner waiting for a day’s worth of work. Work from a contractor who might show up. Or who might not.

In the winter, it was down by the river watching the barges. Going there, he passed by her window — coatless and hunched, taking the wind.

His name was Jim.

Sister Judy knows a lot of people like Jim.

Sister Judy’s restaurant and catering business take those who have nothing and gives them a foothold. It provides them training starting with the basics — how to dress, how to count money, how to deal with the public. Then come the real job skills — the teaching of a trade.

And the people who have nothing, the Jims of the world, she sees through her window. She sees them on the corner, or on the river. She sees them in a thousand places.

Some appear enough to be noticed, then less frequently, then never again. Some she reaches out to. Some on their own come to her.

That’s what Jim did. On a freezing December day, the snow blowing through the streets, he stopped by the window, deciding. Then he hurried inside. He stood with his back to the door, coatless and shivering. Sister Judy took his hand.

“Sister,” Jim said to her, “all I want for Christmas is a job!” 
On the spot, Sister Judy gave him one.

Sister Judy working in the kitchenThis was in Cincinnati, but the same happens in Chicago and Phoenix and all over the country, and even outside the country. People turn to the Sisters. They don’t want handouts, they want jobs. And if there aren’t jobs, they want training. And if there isn’t training, they want direction. They come to Sister Marietta, who works with women just out of jail. They come to Sister Therese, who works with the homeless. They come to Sister Rebecca, who helps people with disabilities.

These Sisters of Notre Dame, and many more like them, show respect for all people, reverence all people. It doesn’t matter that Jim had no employable skills to start with. It doesn’t matter if a woman has served time. It doesn’t matter if a person doesn’t have an address. It doesn’t matter if a person can’t see or walk or hear.

What matters is that they are children of God. And that they deserve to be treated as possessing of dignity, as possessing of worth.

When Jim asked for Sister Judy’s help – for a job – he had to make a commitment. He had to take ownership of his life.

But, Sister Judy promised, “I’ll be with you all the way.” 
It’s a promise all our Sisters make.

In this most holy season, when we reflect on the blessings that Christ brought to the world, I hope you will think of Jim, and those like him.