Sister Thérèse DelGenio works with Our Daily Bread, a non-profit that serves the unhoused and the people who live in poverty in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati. She meets with community members and families to connect them with resources. Sister Thérèse has had, in her words, “a checkered career”. She has worked as an elementary school teacher, social worker, founder and manager for a homeless shelter, director of field education, and pastoral associate, in Calumet City and Chicago, Illinois, as well as Gary and East Chicago, Indiana, and Cincinnati, Ohio.
In 2009, she came back to Cincinnati to be the national director of canonical novices. While doing that she began to volynteer in 2010 at Our Daily Bread, and work with a group of Sisters to combat human trafficking. In 2014, she was hired as an assistant social worker.
Sister Thérèse shares the joys she experiences working at Our Daily Bread. “The people I met who are unhoused and living in poverty are amazing. Each one has an incredible story to share. I don’t think I could have walked in their shoes and faced the life situations that they did. I find the people and their stories to be delightful, grateful, creative, helpful, humorous, resilient, and spiritual.”
Our Daily Bread has 12 staff members. While all of them could be working elsewhere for bigger salaries, they choose to be committed to the people they serve. It is also supported by hundreds of committed volunteers who serve in many capacities. Our Daily Bread is still operating with a skeleton staff, providing boxed meals for those who need them.
However, the community is not allowed to eat in the premises. “So people eat on the sidewalk, by the buildings, anywhere they can find a space to sit down.” Our Daily Bread usually serves sit down meals for the guests.
“Since I’m not allowed to stay during the COVID-19 pandemic, I talk to families on the phone, making sure they have the paperwork they need to take care of their food, rent, and utilities,” said Sister Thérèse. “I was lucky to grab my resource files from the office. Now I have time to update the resource files so I’m ready whenever someone is calling. It’s good to be organized,” Sister Thérèse added. With this extra free time, she has more prayer time, time to catch up with friends on the phone, and to catch up on her hobby. Sister Thérèse makes greeting cards to send to the Sisters at the Mount Notre Dame Health Center. “I miss visiting the Sisters at the Health Center,” she said. Sister Thérèse lives with seven other sisters at the rectory of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Cincinnati’s Western Hills neighborhood.
Sister Thérèse thinks it is easy to complain about what we cannot do. Our job, she said, is to focus on the goodness of God, to focus on the good things we have in our lives still. “We are blessed to have a home. We are blessed to spend time with friends and family. People in refugee camps don’t have the comfort that we have. People who are at war do not have the comfort that we have. We have to continue to pray for them.”