‘Have you told the women?”
Father Michael’s question disarmed Martha Reichert — and changed her life.
Reichert was in the tough first days of her continuing work with women who are abuse victims, prostitutes and addicts at Samaritan House, a homeless shelter in Denver, Colo.
In a video telling her story, made for a recent tribute to her work, Reichert, a wife and mother of a beautiful young family that keeps her plenty busy, recalls her first time at the shelter. She woke up with a pit in her stomach, scared of her newfound commitment, made at the request of Fr. Michael, the chaplain of Samaritan House, through the auspices of Endow, a Catholic women’s group of which Reichert is a member.
“I had no idea how to relate to homeless women and addicts and prostitutes,” she remembers thinking. When she pulled up to Samaritan House in her car, “there was a line of about 40 men waiting for their TB screening; I was seriously terrified.” She recalls grabbing her steering wheel and putting her head on it, praying to God: “You know how weak I am, you know how I’m not ready to do this, so you’re going to have to have to do it for me.”
“And so I got out of my car,” she remembers. “I dragged my little suitcase behind me by all the men waiting and I get to the front desk and Father Michael looks at me and says, ‘You look terrified,’ and I say, ‘Father, I totally am.’”
Martha’s moment of revelation at Samaritan House came two nights after she delivered a stillborn baby. Which brings us back to Fr. Michael’s question: “Did you talk to the women of the shelter about this, about your pain?” Never had she thought of such a thing. “I’m here to hear their suffering,” she thought. But that’s not the Christian life; the Christian life is receiving love, too, and having authentic encounters with men and women in our lives, whoever they are.