Mercy Sister Is Behind PA’s First LGBTQ-Friendly Homeless Residence for Young Adults

Sister Mary Scullion, RSM

On May 14th, Sister of Mercy Mary Scullion presided over the grand opening of the first LGBTQ-friendly homeless residence for young adults in the state of Pennsylvania. The residence, located in Philadelphia, was developed by Scullion’s nonprofit service organization, Project HOME.

The space provides 30 one-bedroom apartments for young people who are experiencing homelessness. With a specific focus on welcoming LGBTQ people, the project aims to serve a population that makes up an estimated 40% of all people experiencing homelessness.

Residents pay 30% of whatever income they have and are provided with employment, education, and healthcare services on site. This approach, known as permanent supportive housing, has proven to be both economical and highly effective at reducing chronic homelessness.

The residence is named after Gloria Casarez, the first director of the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs. She was appointed in 2008 and died of cancer in 2014.

Scullion was the driving force behind the development, raising $13 million in public and private funding to complete the project. Noting the abuse that LGBTQ people who are homeless face, Scullion said she hoped the development would “be a base for them to develop their gifts.”

At the opening ceremony of the new residence.

Scullion has long been supportive of LGBTQ rights, and she was an outspoken critic of her order’s decision in 2015 to fire a lesbian educator who was married to a woman. At that time, she joined with two parents in writing an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which read in part,

“While it is painful for us to have to publicly dissent, we are convinced that this is a moment when insistence on doctrinal adherence is clashing with what we believe the Spirit is unfolding in our history… Many Christian denominations have listened to the movement of the Spirit and moved toward both full inclusion and full embrace of the gifts of our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers.”

Scullion’s work combating homelessness has drawn numerous national awards and commendations. She was honored as one of the TIME 100 People of the Year in 2009, and received the prestigious Laetare Medal from The University of Notre Dame in 2011.

Project HOME’s motto, which the new residence proudly bears, speaks to the organization’s fight against homelessness. LGBTQ Catholics, however, may also find the motto meaningful: “None of us are home until all of us are home.”

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, applauded Scullion’s work.  “This is the kind of service which Catholic insitutions can easily support with no moral quandaries about sexuality,” he said.  “Sister Mary is showing the entire church how Catholics can do the works of mercy even for groups which they have long since shunned.”  He added:  “Only homophobia and transphobia prevent Catholics from doing this kind of outreach.  It’s  incumbent on Catholics to realize that these phobias that lurk in their hearts and minds are destroying their ability to be agents of gospel mercy.”

Jonathan Nisly, New Ways Ministry, May 23, 2019

8 replies
  1. Gabriela Assagioli
    Gabriela Assagioli says:

    Sister Mary’s behavior has been consistent. The number of peoples and families that have been helped by her in Philadelphia are countless. In addition, the families who wanted to help but couldn’t their loved ones were relieved of worry through Project Home. She put her degree from Temple University to great work.

  2. Susanne cassidy
    Susanne cassidy says:

    Fran Kirschner & myself, 2 PFLAG Mom’s, and part of Catlolic Patents Network,attended this wonderful time in the struggle for justice for our LGBTQ family. We visited a young woman in her apartment, she was full of sheer JOY, great place

  3. Sarasi
    Sarasi says:

    A truly inspiring story … even better, no compulsory Courage on-site! One senses that if this had been a project of the bishops, the outcome might not be so sweet.

  4. Paula Mattras
    Paula Mattras says:

    What a beautiful surprise to read about Sister Mary and her mission. I have met LGBTQ individuals whose parents “kicked them out” of their homes once they learned of their son’s or daughter’s orientation. They have struggled through life to make a difference in this world – and with great success. I pity the parents who never got to know their beautiful family members as they grew into adulthood. And I wonder if they have ever grasped the meaning of “love one another as I have loved you.” Sister Mary, thank you for showing the way.


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