Renewed faith given to family in rebuilt home
For Pam Marshall, May 11 marked the day she renewed her faith in humanity and confirmed her trust in God.
Since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Marshall has lived in approximately seven different places – from Lafayette, Louisiana, to Covington to Georgia – hoping to return to her flooded home near the University of New Orleans.
She had lost hope, having been let down by unscrupulous contractors and forced to forfeit grant money to rebuild her home.
But, with help from the Sisters of Charity and workers and volunteers from the St. Bernard Project, Marshall was welcomed home May 11 to the house she had bought in 2000 and shared with her 2-year-old daughter, Nyah Jourdain, now 13.
“It was more of a miracle to me,” Marshall said. “I pray a lot and knew God would come through but didn’t know when. I am just so grateful. There are no words in the dictionary that describe what I feel today.”
New kind of project
Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Monica Gundler spearheaded a fund-raising project to get Marshall’s house rebuilt from the studs, beginning in
While her Sisters of Charity and many volunteer groups staying at her community’s nonprofit House of Charity in New Orleans had worked previously with the St. Bernard Project, Marshall’s house was the first they had completely rebuilt.
Through T-shirt sales and donations from 12 congregations of Sisters of Charity nationwide, nearly $50,000 was raised. The remaining money needed came from grants.
It was a threefold celebration for the Sisters of Charity: the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the canonization of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, their founder and first American-born saint; the Year of Consecrated Life; and the blessing that is the House of Charity, which houses volunteers, said Sister Monica.
“We wanted to do something to help other people” to get someone home, Sister Monica said.
Much prayer went into the rebuild. The sisters even buried a St. Elizabeth Ann Seton medal on the property.
Volunteer nurse Renee Picheloup from Metairie had helped the Sisters of Charity on Marshall’s house during Nuns Build last fall. She returned for the homecoming.
“It’s work, but it’s so rewarding to see the finished project,” Picheloup said. “It’s beautiful.”
It was Marshall’s nephew Travis who introduced her to the St. Bernard Project when he was looking to rent a home after Katrina. Marshall was admittedly skeptical until the Sisters of Charity showed up at her day care center and offered their support, along with the support of the St. Bernard Project.
“We were crying and we were in tears, and Sister Monica said, ‘Miss Marshall, we are going to fund your home. We are going to rebuild your home,’” Marshall recalled. “I couldn’t believe it. I have never had anyone – strangers – be so kind to me and my daughter. We had lost so much hope and lost so much over the years, but it was at that moment I realized that God is real, that he answers prayers. When I heard those words, I felt weak with joy.”
She’s finally home
Sister Monica blessed the house and said a prayer hoping Marshall would find “sanctuary from the world’s cares … (and may) your hearts be tranquil here, blessed by peace” and be reminded of God’s love and the wonders of generosity.
Marshall was presented with bread, so she may never know hunger; salt, so that life is full of flavor and seasoned with many adventures; and wine, for times of joy and celebration.
Liz McCartney, co-founder of St. Bernard Project, credits Sister Monica and the Sisters of Charity with solving clients’ needs by getting to know them. In this case, it was raising money in two phases to get Marshall home.
“We said we want to be at places where people are at risk,” Sister Monica said about the Sisters of Charity’s charism. The hurricane showed the sisters that contributing members of New Orleans lost it all due to bureaucracy and fraud, and then nonprofits like the St. Bernard Project stepped in and offered hope.
The Sisters of Charity partnered with the St. Bernard Project as a way to be the face of Christ to others. Marshall’s house was a labor of love.
“Pam has been a blessing to us,” Sister Monica said. “She’s a strong and faith-filled woman.
Marshall’s mother, who now lives in Lafayette, stood beside her at the homecoming. “I’m overwhelmed,” Marshall said. “These people have amazed me. I don’t think thank you is enough.” She said God showed her the way back home.
“It’s never too late to wait on God,” she said, thanking and blessing everyone for their kindnesses.