Teen shares experiences at the Rebuild Center

Presentation Sister Vera Butler, a Catholic nun, sits in St. Joseph Church's back room, a bucket of what looks like movie tickets in her hand, waiting for about 200 people to start lining up.

The assembled crowd anxiously, but patiently, waits in hunger. She hands each person a ticket. Then grabbing a microphone, she begins her regular discourse before every meal: she prays with the crowd; she begins with “God is good.” The disheveled group replies, “All the time.” Then Sister inverts the prayer and says, “All the time” and they respond, “God is good.”

Today, on the coldest day of the year in early January, Sister Vera is providing meals to the homeless. This occurs daily at The Rebuild Center, a homeless shelter in downtown New Orleans.

Sister Butler, a spry, silver- haired, slim woman, is not wearing the stereotypical nun attire. She is dressed in a North Face fleece jacket, blue jeans and running shoes. She is ready.

At exactly 12:45 p.m., she starts collecting the tickets from the crowd. This is when the line starts moving rapidly and steadily. As the people stop at the first window, they receive a soft drink; then they move on to the next window to collect the day’s meal: warm red beans and rice.

One man bundles a dog inside his jacket; the dog’s nose barely pokes out. Men and women are here; young and old. Many ethnicities are represented: Hispanic, black, Asian, white. Many people are wearing blankets in the absence of coats to try to warm themselves from the blistering cold.

Sister Vera hurries to talk to today’s group of volunteers: members of a Key Club. She directs them to fetch extra food until the entire crowd is fed. A few minutes later, as the nun walks around toward the closed window, an elderly black man peeks through. “I didn’t get none,” he says. The nun is not sure if he really didn’t get any or if he is just trying to get a second helping. She gently tells him to sit down and wait until she decides what to do with him.

As she walks around, men and women are inhaling the red beans and shoving spoonfuls down their hungry throats.

“Thanks for the food. It was delicious,” said one Hispanic man.

Following Hurricane Katrina, Sister Vera had the passionate vision of caring for New Orleans’ less fortunate by creating a foundation which relies on the recruitment of local businesses and organizations to supply everyday lunches, showers, medical services, legal services and reading/writing lessons. It also provides English lessons for Hispanic people.

In addition, The Rebuild Center delivers boxes of food to the elderly or for families with small children who are not able to partake in the daily lunch line. As a selfless, noble lady, Sister Vera dedicates all her life and energy to help the less fortunate, and should be an inspiration to all.

James Miller, 13, a parishioner at Holy Name of Jesus Church, is now an eighth grader at Isidore Newman Middle School.

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