When Daughter of Charity Sr. Mary Bader looks out over the Washington, D.C., skyline from across the Potomac River in Virginia, what draws her attention are not the national monuments or U.S. Capitol building — symbols of national power and politics the capital city is well known for. What she sees are cranes. "Crane after crane after crane" — towering symbols of construction and, to Bader, growing inequality in the region.
Bader has led St. Ann's Center for Children, Youth and Families as its CEO for 11 years. Under her leadership, St. Ann's and its two-building complex in Hyattsville, Maryland — just across the street from Washington, D.C., but within the archdiocese — have gone through a few extensive changes.
In 2013, Bader and her team recognized that the D.C.-area was in a state of flux. "We looked to the community to see where the greatest need was," she said. With cost of living and family homelessness both on the rise, they decided to renovate St. Ann's main building to open "Hope House" — a brand new transitional housing facility with 15-18 living units for single mothers experiencing homelessness.
Despite shifts in its approach, St. Ann's, which was founded in 1860 by the Daughters of Charity, has remained committed to its 159-year-old mission to care for some of the area's most vulnerable women and children.
"[These families] are an inspiration," said Bader. "They are a gift to St. Ann's."
Dedication to cause and adaptability in a changing landscape are not qualities specifically unique to St. Ann's. Catholic social justice organizations across the entire Washington Archdiocese have been doing this for decades, and continue to do so in the region's current period of transformation.
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