It's about the people, not the law

More: The people of Hope CommUnity Center and its legacy to the next generation.

A colorful mosaic frames the entrance doors of Hope CommUnity Center. Constructed entirely of items contributed by the community, it is designed to be added to by new generations. For Sr.Ann Kendrick, SNDdeN, director, it is a symbol of the ongoing vitality and needs of the farmworkers and working poor the Sisters of Notre Dame came to serve. (Carol Stanton)

Apopka, Florida — class="rtecenter">Go to main story: Legacy of hope

What is the legacy of the Notre Dame Sisters at Hope CommUnity Center in the small, still rural town of Apopka, Fla.? Director Sr. Ann Kendrick took a brightly colored Russian matryoshka doll off of her shelf.

“I started with an academic understanding and an impulse to help. Experiences in Guatemala, Honduras and Spanish Harlem gave me energy. The Sisters of Notre Dame at Trinity College, Washington, D.C., were smart, articulate and involved. I took a leap of faith and joined them. I would locate a Latino community everywhere I taught Spanish, but I was looking at the urban north.”

She twisted the doll to reveal a smaller doll within: “Then, Bishop (William) Borders sent out the call. We had the arrogance of youth and some introduction to the work of Paulo Freire and his approach to education for transformation. We said we would come to Florida, but we wanted no job descriptions. The bishop agreed.”

She came to the third nested doll: “We had our church-based ideas, but we had to re-tool ourselves. We had to lead with our experience. We had to step inside the world we had come to. So we moved into the neighborhood and it has evolved from there.

“We learned we had to live the Service Learning Community we were trying to spark. Our experience led us to be the base community we needed for support.”

By this time she has uncovered the final, tiniest doll. “I used to think we’d have some radical shift, some tipping point. In the end, it comes to this: we were together – I don’t remember all the rest. And in terms of the immigration law – it took 100 years for women to achieve the vote. We have to use the struggle for justice to get people to grow, to be in solidarity. The law is not the goal, the people are. We are here at the heart of the Gospel.”

[Carol Stanton is a former television news anchor and reporter and has served the Diocese of Orlando, Fla., as communications director and director of lay ministry formation.]

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