For more than a century, the Ladies of Charity of the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York have banded together as a corps of volunteers who give their time to bring comfort to those in need.
Now numbering more than 500, the Ladies of Charity hail primarily from parishes in Staten Island, Manhattan and Westchester. The pandemic may have curtailed their ability to recruit new members by speaking about their mission at parish Masses in the archdiocese, but it has not deterred them from their charitable rounds spent helping others with their projects.
Just last week, a few of the organization’s officers and members were wrapping Christmas gifts to be brought to residents at the Jeanne Jugan Residence in the Bronx, a nursing home conducted by the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the beneficiaries of the South Bronx Santa Project, which assists families at a community center there.
Mary Buckley Teatum, the president of the Ladies of Charity, and Barbara Duffy, the executive director, were present to lend a hand, as they almost always are. They were assisted by another member.
Ms. Teatum’s voice was filled with excitement as she told me last week about the Christmas party with games and sing-alongs enjoyed by the Ladies of Charity, the Little Sisters of the Poor and other staff members and, of course, the residents of Jeanne Jugan Residence. The gifts—a scarf, a pair of gloves, even a bottle of Irish whiskey—are often tailored to individual requests from residents who may not be expecting other gifts at Christmas. “The residents love it,” Ms. Teatum said. “I was sorry that we couldn’t come again this year.”
“When you walk in, you see that it’s such a special place for the residents,” said Ms. Teatum, who said the Ladies of Charity also bring gift cards for the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Another member-supported outreach initiative at this time of year is the South Bronx Santa Project, which the Ladies of Charity embarked on a few years ago after being alerted to families there who needed help. The children are able to request specific gifts, and teens each receive a hoodie, while their parents get gift cards. “The generosity of our members has been so great,” Ms. Teatum said. “It’s been very successful.”
Far from pulling back in their work, Ms. Teatum said the Ladies of Charity are always seeking to find new ways of helping. She let me in on a little secret when she said she soon hopes to be able to make a pitch to recruit new members at St. Joseph’s parish in Somers, where she and her husband, Ray Teatum, spend much of their time living these days.
“We’re always looking for new projects to help in any way we can,” said Ms. Teatum, who explained that she hopes members will soon be able to find a way to reach out to military veterans who need assistance.
The Ladies of Charity affiliated five new members this fall in a ceremony at Epiphany Church in Manhattan, where Father Austin Titus, the pastor, has been very supportive of their endeavors. Many members live in apartments in nearby Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.
The Ladies of Charity most commonly attract middle age and older Catholic women who are seeking to do volunteer service, often after retiring. Many are already active in their parishes and are seeking other ways to help.
Speaking of those who are assisted, Ms. Teatum said, “There are so many people who are suffering and in need, and lonely, too. We try to bring a lot of joy into their lives.”
On Saturday, Dec. 19, the Ladies of Charity will return to Epiphany Church for a Christmas Mass to be offered by Auxiliary Bishop Edmund Whalen at 10:30 a.m.
Ms. Teatum brought printed materials to our interview, but the best thing she showed me was a layette that the Ladies of Charity provide to expectant parents in need. Packed inside the pouch were diapers, infant clothing and blankets, a book, a rattle and other handmade items made and packed by the Ladies of Charity.
The layette is probably the Ladies’ signature project, and to see the obvious care in which the pieces were assembled, and in some cases made, was the best advertisement for their supportive endeavors.