The Society of Jesus has a rich history of serving the Detroit area since the arrival of the first Jesuits in 1701, according to Jesuit Father Patrick Peppard. Today, the Society continues to serve the people of the city through Saints Peter & Paul Jesuit Church in downtown Detroit, which runs a warming center that is supported by over 700 donors across the nation.
Fr. Peppard recently spoke with the Ignatian News Network about his parish and this special service to the homeless. “I think a lot of people don’t realize the impact that the church and this ministry can have on a city,” he said.
The warming center helps the homeless get out of the cold during the winter, providing them a place to rest, get a cup of coffee, wash their clothes and take a shower. The church is the only place that offers these services in Detroit. “They’ve been phenomenal,” said one man who lost his home in a fire. “[They] gave me support and now I have a place to stay, but I still come give donations to them.”
Fr. Peppard described how the Jesuits in Detroit have reached out to the marginalized in the area since 1701, from the Native Americans to various immigrant groups to those struggling with race issues during the 1960 riots. “We have stayed here over a lot of changes, and we intend to stay for a long time into the future,” he said.
“Jesus said that the whole of the law can be summed up in ‘Love God and love your neighbor as yourself,’” added Fr. Peppard. “Some people say that that should actually be translated as ‘Love God, whom you cannot see, by loving and caring for the neighbor that you can.’”