As a wife and mother of eight children, Kim Wyatt never viewed herself as a likely candidate to be called upon to oversee an organization dedicated to the care and protection of the poor. That changed, however, in 2010, when she was approached by Sue Rudy, the founder of the Silence of Mary Home in the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, concerning the possibility of establishing a new house in Fort Wayne. That’s when Kim discovered how significantly God’s plans differed from her own.
Founded in 1999 by Sue and her husband Vern, the Silence of Mary Home began through the inspiration and example of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The organization’s website explains: “In the Gospels, Mary is mostly silent; saying ‘yes’ to God’s will and instructing others to do whatever He tells you. This is good advice, both then and now.”
Rudy added that “their mission in following the advice of Our Lady is to assist those who are in the greatest need for however long they desire aid.” She indicated that this attitude of hospitality leads men and women from all walks of life through their doors in search of refuge and assistance.
The first Silence of Mary Home started only a short distance away from St. Francis of Assisi Church in Harrisburg, where Father Kevin C. Rhoades, who had not yet been named Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, served as pastor. As a parish priest, and later as Bishop of Harrisburg, he was very supportive of the mission. “What we do is who he is,” Rudy said. When Bishop Rhoades was transferred to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Rudy knew that God was calling them to open another home in Indiana.
In 2010, Rudy made multiple visits to Fort Wayne with several Harrisburg volunteers, looking to see how and where they would plan to grow. She had a vision of who would be the lead administrator.
“I knew I needed to find someone close to God, someone who knew the poor and had a deep love for them, as Jesus does,” she shared. It was at that time that Father Daniel Durkin, the pastor of St. Henry Parish, introduced her to Wyatt, the parish secretary at Sacred Heart. Rudy says that in Wyatt she saw, “a significant Marian devotion, a deep faith and a generous heart,” which led her to present Wyatt with a proposal of leadership. Wyatt responded with surprise that she would be chosen to oversee such a project.
“I felt unworthy to do this, and asked myself ‘why would God pick me?’” she said. However, when she brought the idea to Bishop Rhoades, he offered his full support and conveyed his confidence in her ability to handle the new responsibilities. “He alleviated my fears and put me at ease,” Wyatt said. After discussing it with her husband, Larry, they decided to accept the challenge.
Still somewhat of a hidden entity within the diocese, the Silence of Mary Home has quietly assisted many men, women and children over the last seven years in Fort Wayne. For both individuals and families, the Silence of Mary Home receives all those searching for shelter or aid with gracious hospitality. Those who come are welcome to stay for however long they may need.
Rudy and Wyatt emphasized that it is not a shelter, an institution or a group home. Rather, it provides those who are disadvantaged and at the highest risk level with a family environment. Additionally, they emphasized that it is not just about giving them a place to stay; it also helps them with any other need they may have. They are given care, support and love, as well as independent living skills training, job opportunities, education, counseling, spiritual faith and other supportive services.
Located near Sacred Heart Parish in Fort Wayne, the home is maintained by several volunteers and receives its financial and material support from the generosity of individual donors and nearby parishes. Wyatt said “the mission is to always remain small,” which allows for needs to be addressed both personally and directly. Recent collaborations have included food drives from St. John the Baptist (New Haven) and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishes, offerings of furniture from members of St. Joseph (Roanoke) parish, and a turkey donation from the Knights of Columbus at St. Vincent de Paul Parish. St. Vincent also raised money to help them make necessary repairs to the basement.
This grassroots type of approach helps bring the local community together and provides an opportunity to respond to the needs of the men, women and children suffering in our midst. Whether it is to bring items for the giving table, perform maintenance on the house, or cultivate the garden, the Silence of Mary Home offers to all an experience of personal encounter focused on building communion.
“My biggest joy is knowing that I’m doing God’s will by helping the poor and being there for them,” Wyatt said. “The poor are the best people to ever be around. They are so grateful and happy for every little bit you give them.” She also expressed her hope that awareness of the Silence of Mary Home will continue to grow throughout the diocese and that more people will come to participate in their mission with generous hearts and open arms.
The primary means of communication about Silence of Mary Home is through a quarterly newsletter and advertisements in local church bulletins. While there is information online at www.thesilenceofmary.org, Wyatt said that they are currently in need of some technical expertise to begin developing an online presence specific to the Fort Wayne-South Bend community.
Prayers and financial assistance are always appreciated, as are donations for making hygiene kits and managing the garden. At this time, they are specifically in need of food, linens, towels, deodorant, winter clothes, potting soil, garden pots and fertilizer. Anyone interested in assisting or contributing is invited to contact Wyatt at 260-267-8371 or [email protected].
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