By ASC Sisters Janet Sue Smith and Rose Therese Bahr
In April, a young man, Richard Nesbitt, came to our Wichita Center to install a handicapped door. When he had finished, he said he and his siblings had lived briefly with the Sisters in Wichita when our community ran an emergency child care program.
Sr. Terrie Ann Lewis started the program in 1972 after learning of the need in Wichita, and all of the sisters bought in to her dream. We served 1,700 children – about 150 a year – over the program’s 10-year life. It closed on April 30, 1982.
The ministry, housed in the lower level of the convent, was licensed by the state of Kansas to admit children in need of emergency care, from newborns to teenagers, who had been abandoned, lost, abused, or whose parents could not care for them. The children, referred by social service agencies or the police, stayed with us for up to a week until they could be placed in foster homes or returned safely to their parents.
They often arrived dirty, neglected, hungry, afraid or badly battered but were helped by our loving care.
Richard – then “Richie” — and his two younger brothers came to live at the Wichita Center when their mother was hospitalized with injuries from a car accident and their father was unable to care for the boys.
Sr. Janet Sue Smith took Richard to visit with Sr. Irene Schmidt, the only sister who remains from that program.
Together, they shared memories about the dormitory where children slept on cots and the fenced-in playground where they played outside. Sr. Irene recalled the police who brought children to us.
This unexpected reunion was amazing and joyful for both Richard and Sr. Irene.
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