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Feature Articles

A Sister to All – Sister Nancy Crafton

Tell us about your years of ministry and what brought you to your current ministry.

The first 33 years of my Community life were spent as a nurse in the acute care setting of the hospital. I worked in New Mexico and in Pueblo, Colorado. My clinical specialty for the last 20 of those years was neurosurgery.

In my work at St. Mary-Corwin Hospital (Pueblo, Colorado), our chaplain, Fr. Maurice Gallagher (now deceased), introduced me to the needs of his rural parish in Avondale, Colorado. For six years before leaving acute care nursing, I organized the rectory with food and clothing for the farm laborers. We had parish volunteers staff the small room two days a week.

In 2000 I left the hospital setting and began full-time work as a volunteer in Avondale, Colorado.  We moved the work from the rectory to a shed behind Sacred Heart Church and served the families two days a week. We began registering the workers and the families at this time. After two years the shed was too small and the needs were too great. I wrote a grant to the Packard Foundation (David Packard was from Pueblo) and we secured enough money to build a warehouse-like structure on land adjacent to the church. We named it Los Pobres Center.

Since 2000 we have registered 15,000-plus families coming to us from five Colorado counties.  Currently we serve 900 families and are open four days a week.

We are an all-volunteer nonprofit organization and have a medical clinic once a week staffed by the residency program from St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center. Services include help with education, immigration and legal issues along with the non-perishable food, clothing and household supplies available.

In your opinion, what happens when we neglect the needs of those who are less fortunate?

Those who quote “the poor you shall always have with you” use the phrase to their own selfish advantage as to why nothing can change. I disagree! Poverty is not a crime, nor is it a sin as some would believe. Our workers work very hard, and yet, they cannot live an “American” life because the economic constraints are prohibitive. It’s a multi-faceted issue: low wages, high rent and utilities, laws that are punitive and costly.

When no one advocates for the rules, regulations and laws that are created to discriminate suffering doubles – families suffer, relationships crumble, children are neglected, and violence and crime rise in so many ways.

When you think of a brave woman, who comes to mind?

My mother was a brave woman. Even though she was a devoted Catholic from early life, and at one time a young member of the Adrian Dominicans, she always was cognizant of the roots of poverty and the compassion needed when confronted with those suffering worse than what we as a family were suffering.

Because she was so imbued with Catholic doctrine (birth control being one of them) we had 11 living children. The stress and poverty was daily. She told Bishop Charles Buswell on one visit to Pueblo that if the Church changed the rule on birth control after all she lived through she’d leave the Church! … I would have had only two children.”

Mom was always bringing someone home to sleep on the floor who had no place to live. She brought home a Hungarian refugee in the 1950s, and my father almost collapsed! In her 80s she worked at Loaves and Fishes Ministries in Lansing, Michigan, and drove home in the snow once, without her shoes! A young woman had none and she gave hers to her. 

We all survived; yet, the example and strength of mom’s determination to go the extra step has always been a part of my drive to also try harder.

What does it feel like to experience joy?

Joy is like sparkles of sun and diamonds flowing through the body and bringing contentment and peace all at once. 

What does it mean to you to be part of the Sisterhood? What is it like to have a spiritual bond with other Sisters?

Sisterhood is empowerment. Sisterhood is knowing that inherent goodness is alive and moving to create a better world. Sisterhood is strength! Knowing that we all strive for the same end is bonding. Knowing that we can call each other out if things are amiss is challenging and delicate, yet necessary. Life is just too short to deny joy! We have to embrace all that we are dealt with resilience and fortitude.rly treated. Conditions seem to grow dire and people are more frustrated because of the bad economy.