Catholic San Francisco

On the Street

Mercy High School, Burlingame celebrated Homecoming Sept. 18 with more than 150 alumnae representing 40 years of graduations - 1946 through 2006 – honored.

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Youngest helped are ‘babes in arms,’ St. Anthony’s director says
November 28th, 2016
By Tom Burke

“St. Anthony’s is a place where everyone can come and know that they’ll be treated with dignity and respect,” Barry Stenger, executive director at St. Anthony’s, told me in an email. “Virtually all of our guests – 97 percent – report that the dining room is a welcoming and friendly environment. For too many, this may be the only positive interaction they have on any particular day.”

As we ramp up to Christmas, Barry and I spoke about the day-to-day at St. Anthony’s and the people helped there.

“Our guests who have visibly lived a tough life on the streets all too frequently feel judged or looked-down on by their fellow citizens be it in stores, in hospitals or even in everyday interactions on the street,” Barry, who has been with St. Anthony’s for 11 years and its head for almost four years, said. “We know from talking with our guests that it’s how needs are met at St. Anthony’s that makes people feel that they have been treated with dignity and respect. Here, our guests find the basics we all need to feel human and also the opportunity to connect with us, with each other and with the wider world.”

Guests at St. Anthony’s “encompass all ages and ethnicities,” Barry said, with 25 percent now women, an increase of 13 percent since 2011. “Our youngest guests are babes-in-arms seen in our medical clinic. The clinic provides specialist pediatric care in a neighborhood historically underserved by health care options for low income families.” Guests include those on very low, fixed incomes, the homeless as well as those struggling with addiction, illness and mental health problems.

That we do not live by bread alone is shown ever so true at St. Anthony’s. “As well as the obvious immediate needs: a hot meal, warm clothing and health care, we also deal with the reality that most of our guests, whether homeless or housed, live alone and need a place where they can feel connected to a community and wider society,” Barry said. A large majority of senior guests live on their own making Barry “profoundly worried about the impact of isolation and loneliness.”

Christmas and Thanksgiving are the busiest days of the year at St. Anthony’s. “It is ‘all hands on deck’ to make sure that we can meet the demand of around 3,500 meals each day,” Barry said. “No one is turned away.”

St. Anthony’s Christmas drive is Dec. 17-24 with staff and volunteers on hand to collect donations curbside at 121 Golden Gate Ave. “Supporters can donate turkeys, socks and other items which we make sure are put to good use,” Barry said. Christmas is also a wonderful time to volunteer at St. Anthony’s “when our need for help is greater than ever,” Barry said.

“St. Anthony’s community has always acted together to make a real difference in the lives of our vulnerable neighbors,” Barry said. “Seeing each other as brother or sister is the crucial first step to solving the seemingly intractable social problems of homelessness, unemployment, addiction and mental health.”

Visit; to find out more.

REUNION: The class of 1946 from San Francisco’s St. Joan of Arc School met Nov. 2 at the Basque Cultural Center in South San Francisco, classmate Paul De Martini told me in a note to this column. “It was a small school staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange,” Paul said. “The graduates enjoyed a reunion with their classmates. Many great stories were told about the school and the old neighborhood.” The group has held the get-together for the last 16 years. In conversation, the group learned that one of their teachers, St. Joseph Sister Marguerite Gendron, is now 102 years old.

“Sister Marguerite Gendron did teach at St. Joan of Arc School in San Francisco from 1936 to 1940,” her congregation told me in a generous response to an inquiry. “She will be celebrating 102 on Feb. 23. She was known as Sister Georgina back then.” Robert Cogswell, the sisters’ director of communications, facilitated the response. “She is an active member of the retirement community here,” Robert said. “She connects with people, prays for others and attends Mass every day.”

Email items and electronic pictures – jpegs at no less than 300 dpi to or mail to Street, One Peter Yorke Way, San Francisco 94109. Include a follow-up phone number. Street is toll-free. My phone number is (415) 614-5634.

From December 1, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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