Catholic San Francisco


(Photo by Rick DelVecchio/Catholic San Francisco)

Presentation Sisters Máire Sullivan, Sylvia Llerena and Virginia Espinal serve breakfast Nov. 26 in the basement of the rectory at St. Anthony Church in San Francisco’s Mission District, with a recently restored Marian wall mural behind t

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December 3rd, 2014
By Rick DelVecchio

Presentation Sisters serve hot coffee, warm hospitality at weekly predawn breakfast for homeless, day workers

Well before dawn Tuesday morning of Thanksgiving week, the lights go on in the rectory basement at St. Anthony Church in San Francisco’s Mission District: The Presentation Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, providing breakfast to day workers and the homeless in the neighborhood weekly for the past 15 years, are again ready to serve.

By 5:30 a.m. Sister Máire Sullivan, Sister Virginia Espinal and Sister Sylvia Llerena are on station behind a serving table on one side of the room, with aproned Presentation associate Pat Hageman helping with the preparations of sweets, pastries and fruit. They work in front of a Marian wall mural that was recently restored by students from St. Francis High School in Sacramento. Behind a serving table on the other side of the room are Sister Denise Bourdet and Sister Anita Torres (Sister Rosina Conrotto usually attends but had another appointment on this day). At the back working the coffee urn is Sister Stephanie Still, president of the community of women religious that has been active in San Francisco since 1854 and seeks to promote a society that respects the dignity of all persons with emphasis on compassion and justice for the poor and oppressed.

Frank Arana, a volunteer from the parish, drops in to chat with Sister Stephanie. Behind the scenes is another parish volunteer, Juan Sanchez, who starts his day in the rectory kitchen at 4 and proudly shows off his domain as he poses for pictures with Sister Máire.

Feeding 75 to 100 people weekly, the breakfast program started out as a service for day workers but now helps “anybody who needs it,” says Sister Máire, who founded it and enjoys how peaceably everybody gets along.

“I love it,” she says. “Everybody who comes loves it.”

The mood of the room is notably convivial among guests, sisters and volunteers and grows more so toward the end of the 90-minute breakfast. Sitting next to Sister Denise and wearing a muffed hat in the predawn chill, guest Dudley Smith is a center of interest as he plays favorite tunes on his laptop – James Brown first (there is a brief jocular discussion contrasting the styles of Brown and Barry White) and then Neil Diamond, with ‘60s pop hits “Holly Holy” and “I’m a Believer” filling the room and helping bring the Presentation Sisters’ breakfast time on this Tuesday of Thanksgiving week to a close in warmth and style.

From December 5, 2014 issue of Catholic San Francisco.



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