Last week, two Catholic Social Services (CSS) ministries in the archdiocese hosted an island-themed party for women at risk and crowned them all “queen for a day.”

About 20 patrons served by Women of Hope and Mercy Hospice, both located in downtown Philadelphia, donned Hawaiian necklaces for a luau lunch on July 9 that included hot sandwiches, fresh side dishes, and desserts. decadent.

Fairy lights, colorful spinning tops and even a few cutouts of flamingos gave the outdoor gathering, which took place in the spacious Women of Hope courtyard, a fun and relaxed atmosphere.

And that was the whole point, said Renee Hudson-Small, deputy director of housing and homelessness services at CSS and current director of Mercy Hospice.

“It’s a chance for them to celebrate themselves and for us to let them know that they are special,” she said. “Everything revolves around them today.

CSS provided childcare services to mothers on site “so that they can be themselves,” she added. “We have coloring books here, but they’re for moms.”

Participants at CSS’s “Queen for a Day” luncheon on July 9th enjoyed the luau-themed decor. (Gina Christian)

The two long-standing CSS ministries, which benefit from the annual appeal of Catholic charities, support homeless women as well as addiction and mental health issues. Outreach activities are part of a constellation of similar CSS sites that collectively serve hundreds of people each year.

While providing a much-needed respite between counseling sessions, social worker meetings, and hands-on skills classes, monthly “Queen for a Day” breakfasts help “build community,” said Amy Stoner, director. community, housing and homelessness services at CSS.

“It’s comfortable and family-friendly,” Stoner said, noting that the awareness day program, Mercy Café, provides customers with a safe and reliable place to come “for lunch, a shower, clothes, products. feminine hygiene via our “women locker” and everything they need.

Research suggests that leisure activities can compensate for the chronic stress associated with homelessness, while improving coping skills and positive behavior.

Rallies like the one last Friday are also helping to break down social barriers. In addition to the new bishops’ dinners at St. John’s Hospice, the “Queen for a Day” breakfasts literally bring CSS staff, clients, clergy and volunteers to the table – where everyone has a place, said Stoner and Hudson-Small.

Amy Stoner of Catholic Social Services (right) and Mercy Hospice client Donna Picuri (left) met at a “Queen for a Day” luncheon on July 9 hosted by CSS at their Women of Hope site in Philadelphia . (Gina Christian)

“Honestly, you could come to these events not knowing who is an employee and who is a resident or a customer,” Stoner said. “That’s when you know you’re doing something right. “

Rather than helping out from above, she said, “We don’t do for – we do with.

For Mercy Hospice client Donna Picuri, last Friday’s luau was an opportunity to savor the simple pleasures lost due to the pandemic.

“It’s a time of humility,” she said. “(COVID) taught us… all these little things that we take for granted, to really get the joy out of it; really learn to stop, appreciate them and appreciate them more, ”she said. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that sitting down for a meeting would be taken away from me, that it would become an alien thing.”

And that’s why the luau lunch was “really a time to celebrate,” Picuri said.

Stoner agreed.

“We’re having a meal together, and that’s what it is,” she said.