Seton Center celebrates 30 years of helping people

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Dialog Editor

PRINCESS ANNE, MD — One way to tell the story of Catholic Charities’ Seton Center here, is through numbers.

The multi-purpose community center was founded by the Sisters of Charity 30 years ago in Somerset County.

At its 30th anniversary event on April 25, Bishop Malooly counted the numbers of people helped by Seton Center since he has led the Diocese of Wilmington:

“Just in the six years since I arrived in the diocese, over 12,700 households have received assistance through our basic needs program, which includes financial assistance and food distributions; over 3,000 households received some type of family strengthening help, and 470 individuals came for behavioral health counseling. Many of these individuals would have nowhere else to turn for help, if not for the Seton Center.”

Seton Center’s story is also told by people — those it employs, people who volunteer and the people it helps.

Denean Jones-Ward, the center’s program manager, said that during the last fiscal year, more than 17,000 people were helped by programs at the Catholic Charities’ center, an increase of 4,000 clients in previous years.

Jones-Ward cited the lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina as a reason for the higher number of people seeking the basic needs, emergency pantry, financial help for rent or mortgages and other help.

The Seton Center in Princess Anne, Md. (The Dialog)

Seton Center’s full-time staff is six people, Jones-Ward said.

“I have to say our volunteers are awesome,” she added, counting about 35 who help the staff each month for at least two hours each week. “They are donors as well. We’re very thankful for our donors. We also have a strong network with clergy and church communities in Princess Anne.”

Claudia Jones, a member of Green Hill Church of the Brethren in Westover, Md., has been a volunteer at Seton Center since 1990.

After starting helping with the food pantry, she recalled using her experience in retail to help the center’s thrift shop get organized.

Somerset County is said to be Maryland’s poorest, and Jones said Seton Center in Princess Anne “is the only place like it in the entire county.”

She’s pleased that community response in support of the center has included people from all churches.

“It’s the draw that Christ has on you to be of service,” Jones said. “There’s nothing like that.”

Sister Cecilia McManus, one of the founding Sisters of Charity who came to Princess Anne in 1983 to work in migrant ministries, recalls the sisters first helping people from their back porch and garage.

“It’s unbelievable to see the number of people who started out with us, who are still with us,” Sister Cecilia said. “It’s heartwarming.”

Fritz Jones, Catholic Charities’ director of program operations, said the Sisters of Charity “have a pulse on this community like nobody else.”

He recalled sisters at Seton Center asking for an evaluation of a 12-year-old boy in Princess Anne whom the police “wanted to throw the book at.”

Sister Re-gina Hudson told Jones at the time, “We don’t want that. What can we do?”

When Catholic Charities’ clinician evaluated the young man, he discovered the boy was addicted to heroin.

Jones praised the sisters’ talent for seeing and knowing individuals while helping a community.

And the Eastern Shore community knows the Seton Center’s sisters.

Sister Marion Scranton, representing the Sisters of Charity of Convent Station, N.J,, commended the sisters’ work at Seton Center, and recalled when a friend of hers from Bethany Beach got lost while heading to Princess Anne to donate clothing.

She stopped at a gas station “when she was heading for Virginia” and told an attendant, “I don’t know if you can help me. I’m looking for some Sisters of Charity who run the Seton Center.”

The man replied, “You mean the sisters that help the poor?”

The work of the sisters and of Catholic Charities’ Seton Center was also summed up in the commendation from Princess Anne read by Garland Hayward, a town commissioner at the anniversary. The proclamation quoted St. Matthew, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”