Mary Solberg

People in need of shelter gather at St. Joseph/Bread of Life Community in 2016 as part of the Our Neighbor's Place
effort. Photo by Mary Solberg.

St. Virginia was canonized in 2003 by St. John Paul II for pouring herself out in service to God and the needy who surrounded her.

To address the needs of the poor in Genoa, St. Virginia founded the Cento Signore della Misericordia Protettrici dei Poveri di Gesù, which translates as Hundred Ladies of Mercy, Protectors of the Poor of Jesus Christ. The title of the house refers to the young women who worked with St. Virginia and helped her care for the marginalized.

When St. Virginia’s house was overcrowded with the needy during a plague and famine in 1630, she rented a vacant convent nearby and placed some of her patients there; she proceeded to build new housing, as well.

By 1635, she was caring for 300 patients, and her “hospital” was officially recognized by the government. She spent her later years trying to keep the peace among noble households and continuing her devotion to the poor.

St. Virginia is known for her quote: “When God is the only goal, all disagreements are smoothed out, all difficulties overcome.”

In keeping with the spirit of St. Virginia, Erie-area churches will offer overnight accommodations to the homeless this winter.

Local churches rotate hosting temporary shelters when Erie's permanent homeless shelters are at full capacity. Erie United Methodist Alliance — with its Our Neighbor’s Place Overflow Shelter — staffs the emergency shelters along with parish

Among the Catholic parishes offering overfl ow help this winter are:
  • St. John the Baptist (shelter in the school behind the church on East 26th Street, Erie) — Jan. 16-29 and Feb.27 to March 12.
  • St. Patrick (shelter at Church of the Nativity, East Front and German streets, Erie) — Jan. 30 to Feb. 5.
  • St. Jude the Apostle (shelter at Church of the Nativity, East Front and German streets, Erie) — Feb. 6-12.

“We’re open through the end of March this winter because our weather is so unpredictable now. Sometimes we have blizzards in March,” says Angie Eagle, coordinator of Our Neighbor’s Place Overflow Shelter.

For Father Jacquel, pastor of the partnered parishes of St. John and Holy Rosary, Erie, off ering accommodation and food to the homeless is one of the best things a parish community can do.

“Outreach to the poor, to homeless men and women, is really a parish renewal experience,” Father Jacquel says. “Everyone can participate, even if they can’t come and work. They can bring coffee or warm clothing.”

For a full listing of participating churches, visit

Donations of toiletries, breakfast bars, coffee, winter coats, gloves, hats, scarves and thermal undershirts may be given directlly to the church/overflow shelter sites. To make monetary donations, earmark them specifically for the Overflow Shelter Program and send to: Erie United Methodist Alliance, 1033 E. 26th St., Erie, PA 16504 or give online at