By Paul Dumas, Ph.D.
Residents in Utica have yet another reason to be thankful for a new service on offer in the Varick District. Just above Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen on the corner of Columbia Street and Varick / Saint Marianne Way, St. Joseph & St. Patrick’s Church now has a new benevolent venue in operation called “The Boutique.” Here, on the Second Floor of The Parish Center, those who are in need are welcome to obtain a variety of good quality items at no cost. All are welcome to take advantage of this ministry, regardless of their religious disposition, and may now do so during the new Covid Operating Hours from 12:30 to 1:30 on Wednesday afternoons.
Since opening about a year ago The Boutique has greatly expanded its quarters, and today occupies all of the rooms on the Second Floor of The Parish Center. A fulsome array of very good quality / “like-new” clothing items for adults as well as children are on offer, as well jewelry items and toiletries. Also available are cookware, table furnishings and a modest amount of furniture. When things return back to Normal after the virus comes under better control, professional hairdressers will resume providing men and women’s haircuts for free on the first Mondays of every month.
The Boutique was founded as an outgrowth of Mother Marianne’s Kitchen by the Center’s Executive Director, Ed Morgan, and also borne along by the initiatives and eventual management of its Director, Nancy Roberts. Over a dozen Volunteers provide very gracious, kind, and compassionate, personalized assistance to the public. And the overall esprit de corp is entirely in keeping with the Church’s description of Mercy Ministries, which place due value on attending to the Practical Needs of the Poor, the Sick, and the Disabled. As anyone visiting The Boutique can readily observe, without exception., all of those who serve the needy through this venue do so humbly, “quietly’ rendering their assistance to all visitors, as it were, “in the sight of God.”
It is worthy to highlight that the kind of benevolent services here on offer are very much in keeping with the legacy of Utica’s most famous Saint, Mother Marianne Cope, who was canonized by The Roman Catholic Church in 2012. A German immigrant, she grew up in “Varick Village” (as West Utica’s Industrial District was called 150 years ago); and as a young adult, she later departed from her Franciscan Motherhouse in Syracuse to lead a Team Mission of six Sisters in The Hawaiian Islands, where she served Lepers for 50 years. Her Missionaries along with other Co-Laborers attended not only to the medical needs of those suffering from “the world’s most dreaded disease,” as Hansen’s Disease was long-called but also to the very, practical temporal needs of the terminally ill. She thus ministered by providing them with clothing, assistance in worship services, teaching gardening and sewing, and lovingly tucking beautiful lowers in the little leper girls’ hair.
An excellent biography on the life and ministry of Mother Marianne is carried in Mary Laurence Hanley’s authoritative work, Pilgrimage and Exile: Mother Marianne of Molokai Mother Marianne was the Founding Leader of St. Elizabeth’ Hospital in Utica and St. Joseph’ Hospital in Syracuse. For more information about her Shrine in Syracuse, contact Ms. Ellen Benton at St. Joseph & St. Patrick’s Church locally at 315-735-4429.
Anyone wishing to make donations of good quality items to The Boutique may do so during its Operating Hours at The West Side Kitchen. Masses are held at the Church: Sundays at 7:30 and 10:30 AM; Saturdays at 4 PM; and Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 8 AM. Confessions are offered on Saturdays at 3:30 PM or by Appointment.
Rev. Paul Dumas is Religion Editor for The Phoenix. He is an Ordained Christian Minister and currently serves as a part-time Missionary based in Utica’s Varick District. He holds a Ph.D. in Practical Theology and Preaching Arts from King’s College at The University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He has earned numerous scholarly awards and has published many feature articles, essays, and sermons as a Freelance Writer.