The idea of a collaborative ministry among the sisters of the Conference of Presentation Sisters, to serve those made poor, emerged at a meeting of the Conference in the summer of 2003.
When the invitation to the members across North America was issued, eight sisters entered a discernment process in December 2004. This process resulted in a decision that five sisters would begin the Collaborative Ministry Project (CMP) in New Orleans, Louisiana, in September 2005.
Because of the devastating Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005, the starting time was delayed. Thanks to the Union Sisters, the CMP sisters were housed in Robertsdale, Alabama until they were able to return to New Orleans several months later. For almost two years they were able provide services to individuals returning to the city through the use of a single trailer that was temporarily placed in the parking lot of St. Joseph Church. Then, in August 2007, Lantern Light, together with the Vincentian Community at St. Joseph Church, and the Jesuits, under the Harry Tompson Center, partnered to open the Rebuild Center on August 26, 2007.
For almost a decade the Presentation Sisters made a huge impact in the New Orleans community. In 2015, the conference decided that the remaining members of the CMP, Sisters. Enid and Vera, would find another way to continue the work of their founder Nano Nagle. As a result, their illustration of selflessness would propel several laity to carry on the ministry. Nano Nagle’s words “spend yourselves for the poor” continue to be lived out each day in many forms of ministry at Lantern Light. Because of the faith and love of the people they serve, the ministers receive much more than they give.
Since its inception, Sisters Vera Butler and Enid Storey have been the driving force of Lantern Light Ministry. Both individuals have helped to lay the foundation of the ministry, build up the services that it currently offers, and share how much of an impact the ministry has made for those living in the Greater New Orleans area with thousands of individuals from all over the world.
Vera Butler, a native of Portmagee, County Kerry, Ireland entered the congregation as a novice after meeting the Presentation Sisters in Clonmel, County Tipperary for high school. She came to New Orleans more than 30 years ago and grew to love the city and the rich culture of the people. She has served in various positions with several organizations since that time. She was a teacher at an elementary catholic school, the director for the Presentation Sister’s US Province, and the Outreach Coordinator for St. Joseph’s Church before becoming the Director of Lantern Light. It was Sr. Vera’s suggestion that the collaborative discernment group consider what is now called Lantern Light as a ministry option, and since the beginning, she has had the privilege of developing and expanding the agency.
Enid Story, a native of New York City, entered the congregation after meeting the Presentation community at St. Michael’s High School. She has served as a teacher and an administrator for her community’s infirmary before becoming an RN. Soon after, she ministered within the state of New York as a nurse in a community hospital, a parish outreach program, and a homeless shelter. She came to New Orleans in 2005 as a result of discerning a call two years prior from the Conference of Presentation Sisters of North America to form a collaborative community in the city. She arrived on the coattails of Hurricane Katrina and has considered her time in New Orleans as a great experience. Enid’s responsibilities have included assisting guests with medication referrals, administering and keeping records for TB Tests, obtaining ID’s and birth certificates, and lastly the coordinator of the lunch program.
After serving the community for more than a decade, the North American Conference of Presentation Sisters decided that they would find another way for Sisters Vera and Enid to continue the work that they had begun through Lantern Light. They selected a dedicated group of volunteers to serve as the new Board for the organization and former Social Worker, Kenitha Grooms-Williams, who joined the staff in 2013 to continue their mission of serving the homeless and less fortunate.
Sisters who previously served at Lantern Light:
- Vera Butler, U.S. Province of the Union
- Enid Storey, New Windsor, N.Y.
- Beth Driscoll, Dubuque, Iowa
- Marie Roche, St. John’s, Newfoundland
- Joan White, St. John’s, Newfoundland
- Mary Dennis Lentsch, Dubuque, Iowa
- Phyllis Gill, Aberdeen, S.D.
- Maureen Nolan, U.S. Province of the Union
- Delores Cooney, English Province of the Union
- Anna Raimon, New Windsor, N.Y.