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The Pope Francis Center

In 1990, the pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church opened the doors to those in Detroit seeking refuge from a brutal winter storm, starting an ongoing effort to assist the city’s homeless community.

By Jason Puscas

My professional journey officially brought me back to Detroit a couple of years ago, but my observations of the rebirth of this amazing city stretch back a few years prior. Being a part of the Detroit Regional Chamber team for the past six years has given me the opportunity to stay informed and engaged as Detroit “rose from the ashes.” Now that I was back home, I was inspired to become more involved and participate in a meaningful way.

I have always enjoyed arts and culture, so I engaged with the Detroit Institute of Arts. I have always had an interest in education, so I become involved in a local public school academy on the northwest side of the city.

It was my fiancé, however, who helped me get involved with what has quickly become my most rewarding means of giving back to the community. Christina is an incredible woman who is constantly giving her time to good causes and, only a couple of months in to our relationship, she asked me if I wanted to join her and volunteer on a Saturday morning at a local shelter called the Pope Francis Center. Eager to spend time with her and happy to show off my more benevolent side, I obliged.

Some history: In 1990, the pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church – located on Jefferson Ave. across from the Renaissance Center – opened the doors to those in Detroit seeking refuge from a brutal winter storm. This act of kindness started an ongoing effort to assist the city’s homeless community, and, in 2013, the Pope Francis Center was formally launched as a full-service center with kitchen and laundry services, showers, clothing and supplies for personal hygiene, and various free clinics. Today, the Center opens its doors six days per week to over 200 people who benefit from the good and purposeful work of the staff.

So I volunteered. And then I volunteered again. And then Fr. Tim McCabe, the executive director of the Center, asked me if I wanted to meet and grab some breakfast. Once you get breakfast with Fr. Tim, you can immediately feel the passion he has for his work and his genuine belief that they can change this one small corner of the world. It’s a calling, and as soon as you get a sense of it, you want to be a part of it.

Three months later, I’m volunteering on the Center’s board of directors, and Christina and I are launching a new advisory board – the “Magis Council” – of young professionals under 40.

The timing couldn’t have been better. Just as the Magis Council was getting off the ground, the Center announced their capital campaign for a new transitional housing facility that would focus on providing the necessary support and resources to help Detroit’s chronically homeless get off the street and reclaim stability in their lives. Thanks to partners like Ford Motor Co., Magna, and the J. Addison Bartush and Marion M. Bartush Family Foundation, the campaign is already in full gear.

It’s a model that requires an immense amount of trust and commitment from those who participate. Fr. Tim likes to say that the mission of the Center is evolving from simply transactional to truly transformational, and I agree. They are striving to change the world in their own, small way; but for the people they are serving, it is truly life changing. It’s an inspiring story and the Magis Council is ready to help!

Now, if you had never heard of the word “magis” before right now as you read this blog post, you aren’t alone. I have only recently become familiar with the term myself, but it is a dynamic and resilient word with a powerful meaning. I’ve also discovered that it is incredibly difficult for anyone to define.

In its simplest form, “magis” is a Latin word that could translate to mean “more” or “to a greater degree.” Amongst Jesuit Catholics, however, it represents a central tenet of their spirituality, challenging each and every one of us to live our lives to the fullest in the service of others; that we strive to do “the more, the better, the greater” for God. It’s a call to arms for humanity that can be found in many forms of religious or secular values, and one that I have found increasingly interesting as I have served as a witness to everything that has been happening in Detroit.

I have been impressed by how Detroit’s business community is embracing this idea in their corporate culture as well. My friends at The Platform refer to it as “doing good by doing well”; Quicken Loans refers to it as “for more than profit”; and I’ve repeatedly heard Patti Poppe over at Consumers Energy and CMS Energy discuss their commitment to the “triple bottom line.” However you phrase it, Detroit seems to be all hands on deck in this journey to reclaim the future of our city.

Whether you’re a Fortune 500 company, a priest running a homeless shelter, or a guy who just moved back to Detroit, define your magis and find your own way of living it. And in the meantime, volunteer some time to the Pope Francis Center.

Donate to Jason’s Pope Francis Center Fundraiser here.

Sign up for the Bags N’ Brews event to support the center here.


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