Sister Lois MacGillivray’s journey – including years as an educator, a researcher and the director at the Holy Names Sisters’ Villa Maria del Mar Retreat Center – is a story of making connections and impacting lives. Today, Sister Lois makes connections as she seeks to meet the needs of people who are homeless in the Santa Cruz, CA area.
When she arrived in Santa Cruz, she learned that a serious issue in the community was the number of people who were unsheltered. With a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, she studied local efforts to find affordable housing for unsheltered individuals and families and interviewed formerly homeless people to learn how they found permanent housing placements.
During this time, Sister Lois began volunteering with the St. Vincent de Paul Pantry at her parish. The Pantry serves a diverse group of people providing cereal, protein, milk, staples, fresh vegetables and fruits.
Collaborating with the Association of Faith Communities in Santa Cruz, Sister Lois secured an SNJM ministry grant to support Footbridge Services Warming Center in Santa Cruz. Besides shelter and food, the Warming Center provides many basic elements that are critical to unhoused people, such as a safe organized place to store belongings, do laundry, take showers, charge devices, receive clothes/blankets/hygiene items, etc. The Warming Center is open twice daily, seven days a week. This Grant from the Sisters has expanded the Center’s ability to serve people without limits on the number of persons served or qualification of a person’s need.
In addition to these projects, Sister Lois will be an ESL tutor for a local woman who aspires to attend community college. She brings communion to the home-bound on behalf of her parish. During the COVID year, she worked with Marge Webb, a benefactor of the Sisters and programs at Villa Maria del Mar, to organize a gathering in a local park to pray the rosary each Friday morning. Sister is also a spiritual director.
Sister Lois says “This is a blessed time in my life. I am driven by the effort to go out, to serve people on the margins in ways that I can do now.”