Good Shepherd Brothers on frontline for half a century

  • March 30, 2011
The Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd and their volunteers have been helping the needy in Hamilton, Ont., for 50 years.It has been 50 years of feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and clothing the naked for the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd in Hamilton, Ont.

“We’re the largest provider of community social services and health services in the Hamilton community — particularly in the area of mental health,” Br. Richard MacPhee, executive director of Good Shepherd Centres, told The Catholic Register.

Among the celebrations marking the milestone is a 50th anniversary breakfast at Liuna Station in Hamilton on April 19 with featured speaker Br. Justin Howson, superior general of the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd. And on June 18, Bishop Douglas Crosby will celebrate an anniversary Mass at Christ the King Cathedral.

The Brothers of the Good Shepherd arrived in Hamilton in 1961 at the request of Bishop Joseph Ryan. They set up a men’s hostel in an old building where they offered food and shelter to mostly transient or homeless men. Since that time, the ministries have grown immensely, said MacPhee.

After rebuilding the original hostel, the brothers also opened Martha House, a shelter for homeless women.

“We then opened a series of other programs such as the food bank, a residence for homeless youth, a non-profit housing program both in Toronto and Hamilton and then another shelter for women,” he said.

As for housing, the brothers developed tremendously in terms of the number of housing units and supportive housing units across the community, said MacPhee. As a result, he said they’re now supporting about 250 men and women who have addictions and/or mental health issues as well as people who need affordable housing.

“We have a school that we offer in conjunction with our Notre Dame House, which is our youth shelter, and that helps kids who have left the shelter or are staying in the shelter to begin to get credits and work towards a high school diploma.”

And the list of programs goes on, with the newest being Good Shepherd Square, which will be made up of a women’s services building, a wellness centre, a seniors’ supportive housing building and a residential building providing affordable housing units.

Since their inception in 1961, the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd have worked towards their mission of “charity unlimited, never stop loving,” MacPhee said.

“We speak about our mission in terms of the values of availability, flexibility, adaptability, hospitality and dignity and we do that throughout our mission in Hamilton and throughout the work that our brothers are involved in throughout the world.”

Howson said they have a very successful volunteer base: between 1,700 and 1,800 volunteers, many of whom have been involved for up to 30 years.

“So this is a way of life for many of our volunteers and certainly without their dedication and commitment we would not be able to do what we’re doing in Hamilton,” said Howson.

As well, he said the staff help to make their good work possible.

“We are only six brothers and most of the frontline work is done by these men and women who are just so dedicated,” said Howson.

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