Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Lacy" and No Cagney

“There is no act of charity that is not accompanied by justice...”
St. Vincent de Paul, June 17, 1640

In Bayou la Batre, a small fishing town located 40 miles south of Mobile, Ala., where the population consists of many Laotian, Cambodian and Vietnamese families, you will find Sr. Mary Ellen Lacy, D.C., helping those with legal problems caused by the Gulf Coast Oil Spill.
As a Staff Attorney for Legal Services Alabama (LSA), she opened a satellite office in the Bayou to serve people who cannot independently navigate the Gulf Coast Oil Spill claims process and people who suffer from other legal predicaments, such as eviction and/or insurmountable debts in the aftermath of the BP Oil Spill. At present, she advocates for approximately 46 individuals and various causes.
Sr. Mary Ellen believes her ministry is a timely response to the needs of today’s poor. She states, “As a Daughter of Charity, I go places where others may not go and I do what others may not do. Most importantly, I encounter Jesus every day in these struggling people who are poor. I am grateful. I go to bed knowing that I have tried to serve Him and I wake up knowing that I get to try again. Isn’t that awesome?”
Lack of adequate housing, domestic violence and consumer debt were already major issues in this area prior to the oil spill. With the sudden eradication of the Bayou’s main commerce, the prevalence and intensity of these issues have escalated and residents must learn to live on the edge because the “have nots” have even less. The presence of Legal Services Alabama, which serves only those living in poverty, gives the local fishermen, crabbers and shrimpers another alternative to hiring transient attorneys who have no relationship with or long-term concern for the community. LSA does not take a fee or a percentage of the claim paid.
Sr. Mary Ellen states, “The impoverished person’s limited access to legal justice is a glaring systemic disparity, which fosters national poverty. For the poor, justice is not blind. Rather, it has turned them a blind eye, as well as a deaf ear. When they muster the courage to stand up and request justice from BP, Social Security or in any court of law, the poor need someone to stand beside them to fortify their resolve and amplify their voice. My ministry enables me to do just that. With each success, the cry for equal access to justice is heard and systemic change is happening — one case at a time — and I thank Jesus for that.”
Caption: A laptop computer enables Sr. Mary Ellen to work on the road, as she assists victims of the oil spill in filing their claims.
This article comes from "Vision and Voice" , A Daughter of Charity magazine

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