New beginnings for mother and child
Bishop Michael W. Fisher begins his first infant baptism in the Diocese of Buffalo, with the assistance of Father Sean Paul Fleming. Ten-month-old Marie, with her mother Mary, and godmother Maren Lelonek, was welcomed into the Church on Oct. 30.
A series of firsts and new beginnings marked a special day in the Diocese of Buffalo. On Oct. 30, Bishop Michael W. Fisher conducted his first infant baptism in the diocese, a 10-month-old girl was welcomed into the Church, and a young mother began on a new life path thanks to the Mother Teresa Home.
Mary, 28 and pregnant, became homeless after losing both her jobs due to the Covid pandemic. She came to Buffalo looking for an affordable place to live, but her bad credit made it impossible to rent an apartment, so she used her unemployment checks to pay for hotel rooms.
“So, I’m paying for hotel bills and I’m pregnant. Now, I’m running out of money,” she recalled.
When unemployment benefits expired, Mary began to plan for her future the best way she could. She took the last bit of money she had and bought a tent and staked a place behind an AutoZone in Williamsville.
“I didn’t have the energy to leave (a homeless) shelter every 24 hours because I’m growing more and more pregnant,” she explained. “So, it was a better situation for me to just use the money to get a tent. So, I walked with two suitcases from the Motel 8 over there to find a woodsy area, but not too far from the stores, so I can still use the bathroom and touch up and get something to eat and then return to my spot and just kind of stay out of everybody’s face.”
A friend looked up women’s shelters online and found a news story about the Mother Teresa Home, a diocesan-run facility that provides safety, stability and well-being for women who have experienced or been exposed to pressure in regard to their pregnancy. The home also offers programs that provide education, life skills training, and addiction referral services for all mothers in need.
“I reached out to the Mother Teresa Home and they immediately took me in and helped me square away some much-needed bills. By living here free of charge, I was able to rebuild my credit. So now I’m in a better position to get all the things that I was trying to accomplish before,” Mary said.
She admits her problem with authority led her to become a juvenile delinquent that was in an out of jail. She also developed addiction issues.
“I was kind of a functional addict. I was really trying hard to make money, but not taking any direction from authority. Having a problem with authority has had left me in a bad situation. I wasn’t paying bills on time, so when it came time to getting myself in my own place, although I had the money, it didn’t matter. I had a lot of things to answer to it. I had to undo some of the mess of my younger years,” she explained.
She calls life at the East Side residence “absolutely amazing.”
“They are always available. They make themselves available which is amazing. I just couldn’t have asked for a better situation,” she said. “I just improved on every scale. I’ve just gained since I been here. I’m not using any drugs. I’m constantly going to counseling and reporting to a drug counselor to hold myself accountable. These are the things you gotta do to stay on the right path.”
A chance meeting with Bishop Fisher led to the baptism of her baby girl, Marie. The bishop and few others were visiting the home for a fifth-anniversary Mass, when Mary struck up a conversation with him asking, “Are you a priest?”
“I didn’t know who he was. We do have the pastors come here, you know? Usually we introduce ourselves, but for some reason he was just like, I don’t know, I would say more like a familiar personality. I just wanted to keep talking to him and then Maren (Lelonek, coordinator of the Mother Teresa Home) told me that I can do confessions.
“He actually offered to baptize the baby after my confession, and he gave me a couple of gifts for me and the baby – some rosaries, which is really special to me because I’m really trying to get closer to God by reading my Bible and having better company, all on the same path as me with the Church,” Mary said.
At Mass before the ceremony, Bishop Fisher mentioned the baptism in his homily.
“It is there that we come into a community of faith, a community of love. It is there that this child begins her lifelong journey of following our Lord Jesus. It’s the beginning of recognizing that she is loved, she is loved by this community, loved by her God. And she needs to grow to understand that, to grow into a woman of love, a woman who loves her God with her whole heart, mind, soul and strength. And that gives her the courage and the potential to serve her community, to serve God and His people.”