For the fourth straight morning, Horace woke up in his car parked in a homeless enclave near Herman Park. Today would have to be different, he told himself. He had been enslaved first by drug addiction and managed to overcome it when gambling addiction took hold and cost him his apartment, livelihood, and girlfriend.
The Men’s Center had helped Horace before, but he’d never really believed in the required 12-Step Program. (Little did he know that only a year later he’d be founding an Alcoholics Anonymous group and leading its 12-Step Program.) This bleak morning, Horace felt the Lord was telling him to drive directly to Magnificat Houses. On the way, he ran out of gas, abandoned his car and started walking, repeating: this time I’m going to tell the absolute truth to everyone. When he met with Director of Housing Deacon Martin, he poured out his tribulations along with a full admission of his current and past addictions, about the gambling that replaced drugging, about the drug-related amnesia that once had him committed to a mental hospital, about the car wreck that had him declared dead — within his own hearing. He was ready to leave all that drama behind. Deacon Martin assured him if he was ready to give service to others, he would be helped. Horace loved work, all kinds of work, and the next day he plunged himself into whatever was needed: serving with the Magnificat Houses work team at Toyota Center and other event venues at night and, by day, working in food service, then as a driver (delivering residents to medical appointments, picking up goods). His excellence in small and large tasks, organizational abilities, and his up-beat attitude lead to his appointment as House Manager of Rosary House, where he was in service 24/7. To that, he has added the 24/7 task of Magnificat Houses Food Service Manager. To some eyes, that’s 48/7 (and that’s how Horace likes it). So when Father Frank asked his help to found an on-campus AA group, Horace said yes — it was obviously God’s will for him. “God has always been my best friend,” Horace says. “All my life he’s shown me exactly what I needed to do to save myself.” And if that meant leading a 12-Step Program ... well, it was time to surrender.
With 32 years of service behind him, Charles Johnson is our longest running success story. Born in Mexico, Charles found his way to Houston in 1982 and, after a brief time living on the streets, applied at Magnificat Houses — where he has been a valuable staff contributor ever since.
Since severe, undiagnosed dyslexia impeded Charles’ ability to read, his high potential had gone undiscovered until he was ensconced in our Scanlan House in Midtown, and set enthusiastically about his assigned duties. Charles was happy to move when his skills were needed in new quarters. Over the years Charles in several of our houses — Maranatha, Dismas, Susanna, and Visitation — holding many responsible posts, including house manager, staff driver, salad and sandwich maker. One of his early favorite assignments was the daily bread run, where he confessed to snitching a donut every now and then. Charles is proud of all of his accomplishments, of finally earning his citizenship in 1992, of being a charter member of St. Joseph Clubhouse in 1995 and, particularly, of representing St. Joseph as its assistant manager at the worldwide Clubhouse conference in Toronto. Now retired, Charles shares these memories with old friends gathered around the inviting dining room table at the center of life at Dismas House, the charming blue cottage in northeast Houston he once managed. “I was Rose Mary’s pet,” he beams, acknowledging our founder Rose Mary Badami. Current house manager Fred comments: “With all the responsibilities Charles has had over his long years here, he’s been an inspiration to all those who came after him. They’ve seen how well run all his projects were and noted the positive energy he exudes. And they give more of themselves.”
It took only a year in residency at Magnificat for Billy Mack to undo the year he had spent on Houston streets, lost in a fog of drug dependence and despondency. When finally he appeared at our door — word about us was on the streets and under the bridges — Billy Mack was ready to make a change.
Suddenly, with no experience, he was thrust into cooking for a dozen men and was pretty good at it, but his sights were higher. With on-site counseling and encouragement from his close community in Maranatha House, he soon knocked on another door: Houston Community College. After intense study mastering computer networking, Billy answered a Help Wanted ad and was hired to set up a system on a ranch near Houston. He didn’t reveal his outdoorsman skills — he was, after all, an ambitious computer guy. Then things got funny in sheep-shearing season. One busy day the ranch was caught short-handed. Billy Mack stepped up to shear 20 sheep in 30 minutes — some kind of local record. Awestruck at his willingness and breadth of experience, his boss made him ranch foreman. Now Billy Mack drives a big red pick-up truck to survey the ranch … and to drive back to Houston to visit his Magnificat buddies and offer the hand of hope.
“Every time I’m down, Magnificat is here for me,” Sylvia states emphatically. When the third generation native Houstonian arrived at the Clubhouse in 2012, she saw herself as a scared, lost soul facing mental health challenges. She came to Magnificat Houses to escape an abusive relationship full of “violence, drugs, verbal and physical abuse.”
With the welcoming and inclusive atmosphere at St. Joseph House, Sylvia overcame her fears and grew to love everyone. “It’s my family, my home, my routine and my network of people I love and trust and consider family. I’ve been openly accepted on my ‘good’ days as well as my ‘bad’ days — and I learned others still wanted me here.”
Finding herself empowered and appreciated, Sylvia embraces the routine and structure of the Clubhouse, interacting with others by listening, helping, and sharing her experiences over her six years as a beloved member of the Magnificat Community. “Regaining control over my behavior and emotions and developing an attitude of gratitude helped me become a highly functional person,” she proudly states. Sylvia is also proud of her five years as Secretary for the Emanuel Business Office, and the fact that the founder Rose Mary Badami assigned her a private apartment based on merit.
Sylvia loves sharing her talents in the spirit of service, and through her devotion, following the rules, volunteering and hard work, she became a role model for others. Her favorite advice: “Stay Calm. Be positive. Find something to be positive, even if it’s a negative. Pray, and let God take that problem and work it in His time. Then STOP worrying about it!”