Nuns’ San Francisco soup kitchen gets an upgrade

Tony Robbins buys new, better location for the homeless-helping sisters
Tony Robbins (right), motivational speaker and author, talks with Sister Mary Valerie (center) and Sister Mary Benedicte (left) during a tour of Fraternite Notre Dame Mary of Nazareth Soup Kitchen while meeting to discuss solutions to their eviction on Thursday, February 11, 2016 in San Francisco, California (Photo: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle)

Tony Robbins (right), motivational speaker and author, talks with Sister Mary Valerie (center) and Sister Mary Benedicte (left) during a tour of Fraternite Notre Dame Mary of Nazareth Soup Kitchen while meeting to discuss solutions to their eviction. (Photo: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle)

The following comes from a March 25 SF Chronicle article by Kevin Fagan:

First he saved them from being evicted. Now multimillionaire business coach and self-improvement guru Tony Robbins has gone one step further: He has bought the imperiled French nuns of the Tenderloin their own soup kitchen.

The new digs are on Mission Street near the 16th Street BART Station — and appropriately enough, next door to the one-stop Navigation Center for the homeless. Robbins forked over $750,000 in cash this week for the property’s purchase, the offer was accepted, and the two nuns of the Fraternite Notre Dame Mary of Nazareth Soup Kitchen plan to tote their pots and pans over there by the end of April.

The building at 1930 Mission St. where nuns of the Fraternite Notre Dame Mary of Nazareth Soup Kitchen will relocate after they were evicted from their former location on Turk Street (Photo: Michael Short, Special To The Chronicle)

The building at 1930 Mission St. where nuns of the Fraternite Notre Dame Mary of Nazareth Soup Kitchen will relocate after they were evicted from their former location on Turk Street (Photo: Michael Short, Special To The Chronicle)

Robbins read of the nuns’ plight last month when The Chronicle reported that their little soup kitchen in a tatty corner of the Tenderloin was being evicted by their landlord so he could make more money on the building. Robbins flew into town, brokered a deal with the landlord to let them stay until the end of the year, and dropped $25,000 cash on them to help them with their troubles.

He kept talking with the nuns and Mother Superior Mary Martha, their leader at the Chicago headquarters of the Notre Dame order — and as the weeks went by, they all agreed it would be best to get out from under the instability of renting a place.

Mary Martha flew to San Francisco in mid-March, the nuns found a real estate agent, and in short order they had their kitchen at 1930 Mission St. All they need now is a condominium or apartment for the sisters to sleep in because, unlike at Turk Street, they can’t live in their new space.

Robbins — known internationally for infomercials, books and for counseling bigwigs from former President Bill Clinton to actor Leonardo DiCaprio — is tapping some of his billionaire friends for help and advice on the housing front, too. A solution, Robbins said, shouldn’t be long in coming. Meanwhile, he’s also kicking in $50,000 to help the nuns outfit their new kitchen.

Robbins said the nuns’ plight resonated with his philanthropic work to feed the poor around the world. Having spent time homeless before he hit fame as a business coach dubbed “the CEO Whisperer” by Fortune magazine, Robbins said, he takes the issue personally.

“I was so inspired by their story,” he said. “I was deeply touched that not only are they feeding people, but their entire lives are spent toward loving and taking care of people.

“I was struck by it, and I trust my instincts. I have a deep love for the nuns, and I want them to be able to put all their efforts into doing the wonderful things that they do.”

After The Chronicle wrote of the nuns’ plight, hundreds of people from around the world called or wrote the newspaper offering to help — including several real estate agents, who began scouring the city for buildings that could house the soup kitchen. But in the end, the agent who did the trick was found by Mary Martha and the sisters on a stroll through the Mission District on St. Patrick’s Day.

“I had just closed the office when I heard something outside, went to the door — and there were these nuns,” said Antonio Gamero, an agent with Re/Max Future on Valencia Street. “I thought, ‘I don’t want to talk about religion right now,’ but then they told me who they were and what they wanted. And, like, the next day we got working.”

As for the soup kitchen sisters, they won’t start planning any move until next week. After Easter.

“For now, this is a time only for prayer,” said Mary Benedicte. “We are closed. But in our prayers, we thank God for this miracle.”

Comments

comments

To add a comment, click on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ icons OR go further down to the bottom of comments to the Post your comment box.

Comments

  1. It’s so nice to read a beautiful story like this! Thank you and God bless you Tony Robbins!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    C’est formidable! 🙂

  3. Anne T. says:

    I am sure these lovely ladies will be praying for this gentleman who did the right thing. May their soup kitchen prosper and bodies and souls be saved.

    • Anne T. says:

      I looked up their order, and they have Latin Masses, but I do not know if they are approved by the Magisterium or Archbishop Cordileone.. The apparition of Our Lady of Frechou, which is one their major devotions, does not seem to have official approval. Nevertheless, the order seems to honor the image of Divine Mercy. It is a puzzlement. I did hear about this on Immaculate Heart Radio, if I remember correctly, and they referred to them as Catholics. I do hope that if they do not have the approval of the Magisterium, they soon will have.

      • One of these sisters comes and sells pastry at our Farmer’s Market. She gave me a pamphlet regarding their order; motherhouse in Chicago. I contacted the Chicago Diocesan office, and they say they are not Roman Catholic and not a part of the Chicago Diocese. They might be sede vacante, but am unsure; it was about a year ago that I inquired. Nevertheless, they do very good work in San Francisco.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’ve lived in The City for 40 years and never even KNEW about these wonderful Sisters!
    Everyone here knows about St. Anthony’s, but these French Sisters are a hidden gem of compassion in a very rough neighborhood.
    God bless ’em…

  5. Why are they NOT Roman Catholic nuns?
    Thanks for the donors. I hope the nuns can find proper living acommodations very near their new workplace.

  6. Tony de New York says:

    This ‘nuns’ are ‘Canonically irregular’ .

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraternit%C3%A9_Notre-Dame

    • One can certainly be Canonically irregular and perform the corporal acts of mercy. I’m glad the sisters project got a “restart” for such a generous benefactor.

  7. Ann Malley says:

    God bless, Tony Robbins, and these good sister doing His work!

  8. Cashola says:

    Like other Protestant sects, these “nuns” are outside the Church. Nulla Sallus Extra Ecclesiam.

    So let’s pray for them that they try to re-join Christ’s True Religion.

    And I’d love to live in San Francisco too, as I did back in the 80’s! I wonder how these “poor” people using the Soup Kitchen manage to get by, what with only government cash/handouts and do-gooders there to support their indolence.

    Doesn’t anyone distinguish between “poor” by choice, and “deserving poor”? Helping the indolent to perdure in their poverty, rather than put out some effort and make something of their lives is evil.

    • Anonymous says:

      You don’t need to be a (real) Catholic in order to do good.
      You don’t need to check a person’s employment status to help them feel the love of God.
      If you want to interrogate the people who line up at this soup kitchen, set up a little table on the sidewalk. I’m sure the folks there will be eternally grateful.

    • Cash … A very high proportion of homeless folks are mentally ill. It’s really a case of “there but for the grace of God go I.”

  9. OK so they are not in communion with Rome big deal, yet they practice ALL of the teachings of the Church as do the S.S.P.X. You see if they wore earrings, makeup and skirts like our Novus Ordo nuns and demanded to be priests and protested at U.S. military bases and called for abortion rights they would be IN communion with Rome! You see folks everything is upside down now, a little over 40 years ago these sisters would have been “normal” sisters now they are the freaks!! They do great work for the poor and LOOK like nuns should, so stop calling them names and pray for them.

    • Your Fellow Catholic says:

      Janek, I don’t know for sure what these nuns believe. They seem to duck the question, actually, when asked any sort of questions. Their charitable work is also a bit hard to pin down. While it seems like a no-brainer to get behind a group of nuns who simply feed the poor, they seem to have quite a multi-million dollar real estate portfolio, yet are constantly begging for financial help. I don’t know what to make of them. As to SPPX, not “so what”, and they do NOT “practice” all of the teachings of the Church, or they wouldn’t ordain their own bishops and priests.

  10. I would rather have these good sisters on my side than the mean faced, bitter, man hating Novus Ordo sisters that look like any person on the street . I for one find it so refreshing to see these women dressed as brides of Christ and not embarrassed to be seen in habits, unlike modern sisters who burned their habits after Vatican II. And by the way WHO ARE WE TO JUDGE?? We have heard that before on an airplane back to Rome did we not??????????????

    • Canisus says:

      Janek can you imagine the rage of YFC and his ilk when the SSPX is regularized, reports have it that Bishop Fellay met with Pope Francis over the weekend and supposedly the meeting went very well….

  11. Yes, I heard that as well, look they need to come back to Rome, when Francis is gone the S.S.P.X. can do so much good in spreading the TLM, they cannot do it outside of The Church, I believe Francis will give them much “leg room” when it comes to accepting all of the documents of Vatican II. Let us pray they come home!! They would have many allies in the Church such as: Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Ranjith, Bishop Schneider to name a few.

COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.

Speak Your Mind

COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.