Sherrie Janz speaks at the Celebration of Hope gala last year. With the support of Catholic Charities of Oregon, she went from homelessness to living in an apartment with her name on the lease. (Courtesy Catholic Charities)
Sherrie Janz speaks at the Celebration of Hope gala last year. With the support of Catholic Charities of Oregon, she went from homelessness to living in an apartment with her name on the lease. (Courtesy Catholic Charities)
For most of us, when we are in the middle of a crisis, it’s the unconditional things in our lives that help us find our way through. Yet the stress of the daily struggle often clouds our perspective. Whether it’s the loss of a job or home, the onset of an illness, or a tragedy that turns our world upside down, we need help finding our way through the suffering. The suffering so easily can turn to fear, which can blind us and fill us with doubt, leaving us vulnerable to hopelessness.

For years Sherrie Janz was in crisis due to illness, domestic violence and eventually homelessness. With the help of Catholic Charities of Oregon, she went from homelessness — spending nights sleeping in a storage container or riding TriMet’s MAX train from Gresham to Beaverton and back again — to taking up residence in an 8-by-8-foot pod at Catholic Charities’ Kenton Women’s Village, to finally living in an apartment with her name on the lease.

Catholic Charities hosts the Celebration of Hope gala every year and last year, Sherrie’s journey was the highlight of the gala video. All who heard her story were awestruck by her incredible resilience.

A month after the 2020 gala, I called Sherrie to see how she was doing. She confided in me and shared some of her inner journey that accompanied her outer journey from homelessness to housing.

Since her childhood, Sherrie had carried the weight of being judged, misunderstood and labeled as a disappointment. This heavy pain, and the fear that followed, pierced her sense of self-worth and goodness. It loomed like a storm cloud as she rode the train all night and sought ways to escape her circumstances. It was this pain that Margi Dechenne, her Catholic Charities’ case manager, touched with the balm of acceptance and love as she helped Sherrie apply for housing and find her next meal. Margi’s tenderness and compassion helped Sherrie hold onto her worth and find her way through.

When we help each other see our unique goodness, beauty and dignity, we are participating in something much larger than any one of us. God has a holy longing for each of us. That is: to clearly see our unconditional goodness. We are first and foremost God’s beloved. This unchanging truth is always at the heart of what helps us find our way.

Granger is senior development officer for Catholic Charities of Oregon.