Guests enjoying a celebratory meal for the 50th anniversary of Christ House.

Christ House celebrates 50 years of serving vulnerable in Alexandria

For 50 years – since September 1973 – Catholic Charities has been serving vulnerable men and women at Christ House in Old Town Alexandria.

Catholic Charities President and CEO Stephen Carattini calls it "the emergency room" of the field hospital that Pope Francis says the Church is called to be.

The evening meal, serving homeless and other people in need, 365 days a year, is one of the most well-known Christ House ministries. Last year the evening meal served 5,000 more meals – or 17,627 – than it did the previous year.

More than 40 parishes, members of other faith groups, and community groups prepare and serve the evening meal.

Recently, Christ House welcomed 20 men and women into the dining room for dinner and birthday cake to celebrate the anniversary. Another 32 guests chose to have their meal in to-go bags.

It couldn't have happened without the hearty meal prepared by the Knights of Columbus, Padre Pio Council #10754, from St. Catherine of Siena in Great Falls.

After five decades, changes are ahead for Christ House. While the evening meal and men’s transitional housing will remain at Christ House in Old Town, Catholic Charities is moving pantry operations to a larger single floor 1,700-square-foot space at 4725A Eisenhower Avenue. The new space opens November 1 and will allow pantry clients more space in which to shop, much more refrigeration for fresh food, and easier parking. In addition, volunteers, critical to pantry operations, will no longer need to haul heavy boxes of food up and down narrow cellar stairs as they do now due to lack of storage. Once settled, staff hope to extend pantry hours to meet the needs of more clients.

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Seniors Welcome a Shepherd to the Center

On October 4, the feast of the great promoter of peace, St. Francis of Assisi, Bishop Michael Burbidge visited our St. Martin de Porres Senior Center in Alexandria.

He swapped stories, played games, toured the garden and encouraged participants – Catholic and those of other faiths – to bring peace to our world by sharing love, kindness and forgiveness with those whom they encounter.

The bishop's visit to the center was much anticipated by Catholic Charities staff and senior center participants. Two previously scheduled visits had to be canceled during the Covid pandemic.

St. Martin de Porres has served seniors for more than four decades in a building that was once a Lutheran Church. Its participants are diverse: men and women, ages ranging from 60s to 80s. While all live within the city of Alexandria, they grew up across the world, from Virginia to Pittsburgh and New York – to Korea, China, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Jamaica, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan.

Juanita Balenger, director of the senior center, introduced the bishop to the 30 seniors who were there. Along with Clinical Services Director Dr. Michael Horne and Chief Financial Officer Matthew Zimmerman, she gave him a tour of the activity rooms and the vegetable garden out back.

One participant, a Dallas Cowboy fan, said she especially liked meeting the bishop because he seemed humble and down to earth – even though he roots for the Philadelphia Eagles.

 “I really enjoyed what he had to say,” she said.

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington |
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