In 2014, several of our Felician Sisters who were living and ministering in Livonia, Michigan began to discuss the possibility of moving to Detroit to provide services for disadvantaged people. Our Sisters were aware that Detroit was facing serious economic and social challenges and wanted to help provide creative social support services. They were interested in establishing a small café where people could come for refreshments and companionship. The café would provide a way of to build relationships with their guests and to understand their social, economic, and spiritual needs.
Sr. Shelley Marie Jeffrey, CSSF living in Toronto, Canada who heard of the proposal for a Detroit ministry was very interested in the urban farming movement in Detroit as a way of addressing the challenges of food security, especially in disadvantaged parts of the city. She also believed in the physical, mental and spiritual health benefits of gardening. The Sisters in Livonia readily agreed also to establish a community garden as part of the outreach ministry.
The Felician leadership supported this ministry proposal and established a convent in southwestern Detroit. After initial exploration of the needs in different parts of the city, two Sisters (Sr. Shelley Marie Jeffrey, CSSF and Sr. Felicity Marie Madigan, CSSF) were missioned to work full-time in developing the social outreach ministry. In 2018 Deo Gratias Ministries Detroit (DGMD) was established in as a nonprofit corporation in the State of Michigan. It was granted federal tax-exempt charity status by the Internal Revenue Service in 2019.
In the late fall of 2018, the pastor and the parish council of St. Jude Parish in the Regent Park neighborhood of northeastern Detroit invited DGMD to base its outreach ministry at the parish center. St. Jude Parish has been operating a food pantry in the parish center (former convent) twice weekly for nearly 20 years; however, the pastor and parish council realized that there were other unmet needs in the local community, which had suffered economic decline over many years. DGMD and St. Jude Parish, with support from the Archdiocese of Detroit, entered into a memorandum of understanding in the Spring of 2019. The parish agreed to provide the use of the building at no cost while DGMD agreed to establish and operate the café in the building and the community garden on a nearby lot. Currently, funds are being raised for this project.
DGMD specifically serves vulnerable people who are economically poor and those who are socially marginalized in some way, including but not limited to:
- people from low-income households who struggle to obtain the basic necessities of life
- people who are socially isolated, homeless, or poorly housed
- children and youth who require support to succeed academically
- people who need and want spiritual enrichment