The Sister of Second Chances


Via New York Times

Venita Pinckney grew up around Catholic schools and churches, and she thought she knew about nuns. Then a small, gray-haired sister named Teresa Fitzgerald came to fish her out of a Harlem crack house. Ms. Pinckney had been a drug addict for 23 years, a dealer and a prostitute, and had lost both of her children to foster care. She was high at the time.

“She looked past all that,” Ms. Pinckney said of the nun. “She must’ve hugged me for two hours.”

Sister Tesa, as she is known, helped Ms. Pinckney get into a residential drug program, then gave her a job and a room and helped her get her children back.

“I never thought there was people like that in the world,” said Ms. Pinckney, now a peppery 42-year-old overseeing a group home for other former offenders, with a three-bedroom apartment of her own, in a brand-new building Sister Tesa had constructed. “People that genuinely care.”

In an unglamorous pocket of Long Island City, Queens, between two of the nation’s largest public housing projects, dozens of women could tell comparable stories about Sister Tesa.

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Sister Teresa Fitzgerald, right, the founder of Hour Children. From top to bottom on the left, baby supplies are dropped off for inmate mothers at Bedford Hills prison; Carol Taylor, who spent 35 years in prison and is now known as the “designated grandma,” with Cecil Jackson (in her arms) and Darjay Williams, both 2; Hour Children’s day care center.CreditFred R. Conrad/The New York Times

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