In our earliest years, Sacred Heart Southern Missions social service programs were rather informal as the teachers at Sacred Heart, St. Mary and Sr. Joseph Schools realized that minds could not learn when stomachs were empty or teeth were chattering. Food and clothing became part of the schools’ mission and the sisters routinely visited families in need and found ways to help them. They also taught their students to do the same.
In the parishes, small as they were in the early years, outreach to the wider community was common and as time went on each parish and local mission developed its own form of Catholic Community Outreach.
Catholic Social Services became a formal part of Sacred Heart Southern Missions in 1970 and included thrift stores and co-op groceries in both Walls and Hernando. Sister Ida Mitten, OSF, was hired as a full-time social service minister, visiting and assisting poor families.
As additional sisters were hired, social services were expanded to other areas. Offices and food pantries were established. People from the area could come for direct assistance in emergencies. The sisters spent hours and days on the road, carrying food and clothing, identifying needs of isolated people, ferrying people back and forth to doctors and dentists.
In 1975 SHSM social service office opened in Tunica and a chapel for Sunday Mass was established there as well. Programs were developed for young teens facing pregnancy, providing education in care for themselves and their babies and access to pre-natal resources. Effective parenting courses were added.
Transportation became part of the ministry in 1986 when this service for the elderly poor was added in Tunica and Hernando. The vans, owned and operated by SHSM, provided clients a way to get to doctors, grocery stores, drug stores, and—for many the most important service of all in Hernando—to the daily lunch for the elderly served at Holy Spirit Church.
In 1992 the AIDS ministry was begun and continues today as the only direct service in north Mississippi for families affected by HIV and AIDS.
In Holly Springs Economic Alternatives was born to help people improve job opportunities through training, to connect prospective employers and employees, and to aid people in beginning or expanding their own businesses, including home-based businesses. Home health services are provided by a visiting nurse.