MIAMI –– A wager between two archbishops turned into a win for the homeless, as 20 pounds of brisket and 10 pounds of fajitas arrived from San Antonio and landed at Camillus House June 28.
That was the wager San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller made with Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski regarding the outcome of the Miami Heat-San Antonio Spurs NBA championship series.
After the Heat's exciting seventh-game win June 20, and second consecutive NBA championship, Archbishop Wenski decided to share the bounty with the neediest of Miami's residents. Half the meat will stay at Camillus House and the other half will go to the Missionaries of Charity. Both are homeless shelters that minister to Miami's neediest residents.
"Winning in the name of the poorest of the poor" is how Msgr. Chanel Jeanty, archdiocesan vicar general and chancellor for administration, described the bet's outcome.
Looking a bit like Heat star Dwyane Wade while wearing the Heat championship cap, Msgr. Jeanty delivered the meat to Camillus House in the name of Archbishop Wenski, who was out of town.
The meat had been shipped overnight via Fed Ex from San Antonio. Since the brisket and fajitas were frozen, both facilities planned to serve them to their clients June 29.
"Camillus House is so close to the home of the Miami Heat," Msgr. Jeanty said. The archbishop wanted to make sure that "those who are so close to the Miami Arena are part of our celebration and share a little bit of joy."
"While I am disheartened to have to make good on our wager, I am pleased that it will help to feed the people of Missionaries of Charity and Camillus House," Archbishop Garcia-Siller wrote in a letter addressed to "Archbishop Wenski, the people of Miami & the Miami Heat Fans."
"I pray that this act of good will can bring much attention and focus to such worthwhile organizations and will help to increase the assistance needed to care for the 'poorest of the poor' in Miami's inner city."
Archbishop Garcia-Siller's letter ended with a hint at a future wager: "Again, congratulations and see you for next year's Spurs/Heat NBA championship!"
Had Miami lost the title, Archbishop Wenski would have had to ship Florida stone crabs and hand-rolled cigars, made locally from Cuban seed, to San Antonio.
Camillus House, founded in 1960 by the Brothers of the Good Shepherd, feeds about 1,000 people a day at its main facility.
The site houses a multitude of services, all aimed at helping the chronically homeless get off the streets: from emergency housing, medical care and a day center for those still on the streets to substance abuse treatment, vocational training, job placement and apartment units for those transitioning off the streets.
Together with a sister facility, the Camillus Health Concern, and 14 residential housing units throughout Miami-Dade County, Camillus House serves about 3,000 men and women each year.
"Once they're done with us, they already have a job and a place to go next," said Sam Gil, vice-president of marketing for Camillus House.
The Missionaries of Charity, a soup kitchen and overnight shelter for women and children, is located around the corner from Camillus House. Founded by Mother Teresa in 1980, the shelter feeds about 300 people a day six days a week. It closes on Thursdays.
In keeping with the wishes of their founder, the sisters live a simple lifestyle — without air conditioning, television or even washing machines — and politely but firmly refuse publicity, preferring to entrust their mission to divine providence.
Years ago, however, while in Miami to visit her sisters, Mother Teresa stopped by Camillus House and asked to serve on the food line.
"She said, 'Oh, let me feed the homeless,'" said Brother Bill Osmanski, local superior for the Brothers of the Good Shepherd who work at Camillus House.
That photograph of Mother Teresa is now on display in an office adjacent to the Camillus House kitchen.
"We're very proud of our interconnectivity with the Missionaries and especially Mother Teresa," said Paul Ahr, president and chief executive officer of Camillus House.
Rodriguez-Soto is editor of the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Miami Archdiocese.