Sister Thomas, who has served Hunts Point children and families for nearly half a century, was honored on Aug. 28 for her 60th Jubilee, marking 60 years as a Sister of Charity of New York.
Sister Trude “Thomas” Collins, SC, spent most of those years at Saint Athanasius Church and its school.
“Forty-eight of her years here were all about helping and hope, about rebuilding the wreckage of arson, drugs and crime,” wrote Sister Julie in a blog devoted to the life of Roman Catholic nuns.
“People would knock on the convent door for help,” Sr. Thomas said. “It cemented the idea you had to be with the people.”
A building on Southern Boulevard named “Sister Thomas S.C. Apartments” symbolizes the effort to rebuild the neighborhood, providing affordable housing for 105 families where a burned-out vacant lot once stood.
A year ago, Sr. Thomas joined parishioners of St. Athanasius to protest the policies of its new pastor, who, she said, told her she was no longer needed, and who eliminated the flea market she had run for many years to help low-income residents.
In October, she was among the 13 individuals and 12 organizations honored for their dedication to the neighborhood at the annual New South Bronx Halloween Parade, which she helped to found 25 years ago in an effort to take back the streets from drug dealers and muggers.
She describes herself as a graduate of the “Academy of the South Bronx Streets,” and says the degree she was a “P.H.D.” – which, she says, stands a degree in Poverty, Hunger and a Determination to bring about social change.