Saint Martin’s Ministries had a humble beginning on November 3, 1982, a day that happened to coincide with the annual feast of Saint Martin. Two Benedictine Sisters at St. Gertrude’s Monastery in Ridgely, who were deeply concerned about poverty in the Mid-Shore region, prayed to Saint Martin for guidance. Later that evening, a third Sister commented that someone must be praying to Saint Martin because she had just seen a mouse—holding onto the centuries-old story that the appearance of this mouse was a sign that Saint Martin was answering someone’s prayers. Legend has it that Saint Martin de Porres (born in 1579 in Litna, Peru) left crumbs of food for the mice at the monastery because he couldn’t bear to see them starve, much to the chagrin of his fellow Brothers. Striking a deal with the mice, Saint Martin continued to feed them only if they agreed to stay in the barn and not crawl around the monastery.
Saint Martin’s Barn, established in 1983, is an outreach ministry that provides direct services to the poor: food, clothing, and limited funds for preventing evictions and electricity cutoffs. The Barn shares financial subsidies totaling over $55,000 with approximately 150 families per year in addition to feeding an average of 3,000 people per year, the value of which is approximately $25,000. While Saint Martin’s Ministries primarily serves Caroline County, services are also provided to the other Mid-Shore counties. “What makes Saint Martin’s Ministries worthwhile is, hopefully, eliminating the choice between eating and paying rent,” says Saint Martin’s Ministries Executive Director Sister Patricia Gamgort.
In June of 1993, a decade after the Barn was formed, Saint Martin’s House opened its doors as a transitional residence where homeless women and children could work towards self-sufficiency in a safe and stable environment. During its 17 years of service, the House has been home to more than 600 women and children. The average cost of housing residents in a one-year period is $55,000. The staff assists women in teaching/nurturing skills for parenting, budgeting, and household management, in addition to providing counseling services and helping them to prepare for their GED, enroll in college courses, and find employment and permanent housing.