The Catholic University of America

March 22, 2013

Homelessness Advocate to Receive Gibbons Medal

  Sister Mary Scullion

Sister Mary Scullion, R.S.M., recipient of Catholic University's Gibbons Medal.

Sister Mary Scullion, R.S.M., a nationally recognized advocate for people who are homeless and mentally ill, will receive the 2013 James Cardinal Gibbons Medal from The Catholic University of America Alumni Association. She will receive the medal at the annual Alumni Awards dinner on April 13.

The highest honor conferred by the association, the medal is awarded to an individual for “distinguished and meritorious service to the Roman Catholic Church, the United States of America, or The Catholic University of America.”

Sister Scullion is the co-founder of the Philadelphia-based homeless outreach and advocacy organization, Project H.O.M.E., which stands for housing, opportunities for employment, medical care, and education. Since its founding in 1989, the organization has sought to empower people to break the cycle of homelessness, address the structural causes of poverty, and attain their fullest potential as members of society, according to its website.

Scullion’s is a well-known name in Philadelphia, particularly among the city’s homeless population. Her outreach has always involved personally patrolling the streets of Philadelphia for those in need of assistance. In 2009, she was named one of “The World’s 100 Most Influential People” by TIME Magazine.

“Sister Mary Scullion’s ministry in Philadelphia is reflective of the ideals that encompass the University’s mission and the Gospel,” said Thomas Zoeller, president of CUA’s Alumni Association.

“We want not only to recognize Sister Scullion’s efforts, but also to shine a light on her ministry, which is providing a successful program of dealing with homelessness that can and should be replicated across other communities. Her commitment of service is not only worthy of recognition, but also of emulation.”

Sister Scullion began her advocacy for Philadelphia’s homeless population in 1978 working with a women’s shelter run by her order, the Sisters of Mercy. In 1985 she co-founded Women of Hope, an organization that provides housing and support for mentally ill homeless women.

Beginning as an emergency winter shelter, Project H.O.M.E. has grown to include 535 units of affordable housing, employment services, and two businesses that provide employment: a thrift store and a café. Of the homeless people participating in its programs, 95 percent have not returned to the streets.

Sister Scullion has also been a vocal political advocate for people who are homeless and mentally ill. Her efforts ensured the right of homeless people to vote and resulted in a landmark federal court decision that affects the fair housing rights of people with disabilities.

Zoeller said that recent awardees of the Gibbons Medal reflect the Alumni Association’s emphasis on recognizing individuals promoting community service. Last year’s recipient was Kevin Ryan, president and CEO of Covenant House, an international organization that advocates for homeless and trafficked children and teenagers. In 2010, the award was presented to Sister Alice Zachman, a human rights advocate.

The Gibbons Medal has been awarded more than 60 times since 1949. Previous recipients include then-Rev. Fulton J. Sheen (1953), then-Sen. John F. Kennedy (1956), Special Olympics International founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver (1990), actress Helen Hayes (1973), Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Antonin Scalia (1994), and best-selling Dead Man Walking author Sister Helen Prejean (2003).

Alumni Awards will be presented at Father O’Connell Hall, Great Hall, on the campus of Catholic University at 6p.m. For more information, visit

MEDIA: To cover the event, contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy Hines in the Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600 or



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