New York City is a beacon of opportunity for those hoping to expand their educational or occupation horizons, but even a humble efficiency apartment in Manhattan can run thousands of dollars a month—far beyond the resources of those trying to make their way in the world. Barring some sort of miracle, women of modest means may have to turn down a generous scholarship offer or an exciting new job opportunity.
The Sisters of Divine Providence know a few things about miracles, though, and their Jeanne d’Arc Residence has been an answer to many prayers in its 120 years. From its beginnings as a refuge for French girls living away from family (“friendless French girls,” as the original legal language had it), the handsome six-story building provides a safe, clean, welcoming environment to its 138 residents. Individual rooms are small, but comfortable, and the kitchen and bathrooms are shared. Located in Chelsea, just steps away from the subway, the home provides an ideal shelter for students and those starting out in their careers. Women from 42 countries are currently in residence and most are in no hurry to leave. One woman related that even though she has graduated, she’ll stay on as long as she can (new residents can stay a maximum of five years).
Of course, the residents get more than simply shelter. The Sisters are committed to providing a caring and respectful atmosphere and a pleasant, hospitable home. The women also benefit from the example set by the Sisters and by house rules that echo the values of the Congregation: There are no guests permitted in the rooms (although a first-floor parlor is provided for visitors), there is a strict prohibition on noise after 11 p.m., and recycling is mandatory. The building’s aging electrical system means rooms lack air conditioning, but a rooftop garden provides an enviable gathering spot and relief from the heat of summer.
Speaking at the 120th anniversary celebration, Sister Alice Gerdeman, CDP, said, “Here at Jeanne d’Arc, apostolic charity means welcome and support, poor persons are loved and accommodations are simple, truth and honesty are valued an always we know that the loving Providence of God is with us… Jeanne d’Arc is a space to be welcomed, safe, and then to move on to take the spirit of this home to places of study, employment, and family.”