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A appointment with Sister Margaret Farrell at the Covenant Abode in Los Angeles.

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On a ablaze brilliant afternoon at two o'clock, a half-naked adolescent man break through the electronically anchored doors of the Covenant Abode in North Hollywood. Blood gushes from wounds on his baldheaded arch and neck. Sister Margaret Farrell dashes off to her office. She allotment with a assemblage of beginning towels that she presses adjoin his close to stop the bleeding until the firemen acknowledge to the emergency call.

Only account earlier, the streets had seemed clean, calm and deserted, but aback a guy had jumped out of a car to ache Margaret Farrell's client, acutely out of nowhere. Afterwards she will appointment her applicant in the emergency allowance and apprentice that he suffered a bad blow and a academician trauma. "Gangs," she says knowingly, "Maybe he was aloof at the amiss abode at the amiss time. It is accessible that this was an admission ritual for a newcomer in a gang, or a assemblage conflict."

Margaret Farrell never knows what the day will bring, but she is able for about anything. Back a company already approved to advance her, she has positioned her board so that she can jump to the aperture faster than a client. The chat "Hope" is nailed to the entrance, and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" to the wall. Her tiny appointment charge be the best awash 60 aboveboard anxiety on the planet: It is abounding to the border with diapers, teddy bears, sneakers, clothes, makeup, cream, bandage aids, acknowledge you cards, burghal forms, acrylic gloves -- annihilation a applicant ability need. Especially now, afore the holidays aback the nights get cold, any and every donation is acceptable at the Covenant Abode and will be acclimated to advice the homeless. A photo shows her with a babyish babe who was fished out of a debris can in Mexico. Next to the access a miniature Rottweiler bronze serves as a aback coffer for donations, a ablaze blush artificial Jesus blesses her board from above. Visitors may grab from the collection whatever they charge -- except for the Jesus and the Rottweiler. These she won't allotment with.

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Margaret Farrell at the Covenant House. (Photo: Amy Gaskin)

Little gives abroad her Catholic denomination: Everybody is accustomed with the atramentous and white addiction of Catholic nuns, but Margaret Farrell usually shows up for assignment in a aureate summer blouse and biscuit pants -- a archetypal business uniform. "If I wore my nuns' habit, bodies ability be intimidated," she says, "As a community, we abrasion simple dress." For the aftermost 12 years, the baby sister with the blubbery Irish emphasis has helped abandoned youngsters in the Covenant House, which was founded by a Franciscan priest. In a way, Margaret Farrell is one of these "suspicious nuns" the Vatican has warned against. In April, the Vatican chastised the Leadership Council of Women Religious (LCWR), in which 80 percent of the American Catholic sisters are organized. Margaret Farrell's order, the Sisters of Charity, is additionally allotment of the LCWR. The Vatican criticized the sisters for not speaking out acerb abundant adjoin gay marriage, aborticide and women's allotment and for spending too abundant time with the poor, the gay and the unfortunate. Rome alike chided the nuns for featuring "radical feminist capacity adverse with the Catholic faith" and punished the alignment by subjecting it to the administering of three bourgeois bishops. Oh, Lord! Abolitionist feminists in a accumulation of advancing whose age averages 73?

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Margaret Farrell prefers not to animadversion on the Vatican's actions, she rather focuses on accepting teenagers off the street, but she knows some of the prejudices alone too well. "Some say, how can I, as a nun, beleaguer myself with such bodies -- gays, transsexuals, HIV-positive clients?" she says. "I usually respond: Read the Bible. Look which bodies Jesus amidst himself with."

After growing up in Southern Ireland with Catholic parents, Margaret absitively to accompany the nuns at age 22. A amateur acquaintance afterwards assertive her to biking to California with her. The acquaintance took one of the aboriginal flights aback home, and today is affiliated with three kids, but Margaret stayed, because she apparent her account of heart: allowance the needy. The Sisters of Charity that she is allotment of accomplish themselves to an added vow to booty affliction of the poorest, and appropriately the Covenant Abode in Hollywood is the absolute abode for her: It offers a additional adventitious for adolescent bodies who concluded up on the streets. Every night a van makes the rounds, alms food, baptize and blankets. Margaret has helped hundreds of people, audience like Octavio Del Castillo, who got kicked out of his abode at age 13, aback he came out to his parents. He took to the streets, to crack, and again to Sister Margaret. "Without Sister Margaret I wouldn't be animate today," says Octavio who is now, at 25, a acknowledged administrator at a sandwich chain. "She is my mother, my godmother, my angel!" he raves. It is acrid that a ample allotment of Sister Margaret's audience appear from Christian families and were disowned by their parents, aback the children's female no best fit their parents' compassionate of the Bible.

Many of her clients, including Octavio, accordingly capital annihilation to do with her aback they aboriginal met the Sister at Covenant House. "But Sister Margaret is different, because she is consistently there for you. Always," says Octavio who has rediscovered his Christian acceptance through her and usually joins her on Sunday for church. A accomplished shelf in Sister Margaret's awkward appointment is adherent to her audience who weren't as lucky. There's a account of Ilea who died while benumbed his bike in Beverly Hills; Michael, who was attempt on the street-walkers' patch; and Jesse, who succumbed to HIV at age 20. Sister Margaret calm his ashes from the crematorium because his mother capital annihilation to do with him, alike afterwards his death.

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Sister Margaret does not say a distinct analytical chat about the church. "Jesus does not judge," she says, and accordingly she, too, feels she has no appropriate to judge. She is an acutely attenuate ability of person, endlessly adherent to watching out for others. Aback I ask her what she brand to do in her additional time, she lights up and tells me that her admired affair is to appointment youngsters in prison. She has abstruse not to abrasion wire bras, because the metal won't canyon the aegis screenings at adolescent accompaniment prisons.

Even the adolescent woman who capital to physically advance her at their aboriginal affair because she capital annihilation to do with a Catholic nun, has back succumbed to Sister Margaret's kindness. Now the abbey in the Covenant Abode appearance that aforementioned adolescent woman's attestation of acknowledgment to Sister Margaret: A bright painting of two easily joining, with the words from Isaiah 41:13, "Do not be afraid, I will advice you." If Sister Margaret is a radical, we charge added radicals.

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Margaret Farrell at her awash desk. (Photo: Amy Gaskin)

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