volunteer stories, community

The Ministry of House Patron Brother Booker Ashe

How does my work as a 22-year-old white nurse from Kansas City relate to the social ministry of a black friar from South Carolina who lived to be 63?

In more ways than you might think.

To start, let me tell you a little bit about Brother Booker Ashe, our Milwaukee community namesake. He was a talented actor in his young life but left the theater for religious life with the Capuchin friars in 1951 when he was only 19 years old. He spent the majority of his ministry in Milwaukee working for racial justice in the midst of the civil rights movement. His founding of the House of Peace (located at 17th and Walnut) brought stability to the North Side of Milwaukee, a primarily African American neighborhood, in a time of great instability. House of Peace restored a sense of community by providing access to social services. Today, the House of Peace is grounded in empowerment of African Americans and cultivating their rich cultural history. Their services include food, clothing, legal services, health services, social work, and spiritual nourishment and carry on Booker’s legacy.

On the surface, our lives and ministries look very different. He was a black male; I am a white female. He was an actor; I am an athlete. He was a religious brother; I am part of the laity. He focused on racial justice; I focus on health care justice. He worked in social services; I work in healthcare. At a glance, we contrast more than we compare. However, where it counts, we are one in the same.

1) We serve the same neighborhood. Booker and I both work on the North Side of Milwaukee, a primarily African American neighborhood. House of Peace is actually right across the street from my placement agency, Bread of Healing Clinic! He and I encounter the same walks of people on a daily basis and are passionate about our love for the community.

2) We both work for peace and justice and emphasize community. We are people for the people! Booker affirmed the North Side community during a turbulent time, just as my community affirms each other in our sometimes-challenging service work. We are working toward achieving a more just world through peace and love of neighbor.

3) Our hearts lie in the margins. As a faithful religious, Br. Booker knew that God has a special love for the marginalized and impoverished people of our society – impoverished socially, spiritually, and financially. In current times, us Catholics know this as part of Catholic Social Teaching: the preferential option for the poor. He and I both live out this call to love the marginalized because we are rooted in Catholicism, striving to reflect Jesus’ works and love in our own.

4) We are both people of strong faith. Booker’s biography is titled It’s Amazing What the Lord Can Do! and the mission of House of Peace is grounded in Matthew’s gospel (“Whatever you did for one of these least brothers, you did for me”). Similarly, through daily, intentional prayer during my JV year, I have found such joy in loving and serving the Lord, evermore recognizing his good works and blessings in my life. We find our strength, our joy, our identity, our purpose, and our mission in our active relationships with Jesus.

Courtney Child (Milwaukee 2019-20) headshot
Courtney Child

Courtney Child is a recent graduate of Creighton University's College of Nursing, originally from Olathe, KS. She loves to read, run, and drink coffee and tea. She will serve as a registered nurse at Bread of Healing Clinic in Milwaukee, WI. Courtney just finished her first marathon in May!