Magdalene St. Louis' Hope Jernagan presents at convention

November 14, 2017
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One of the two keynote presenters we look forward to at convention is the Rev. Hope Welles Jernagan, the executive director of Magdalene St. Louis, a residential program for women who are survivors of abuse and sexual exploitation. It is modeled after Magdalene House and Thistle Farms in Nashville, TN.

Magdalene St. Louis helps women heal and rebuild their lives through three essential program components: free long-term housing, comprehensive physical and mental healthcare, and job readiness.

Women can stay in the Magdalene residential community for up to two years. They live together, recover together, and provide sisterhood and support for one another. Magdalene residents are connected with physical and mental healthcare providers at no cost to them. They also receive support from partnering organizations through case management, trauma therapy and addiction recovery. Through the social enterprise of Bravely, women receive training in business skills and are employed at a living wage. Upon graduation from Magdalene, they will have accumulated savings and transferable job skills which will empower them to support themselves for life.

The initial conversations around forming Magdalene St. Louis took place before Hope Jernagan had moved back to St. Louis with her family. But Magdalene is a story of Holy Spirit moments, and they just keep happening. When someone is needed, be it board members, women who will live in the house, volunteers, even an executive director—the right person shows up. Enter Hope.

When Hope Welles was a student at Washington University and Rockwell House campus ministry, she began discernment for ordination to the priesthood. She went to seminary in NY, was ordained, and took her first placement as a school chaplain in Jacksonville, FL. Fast forward through marriage and the birth of three babies and she returned to this area when husband the Rev. Luke Jernagan answered the call to be rector of St. Peter’s Church in Ladue.

This is an exciting time for Magdalene St. Louis; a couple of weeks ago they celebrated their first graduate from the program. Hope and Magdalene are thankful for the way the Episcopal Church in this diocese has shown up and been involved with the program. “Churches, individuals and groups from this diocese have been loyal and faithful supporters,” Hope said, and she will share some of that celebration with convention.

She’ll also share some of how their community works, its values and practices which focus on living into more authentic ways of being with one another and practices of empowerment. “The community we’ve intentionally created at Magdalene St. Louis is not unique to survivors of exploitation. It has all of the elements of healthy community everywhere,” she added. “People are inspired by how this community works and there’s nothing to stop others from taking on these practices and values.”

We'll also learn more about Bravely. They looked for an employment component that was authentic and spoke to the women's recovery and healing, and decided upon a (mostly) clothing line with inspirational sayings. The women in the program come up with the phrases that are on the products. “We’re lifting up their voices,” said Hope. "It’s not just selling the story of their trauma, but the hope of recovery and a new life."

Photos of Hope Jernagan, and the team at Bravely/Magdalene St. Louis.

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