An iconic Sister who paved the way for the south Bronx’s resurgence now has her own street within the community she fought to save.
On Saturday, October 25, Congressman Jose Serrano addressed members of the Hunts Point community at an unveiling of the new ‘Sister Thomas S.C. Way’ street sign.
It is meant to commemorate both the life and legacy of the late Bronx community leader, Sister Miriam Thomas Collins, S.C., who selflessly served the Hunts Point area and its residents during its harshest times. The event was held at Father Gigante Plaza located on 878 Tiffany Street.
“Sister Thomas, S.C. was one of the most beloved members of our community, a legendary community leader who dedicated her life to serving the most needy in the Bronx. It was a honor to be present at the unveiling of the new ‘Sister Thomas, S.C. Way’, a tribute to the life and legacy of this extraordinary woman,” said Serrano.
Sister Thomas, a Brooklyn native, attended St. Mary Star of the Sea School and Bishop McDonnell High School in her hometown. A graduate of the College of Mount St. Vincent, she earned a bachelor’s degree in history and began her ministry with the Sisters of Charity on September 8, 1951 as an educator.
Sister Thomas taught early grades in Ascension School in Manhattan as well as middle school in St. Athanasius School in Longwood. In 1967, the Sister abandoned her education career instead to fully devote her services to a community in dire need.
During this time, the south Bronx was victimized by violence, riots, crime, drugs, and arson. It soon became both Sister Thomas and many others’ mission to help restore this severely affected section of our borough.
“She was a member of the community,” explained Elena Miranda, director of Communications. “Sister Thomas was a very amazing person and she was part of a team that refused to stop believing in the south Bronx.”
Miranda explained that Sister Thomas took a stand against violence and was instrumental in restoring as well as in beautifying the neighborhood. In doing so, Sister Thomas also instilled a sense of pride within the south Bronx and its residents.
She collected clothing and sold it to people for prices they could afford. The money raised was then reinvested into the community to help in the ongoing restoration efforts. In 1968, she co-founded the Southeast Bronx Community Organization along with Father Louis Gigante which lead to the development of affordable housing apartments which was named in her honor in 2008.
Sister Thomas, 80, passed away on Thursday, March 20, 2014.
Miranda revealed more insight into Sister Thomas’ one-of-a-kind character.
“She was quite the personality,” she informed. “Sister Thomas always had a tremendous smile and always looked so extravagant. She always had her hair done and looked so pretty all the time. She had a great presence and was a very spiritual, kind, and caring person.”
One of the sister’s trademarks was in wearing extravagant earrings. A wreath composed from her earrings was fabricated as a tribute following her passing.
During her lifetime, Sister Thomas received many awards and honors including the Keys to the Borough of the Bronx, given to her by Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. as gratitude for all of her work. She was also a recepient of the Bronx Times Reporter’s 25 Influential Women’s Award
“Whenever people honored her, she gave that credit to the congregation,” Miranda said. “She lived the spirit of the Sisters of Charity as she was a very giving person. People loved her and they knew she was someone they could go to for help.”
©2014 Community News Group