Mission makes things possible

By Bob Johnson

Associated Press

MOSSES, Ala. — For Chlorine Shufford and others in the isolated Alabama community of Mosses, life hasn’t changed much in nearly a century.

Believed to be in her 90s, Shufford lives down a dirt road in a four-room house with bare, wooden floors where she raised her children. She washes her clothes in a steel pot in the yard and heats her house with an ancient potbellied stove in the middle of one room.

Thanks to Roman Catholic Sister Ann Chaput, who gave up a career as a Chicago educator to work in one of the poorest communities in America, Shufford has a bathroom with running water for the first time in her life.


Before the lavatory was built onto the end of her home in September, the small, shy Shufford had to use a field next to the house.

The nun’s work with Shufford and others is part of the ministry of the Edmundite Missions in Selma, which since 1937 has been serving Alabama’s Black Belt, a mostly poor region named for its rich soil.

The Edmundites operate food kitchens and health clinics and offer home repair, elder care and education to people in the region.

A member of the Sisters of Charity, BVM, religious order of Dubuque, Iowa, Chaput said she was struck by the vast need the first time she visited Mosses, about 35 miles southwest of Montgomery but a world away when it comes to the lifestyle.

The 2000 Census listed Lowndes County as one of the 100 poorest counties in America.

"There are hungry people here. There are people here who are cold. There are people here who don’t have running water," Chaput said, on a break from supervising a program that gives food to rural Lowndes County churches with needy members. "There are warm and loving and needy people here. How can you not be touched by that?"

Shufford, who grew up in Crenshaw County, doesn’t read or write, although she can sign her name. "I went to school, and I used to read pretty good, but then I started raising children," she said.

Chaput was a teacher and principal in Chicago when she decided several years ago to become a nun. She moved to the rural Alabama county and started operating the Good Shepherd Catholic Mission in the otherwise all-Protestant and almost all-black community of Mosses.


Now 55, she lives in a house in Mosses with retired 74-year-old Sister Frances Schaeffer and is known locally as Sister Ann.

Chaput urges people to adopt families in Lowndes County, and her other projects include a senior citizens center, a camp for children, a thrift store and a sewing room. Women from the Mosses area use old Singer sewing machines to make colorful African-themed purses, which are sold to the public. The women receive a portion of the proceeds.

"It is giving them a great sense of worth," said Schaeffer, who helps supervise the sewing.

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