Sister Maureen Griner: Making music led her to serve the poor

The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality opened in May 2006, and Sister Maureen became co-director in October that year, along with Gray. This fall, the ministry was restructured with a Board of Directors and Sister Maureen as director. It is housing its 14th, 15th, and 16th families now.

“The need is just unbelievable,” Sister Maureen said. “We really believe the Dorothy Day House came out of prayer.”

“Sister Maureen is wonderfully creative, with a real knack for working from the ground up to build something that was previously nonexistent,” Gray said. “This creativity, coupled with her unique gift of prayerful patience mixed with urgency to respond to God, served our little group well during this time.”

Gray met Sister Maureen shortly after she arrived in Memphis. “Sister Maureen is wonderfully adaptable which enables her to meet needs as they arise,” Gray said. “She has been an inspiration to me in that way – if she believes it’s necessary and God wants it done, she finds a way to do it, usually involving many people.”

There’s no doubt to Sister Maureen that the Dorothy Day House is necessary.

Sister Maureen visits with Kaderika, left, and Victoria, two of the residents at the Dorothy Day House, as they have an afternoon snack.

“Our goal is to get our Dorothy Day families independent again,” Sister Maureen said. “We’ve had some stay eight months, some two months, it’s up to the needs of the family. The adults often spend all day at the Career Center applying online for jobs.”

The Dorothy Day House accepts no government money. “We run on a shoestring and a prayer,” she said. “It’s more important to be a charitable organization that responds to families the way they need. The people of Memphis are extremely generous. Dorothy Day said her houses should be as poor as the residents. Put a pot of coffee and a pot of soup on the stove and open the doors, God will take care of it.” (To learn more about the Dorothy Day House, visit

“With the help of the ministry team, I do the hands-on work at the Dorothy Day House. I’m on call 24 hours a day,” Sister Maureen said. “That’s a piece of the miracle. Why would anyone in their right mind choose to be on call 24 hours a day? Part of the miracle is, I don’t feel resentful. That’s not because I’m a great person, it’s pure grace. Being available is not part of my personality.”

In a brief biography she sent to the board members at Dorothy Day House, Sister Maureen described the impact that this ministry has had on her:

“When I came to Memphis, I did not come to see the poverty that envelopes this city … I did not come to become friends with numerous homeless families …I did not come to meet mothers whose children fail in school because their mothers cannot read … I did not come to love children who have HIV/AIDS … or to hear my doorbell at 3 a.m. because a woman and her children are fleeing from abuse. I did not come to daily face the penniless men who ask for money so they can stay in a shelter for one night … I just came to make music … But while I was making music, my eyes were opened to the need for a completely new ministry known as the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality.”

She was struck by a comment made by a professor at Notre Dame, who said, “Liturgy is rehearsal for life.”

“If you really believe that, you will find that you are called to make life better for those who have less,” Sister Maureen said.

“My ministry is music and liturgy. I couldn’t keep doing that without taking the next step,” she said. “I thought I came here to do music. I think it was a way to get me into Dorothy Day. I’ve changed because of my time in Memphis. If liturgy is rehearsal for life, it’s got to lead somewhere.”


When Sister Maureen planned to move to Memphis, she asked her longtime friend Sister Margaret Ann Zinselmeyer, who was ministering in Decatur, Ill., to find a mission in Memphis so they could live together. Sister Margaret Ann became a pastoral minister at St. Ann Church in Bartlett, Tenn., but in 1995, moved to Hope House Day Care, a facility in Memphis that serves children ages 6 weeks to 6 years who are infected or affected by HIV.

It was there that Sister Margaret Ann met a baby named Adasia, whose mother died of AIDS when Adasia was only 1. Relatives took Adasia’s siblings, but there was no one to care for Adasia – so Sister Margaret Ann stepped in. In 2006, Sister Margaret Ann officially adopted Adasia, who refers to Sister Maureen as “Zia,” which is Italian for “aunt.”