Friday, November 29, 2002

Retired priest spends time helping the poor "a dollar at a time."

At the first of three stops Chase will make in a 10-hour day, more than 300 people have formed into three haphazard lines along a wrought-iron fence. Some have waited for two hours. Chase emerges in a red sweater over his clerical collar and a Notre Dame cap pressed onto his gray hair. A cross dangles from his neck. Few in these lines -- divided into women, the disabled, and men -- know his real name. Some call him Father Dollar Bill, but most have shortened it to just the initials -- DB.

"Yo, DB, how you been baby," one man calls from the street. Chase turns and waves, looking like a casting director’s idea of a priest. He is a big man, with large hands and a ready smile. He stands on a throw rug at the head of the lines. As each person approaches, Chase shakes their hand or places his hand on their shoulder or their face. They talk briefly, Chase often asking their name or where they are from. Finally, Chase’s hand emerges from his pants pocket with a dollar, sometimes more. "They like the dollar," Chase says, during a break. "But it’s more than that. Mother Teresa said ‘touch the poor,’ and that’s what I try to do." Chase said he always makes sure to look each person in the eye. "By my looking into their eyes, I’m saying ‘you have dignity, you’re a human being, you are made in the image and likeness of God,’ " Chase said.

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