Thursday was a lot of fun. We went hiking on the Waterton trail. It was beautiful, we saw mountain goats and waded in the snowmelt fed river. It was great to get out of the city for a bit and experience nature. It has been an amazing week and seeing the joy of creation really helps focus our mission in the city. It was a great way to regroup and get ready for our last day of street ministry.
Today was extremely fun, as it was our day to go to school with Srs. Alicia and Stephanie. They teach religion at two different schools, so we split our group up between the two and sat in on their classrooms as they taught throughout the day. Bridget, Britany, and I had the wonderful opportunity to spend time with the fourth graders for an hour in the morning, reading with them and helping them with math. While I was prepared for them to struggle a lot (their teacher had let us know some of the children weren’t extremely fluent readers), they ended up doing really well! We then transitioned to experiencing life in Sr. Alicia’s religion class, where we had an amazing time with the children and Fr. Greg. The pastor spends a day or so every month catching up with the kids and leading them in reflection, which is a blessing for sure! A few of the classes were preparing for first reconciliation in just over a week, so we acted out and discussed that sacrament quite a lot. Father had a lot of good reflections, and no talk he gave to the different classes was the same.
One thing I found surprising was how different the examples he gave in his discussions were from those at other parishes and other communities I’ve been in. He talked a lot about violence and the importance of breaking the cycle of sin and violence that exists, especially in the context of forgiveness. It was just a stark realization that the community here is enveloped in the intensity of the poverty and violence that they’ve grown up in. That has been a theme throughout the week, as some of the seniors I talked to on Tuesday mentioned how much the introduction of guns in the neighborhood has changed the society. And yet, there’s still so much hope and strength, especially among the sisters and the children we have encountered this week. I definitely see Christ in the quiet determination that the small community of sisters has, and the joy and resilience of the children as they prepare for the sacrament of reconciliation. I know I will be praying for this neighborhood and the safety of those we’ve met as they continue to face both the joys and challenges of their everyday life.
The other group helped Sister Stephanie. Joining in five religious classes in a day was a lot of fun. I especially remember the moment when I prayed with seventh graders. We did Lectio Divina; Lectio(Read) , Medidatio(Meditate) , Oratio(Pray), and Contemplatio(Contemplate). Pure heart and attitude of students when they ask questions made me realized how God loves us and created each one of us in unique way.
Alex and Saki
Today was our third full day with Christ in the City, and it was quite eventful. The day started with morning prayer and mass at St. Patrick’s Church, followed by breakfast back at the CIC house with all the missionaries and mission troopers (us!). We then spent the next few hours preparing for the weekly Lunch in the Park that Christ in the City puts on. Mission troopers were assigned to all kinds of jobs in preparation for lunch. Rachel and I were assigned to the donations team, where we helped Jude and Angelique pack crates full of men’s and women’s clothes/shoes to bring with us. Then, we headed to the park! As I looked around the park at all the missionaries, mission troopers, and our new friends on the street, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of it all. The moments shared between our new friends were an incredible image of the love we are called to give to others. It reminded me of a classic Father Marc quote, “God loves you exactly where you are, but He loves you way too much to let you stay there.” We are called to love like He loves; we are called to love people right where they are and we are called to bring them higher. It was beautiful to watch and participate in loving people right where they are. After Lunch in the Park, we spent some time with just the ladies and shared our thoughts about authentic friendships and the goodness that comes when we pursue friendships rooted in Christ. We ended the day with night prayer back at St. Patrick’s, adoration at the CIC house, and an hour of praise and worship. As I reflect on our time with CIC thus far, I keep coming back to the profound joy I’ve felt this week, today especially. Joy fell over the entirety of Lunch in the Park and was present in all of the conversations and moments we shared today. What I have come to realize even more after today’s experiences is that when people fix their eyes on Christ and love like He loves, they can easily love others well and bring joy into every encounter.
Today we had an opportunity to serve our friends on the street lunch in the park. What a gift it was to see so many people from different backgrounds gather together and share a meal. I met multiple people while handing out bananas in the lunch line and as a took a moment to look around I saw so many beautiful encounters and realized that our friends on the street are no different than you or I. Sure, they may have a variety of struggles, but don’t we all? Each and everyone of us is longing to be called by named and to be loved. It was uncomfortable at first, but when I looked these people on the eyes, I saw Jesus and heard Him say to me what He said in the gospel passage from Monday, ” Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:31-46)
Today we were able to serve those who serve every day. In order to make it possible for the sisters to serve their community we assisted in cooking, cleaning, fixing lights, and doing lots of dishes, providing time for the sisters to attend to other work. As our friendships continue to grow, we have enjoyed the conversations that take place during work periods.
Following work we were able to enjoy a nourishing lunch one of the groups crafted with sister Stephanie, consisting of pasta, lettuce, and fruit.
A wonderful part of our afternoon consisted of prayer time in adoration. It is so nice to be able to take some quiet time in order to listen to what God is calling us to do.
Following adoration we traveled down the street to Kelly hall to interact with local children at the YMCA. The afterschool program consisted of varying activities including homework, board games, coloring, and gym games. We were able to connect with Brooklyn who is 9 years old again today. She loved just being able to sit with us and talk, jump rope, and play hand games. It was rewarding to engage and converse with her and her classmates.
Over the past five day it has been amazing to see how God is working in this community, especially in the faces of community members. Through their love and service ,the sisters have positively impacted the neighborhood and continue to do so every day.
Bright and early tomorrow after mass we will go with the sisters to school and help teach in their class rooms. Thank you for all the prayers!
Payton and Joy
Today was a BIG DAY! Starting off with mass, we headed over to the food pantry to assist the sisters in the pantry operations. First, we unloaded and sorted a massive donation of Starbuck’s breakfast items. Our group was split into smaller groups and given specific tasks. Some people packaged meat, while others were in charge of the new check in system. We were given the task of serving coffee and the breakfast items to the neighbors as they entered into the pantry. After a full morning of serving breakfast, we cleaned up and went down to Kelly Hall to join a group of senior citizens participating in a weekly bible study. We were able to serve them lunch and join in with the meal and their conversation. Next, we took time at the house to relax and reflect before enjoying a holy hour in the chapel in the school. We then returned to Kelly Hall for a short period of time to interact with the kids there. After eating Jimmy’s famous hot dogs, we accompanied Sister Stephanie to the Young Catholic Professionals group meeting. Sister Stephanie was promoting the marathon team the order has created, giving us the opportunity to meet young Catholics in Chicago and listen to Mary FioRito. Mary spoke to the realities a facing the church in this age, specifically related to the consistent life ethics movement.
Serena: I found grace in the conversations that occurred with the senior citizens, I spoke with a woman who experienced great loss in her life recently. She had received the grace of God to turn toward him even more, rather than turning away from the pain she felt.
Brigit: I found grace throughout the entire day. It is incredible the work that is being done here by 11 sisters, 1 brother, Fr. Bob and an entire community that cares. The sheer capacity of the charitable donations given to the pantry and the dedication of the volunteers and sisters to their causes is inspiring and beautiful. The love of Christ is in all of us and I was blessed to see that through all of the individuals we encountered toay.
P.S- If you are interested in supporting an AMAZING cause, sign up to be on the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist of Chicago’s marathon team! The money raised goes to funding the great work that they do.
Peace be with you,
Brigit Croy and Serena Nelson
This morning we went out on our first street walk and I have already felt such a change in perspective through the different people that we encountered. I feel so privileged to be able to listen to these people’s stories as they are so eager to open up to us. I think the biggest surprise for me was how easily they were able to make themselves vulnerable to us. Having someone just be present with them and listen to them is something that many of these people lack. Being able to sit with these people and converse with them really opened my eyes to some of the fundamental parts of what makes us all human. I’m so looking forward to what God has in store for the rest of this week and I’m so grateful for this opportunity to engage in fellowship with other Christians as well as with a community that I may not have found myself in communication with otherwise.
Today we experienced our first street walk. This included us going out on street routes walked by the missionaries in teams to talk to those experiencing homelessness to offer what every human heart longs for, to be seen, known and loved. Before we go out, it is absolutely necessary for us to go to prayer first. This morning we started in prayer, allowing for an hour of prayer. Why is this necessary? Because we cannot give what we do not have; we must receive love from our life source to go and give it to others. During the street walk my group encountered five individuals. There was one gentleman that moved my heart in a particular way. He told us he had his bag and sleeping bag stolen and that last night was really hard because it was so cold. He spoke more on his lack of luck, but ended by saying, “the Lord has blessed me so much this past week and I am thankful.” This struck me to the core as he could have looked at where he was at and said it’s hopeless, but yet, he chose to find the good and see where the lord is moving in his life. This is a testament to how the Lord offers hope in every situation. We must keep our eyes fixed on the Lord even when it is hard to see the good.
Hey guys, its Brittany and Ashley comin’ at you while eating some Chicago deep dish after an awesome day of working with the sisters. After mass and breakfast, our group split into two. Brittany and few others headed to the school to sort food and prep for the pantry for the neighbors tomorrow. Ashley and the rest of the crew stayed in the church kitchen to do some DEEP CLEANING (woot woot). Sorting food allowed time for great conversation and the others in the kitchen were able to spend time with Sr. Kate learning about how to ditch that technology in a world that is so tightly bound to it. After lunch we cleaned the chapel in the school which then became a beautiful space where we were able to spend our holy hour adoring the Lord. We were very grateful to prepare a prayerful space as we often forget how easy the access is to adoration on campus. After our holy hour, we walked with Sr. Stephanie to the YMCA a couple blocks away. Our groups split in two again with half of us going with girls and the other half going with boys, all within the age range of six to ten. Brittany and I both found that speaking with the children brought valuable insight as to what cultural and daily life looks like for the youth in the area. It was beautiful to see how welcoming and receptive the children were to us, truly demonstrating how the love of the Lord is present in a special way through eyes of kids. We ended our evening with Sr. Stephanie and her gracious offer to share her vocation story with our group. Her advice to us as students with discerning hearts is to take the time we have now and spend it earnestly with God. Through our openness to the Lord we learn how He speaks uniquely to each of us and can build a quiet confidence in His plan. Tomorrow is a big day for the mission, so Brittany and Ashley are off to a quick game of Bananagrams and then to bed! Toon in tomorrow to hear from other amazing girls on this trip and have a great day!
A & B
Today we got a taste for what the Chicago city life was all about from riding public transportation, visiting the Bean (a.k.a. Cloud Gate), and trying the iconic Chicago deep dish pizza. We started off our day with Mass at Holy Name Cathedral, which energized us for the day ahead. The cathedral was beautiful with the large stained glass windows and the tall marble pillars. After Mass, we walked to downtown Chicago and went to Potbelly Sandwich Shop, a well-known sandwich shop originating in Chicago, for a delicious lunch. We then walked to the Navy Pier where we got to see the vastness that is Lake Michigan. The cityscape could be seen on the shores of the lake and it was such a lovely sight. As we walked along the pier, we reflected on what our experience in the city was like so far and how drastically different it was from our small city of Helena, MT. After the pier, we made our way to the Bean, a famous art piece in the heart of Millennium Park. We found a lot of joy taking fun pictures with the Bean and taking pictures of each other. We ended the night with dinner at Giordano’s, a pizza parlor famous for its deep dish pizza. The pizza was amazing and the conversations we had with each other were even better. Throughout the day, we came across many of the homeless and it was kind of difficult, feeling like we couldn’t help them, but one of the least things we could do was acknowledge them as the beautiful human beings that they are. Reflecting on today, we’ve enjoyed immersing myself in the big city culture and lifestyle, but also seeing God through the faces we’ve seen, the conversations we’ve had, and the places we’ve been. After getting to know the city a little better and seeing God in the little things, we are charged up for the week of service ahead.
Until next time,
Hello from Chicago!
After a somewhat long day of travel yesterday, we were all ready for a day of work here at the Mission of Our Lady of Angels. After breakfast, Sister Stephanie got us all working on the outreach center under construction across the street from the convent. I was assigned to work on demolishing some old furniture that needed to be thrown out. My fellow Headlights travelers and I took hammers and joyfully busted up the furniture to fit within the dumpster. Brittany did a fantastic job with the sledge hammer! We then helped with moving some kitchen supplies and other items to a storage room, all of which will be given to the community later on. We also were able to move food donated to the sisters used to feed the neighbors through the food pantry run by the convent. It was quite amazing to see how much food the convent receives simply through the generosity of donations from people all over the state and beyond.
It is beautiful to be given the opportunity to connect with all of the sisters here at the convent. They live their lives in a simple and joyful way They are so willing to share their faith and invite everyone into a deeper spiritual relationship along with them. They both work hard and pray hard. It is great to allow myself to let go of all the stress of classes and life at home and give myself fully to God and his work. I am so excited to continue learning from the sisters and grow deeper in my faith through the service we will be participating in here this week.