Today was our last day here before we venture back to Montana. We started the day with Mass and Morning Prayer then had a relaxing breakfast and then headed off to our respective tasks for the morning. These included mopping the rooms of the retreat center, scrubbing the floor of the convent, moving/throwing away things in the YMCA building, and organizing the convent pantry.
We then had a great lunch break and then listened to Father Bart tell the story of his friend Father Stu to everyone. Then we had a break until 5 when we did a communal holy hour of adoration and evening and night prayer.
Since it is our last evening we had a big dinner with the whole community and then followed that with Bishop Bob doing a Q & A session. He is quite humorous and reminds us a lot of Bishop Vetter.
We then headed up to the lounge and heard from Sister Jaime, Sister Maci, and Alex (a Holy Cross seminarian). It was such a gift to hear their stories of intentional listening to the Lord’s call in their life.
As a tradition this week the Carroll crew ended the evenings with highs, mediums, lows, God moments, and hilarious moments. That was a great routine and caused us to laugh a lot together.
We had a great week and especially loved getting to know the Franciscans of the Eucharist: Bishop Bob, Sister Kate, Sister Jess, Sister Maci, Sister Laura, Sister Alicia, Sister Emily, Sister Stephanie, and Brother Matt. As well as the seminarians from the Congregation of Holy Cross: Alex, Matt, John, Brother Jimmy, Chris, and Father John. (All pictured in the photo with today)
We all hope to see everyone soon and are so thankful for this opportunity!
Riley and Kenna
Today started out as most with mass at 6:30am and breakfast to follow. The Holy Cross seminarians and Franciscan sisters and brother all sat down to eat and share stories. I seem to learn something new from each person I encountered which is a beautiful thing. After clean up we all parted into our duties. Some went to the school to clean and others, like myself and Kenna, went to the basement of the convent to clean out the walk-in fridge. What seemed like a boring task turned into amazing conversations with sister Emily and lots of laughs along the way… btw don’t use baking soda to clean steel shelves. Sister Emily told us about her discernment and religious life, which was eye-opening to me as it was all very foreign to me before this trip. After lunch Riley, Ray, Kenna, Conner, Chris (one of the seminarians), Sister Kate, and I went to the Ukrainian village during our break time. We had originally planned to see the Ukrainian Catholic churches nearby. When we got there we were met with locked doors. We went to the Ukrainian museum next door for any sign of help to let us in and we were met with such a loving, welcoming, compassionate presence. The women working there showed us around their museum which was filled with art, culture, and history. Maria, a Ukrainian woman working at the embassy, then kindly walked us over to let us into the church. The church was beyond beautiful. While I’m the Church, Maria described the history of the Ukrainian church in the United States and then we had a moment of silent prayer for peace in Ukraine. One thing she said stood out in particular: Maria then even offered to walk us to the Ukrainian cathedral which is a few blocks away. This was also beyond anything I have ever seen. It was incredibly humbling to pray in a place filled with so much history, culture, and love. The presence of the Lord was so tangible in the Ukrainians we met and the God was clearly in those spaces blessing every single person.
March 7, 2022: A day of preparation and mercy. We woke up in time for 6:30am mass in our little chapel in the retreat center with Bishop Bob, Fr. John, and Fr. Bart. Bishop Bob talked about how the reading, Matthew 25, is one of his favorites. In this passage it speaks about serving others in tangible ways and Jesus says “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:31-46). This was the perfect gospel passage to start off our week of serving our poor neighbors on the streets of Chicago.
After a medium length breakfast with the Congregation of Holy Cross seminarians, who are also spending their spring break here, we broke into various groups to tackle tasks throughout the retreat center and food pantry to prepare for tomorrow, which is their “day when everyone comes to the mission” (Matt the Seminarian).
Kenna: My group started the morning with dishes and then moved upstairs to tackle a variety of tasks involving manual labor (i.e. moving chairs and cleaning rooms). After three hours of moving chairs, I got to spend an hour in adoration in the beautiful little chapel downstairs in the retreat center.
Ray: My group spent the morning preparing the food pantry for tomorrow, stacking beans, macaroni, and soaps, and finding a way to fit all the milk and yogurt into the giant fridge. I spent the morning doing this with the seminarians from the Congregation of Holy Cross and made some small world Catholic connections. It is always good to be reminded of our big Catholic family.
For lunch we ate ribs/chicken/sausage/fries from some delicious BBQ restaurant. Sister Kate then gave us a tour of the rectory and the Church which Bishop Bob restored with the help of many people in only a year.
After a nice nap, we headed out to Our Lady of America parish for our first “Mercy Night.” When we got there, we ate dinner with the other volunteers and religious orders who were there to serve. It was such a gift to see the mix of communities coming together to serve together (another representation of our big Catholic family). After dinner, we split into groups to serve.
Kenna: I had the blessing of getting to walk in the freezing weather through the streets of Chicago inviting people to mass. I was walking with one of the parishioners who only speaks Spanish. The community we were walking through is predominately Hispanic and one of the more dangerous neighborhoods in the city. It was very humbling to walk through this neighborhood and encounter people who gradually became more open to our invite to come to adoration/confession in the church the longer we spoke with them.
Ray: I simply sat near the front of the church and assisted folks in lighting their votive candles to take up and pray before the monstrance. It was a challenge because 99% of them spoke Spanish, so I really had to be on my game. But I made it through successfully with no fires. It was amazing how many people were there to pray together.
To wrap it all up, we made it back to the convent and shared with one another about our days, growing as friends, and signed off, ready for bed and a new day of hard work.
-Kenna & Ray
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 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
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.