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.
Greetings from Chicago! Ben and Kelsey here to catch you up on the first two days of our week. We can’t really complain, our trip started out by arriving safely at the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist mission where, yes, we get to eat the delicious food of Chopped Champion Sr. Alica Torres. Sunday was our first official day where we went to Mass at the Cathedral. When people tell you that deep dish pizza is the best pizza you will ever have in America, they are not lying. We ate at Giordano’s restaurant. We can all according to Savanna, now say “we’ve officially “BEAN” tourist’s in Chicago” after we visited the bean. We also took the time to stop at The Chicago Art Institute. Today, we worked around the mission doing different tasks such as cleaning and organizing bins (which I (Kelsey) will probably dream of, there were so many). Cleaning pews in the church. Experiencing working with kids at Kelly Hall YMCA after school program and reflecting on the many adventures we have had thus far.
Even as I continue to step out of my bounds and into this crazy world of adulthood, I still find myself running into the metaphorical brick walls of differing cultures. Today we traveled to Kelly Hall, a YMCA center that is a part the mission for this neighborhood. The after school program there is designed to keep kids off the streets while giving them a safe haven for a couple hours after school. While talking with some of the older kids, I quickly realized that I held very little in common with them. While their sports were basketball and football, mine were rowing and gymnastics. Their lives differed from mine in almost every way possible and I sat their awkwardly while trying to think of something to say. For me it begged the question, what have I done to deserve the life I have been given? I know in my heart that I have been blessed by the grace of God, yet it is still difficult for me to be content that this is merely how things are. Nothing I do will drastically change these people’s lives in a week, but my hope is that through these awkward exchanges, that I will learn to better communicate with a people I don’t always fully understand.
The Hidden Christ (Kelsey Bogumill)
I am a person who loves to understand, well, pretty much everything in life! Symbolism and reflection hold much meaning in my heart! So, one would assume that walking around The Chicago Art Institute is the perfect place to encounter meaning through symbolism and reflection. However, walking around the Modern Art exhibit was everything except being able to make sense of the art before us, which included paintings with just plain orange and white stripes, abstract art that made you question if you should submit your own abstract art to the Chicago Institute, and blank canvas’s in the color of white and blue (yes, I did say blank). This is not to stir you away from the Chicago Art Institute, we saw many truly beautiful pieces. It just shows that wandering around this exhibit, I was very quick to judge. Not just the art, but the people who made the art. Until I stumbled across a painting titled, “Heaven”…
Standing before this piece, I found myself (as I did with every other piece I came across) trying so hard to understand it. If I didn’t understand it, I was quick to judge it, and in my mind it shouldn’t be up on the wall. Art isn’t supposed to be hard to look at, right!? Then, something hit me. A word that truly we don’t understand, empathy. I started to let go of understanding, and began to view this piece through the lens of empathy. I tried to put myself into the shoes of this young woman. Instead of trying to understand this creative beauty, I let go, and tried to see what this artist see’s. That her painting reveals to the world what “heaven” is to her. What life is to her. What beauty, truth, and goodness are to her. But, most importantly, what love means to her. Woah!
This experience changed how I was going to enter into the rest of the week. I didn’t come to Chicago to “understand” a new culture of people, their world, or even who they are. I came to Chicago to serve! I came to put myself in the shoes of “the other”, to be with these people in their world as it is and love them there. Understanding is my way of grasping to make the uncomfortable, well, comfortable. Like the painting, it was time to let that go. As St. John Paull II famously stated, “Do not be afraid”. This week, will be a week of being open to where Christ is inside these people and sharing that love to help their poverties become less of a poverty, and more a grace and love that takes a deep root! It’s time to “go out” and meet Christ in the lives that we encounter.