Tales of a lone freshman
So here I am, sitting in a dining room of a huge Victorian-era house in the middle of Rochester, exhausted and trying to think of ways to help children understand the meaning of St. Patrick’s Day.
I’m not going to lie; this is not how I pictured my spring break to be at the beginning of my freshman year.
However, I wouldn’t change the events that have already place here with this group of students plus staff member. We all come from different places and different majors but have all found a common ground on which we can grow more in our faith and our adult life. Now, confession time right now, I am not extremely Catholic in the sense that I go to Church every Sunday and based my life solely on the facts from the Bible. I know that someone is watching over me, guiding me on a path in which I have never been on but will so become my own. In this house, I don’t feel judged for my certain beliefs, which I was completely afraid of happening.
So now comes the classroom 106 where I will be all week with thirteen rambunctious first graders. When I walk into the brightly colored room, a little girl greeted me with a loud “YOU’RE PRETTY!!!!!!” It literally made my jaw drop because it was so innocent and sweet, then as the day went on the kids were begging me to answer their spelling questions…….just for the record I am an AWFUL speller so the pressure was on. I have never fallen in love with children so fast, they all hit a special part in my heart and it makes me smile when they are so willing to learn. What shocked me the most is that they wanted me to join them on our incredible journey. It was a great reminder at how me, a small human being, matters to someone. I had been feeling extremely inadequate lately in my life, in the whole matter of what is my propose on this earth or if my life means anything. These children truly brought to live a cheesy quote that I love ‘you may be one person in the world, but to one person you are their world.’
So I leave this post with that thought, off to bed to be rested for another day at Nazareth Hall!
Day of Firsts
Today marks our first day of service. All 14 of us have been placed at sites around the city of Rochester to serve in places such as schools, soup kitchens, clinics and day cares. I was amazed to hear at the end of the day about the vastly different experiences that each of us has had thus far. For me personally the experience of diversity has humbled me greatly. Working in the clinic we served people who have no insurance. As I shadowed the nurse practitioner at the clinic and preformed very routine tasks such as blood pressure screenings, head to toe assessments and chart reviews I could not help but contrast the population of Rochester to the patients I serve at St. Peters. The faces and problems of the city are very different than the faces of Helena yet a smile and the presence of a health care provider serve the same basic need for love and comfort. I am trying to cement the faces of our patients in my mind from single mothers to homeless fathers I want to remember that the population of people is not limited to those in a hospital bed or those fortunate enough to seek care from doctors working in billion dollar hospitals. This my first experience in a community health setting and I really could not have asked for a better opportunity.
I also would like to add that we are supplementing our serious discussions on service and how God is working in our life with plenty of laughs. The funniest stories come from the people serving in schools-they are all realizing the gift that young children have for looking at life very simply. Some of us are finding the comfort of a child and the love that happens when you hold such innocent young life in your own hands. So from teaching to providing healthcare to serving food we have all been challenged and we have all laughed lots. Even those of us struggling with our service sites and why we felt called to come here I can guarantee (for all those parents reading this) we are all warm and safe which at this point we are realizing is one of the biggest blessings we are fortunate enough to have.
Peace and Blessings to everyone especially those servings serving in Kansas City.
Praying the City
I woke up this morning and it was almost like we had never left home, there was snow everywhere, but then I remembered something was different, maybe because I had woken up in a room with 6 other girls or because there was a definite level of excitement for the unknown of the upcoming day. After breakfast and Mass we went to “Pray the City.” It was a known experience for me because I was here in Rochester last year for Headlights, but it was still wonderful to be able to do it again, and a different Sister led it this year so it was a whole new experience. In “Praying the City” we went to everybody’s service sites for the week, Nazareth Academy, Day Star, St. Peter’s Soup Kitchen, Hope Hall, Nativity Prep, and St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center. At each stop we learned a little about each service site and prayed over the people who would be serving there. We also drove through Rochester and once again my eyes were really opened by seeing the poverty that was so common throughout the city. Sister Marilyn talked to us a little bit about the history that surrounded the places we drove through and about some of the problems each little community faced. We came back from “Praying the City” and had some time to relax and play games. After dinner, which was fabulous (I can’t express how nice it is to have a home cooked meal at a table with friends) we went and had reflection time with the Sisters. We all shared a little bit about why we had chosen to come on Headlights and what we were looking forward to, and some of the things I heard were truly inspiring. I am really looking forward to growing in my faith and in relationship with the people around me. We begin at our service sites tomorrow and I cannot wait to see what’s in store for us this year.
Thank you all for your prayers and support, keep reading to see what the week shapes up to be for each of us.
Love you and thanks again.
Arriving in Rochester
After a long day of travel, one that started well before dawn in Helena and came to an end well after dark in Rochester, our team of 14 arrived at the home of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Rochester. We were greeted at the airport by Sisters Marilyn and Donna and the short bus with ample space for luggage. The short drive to our home for the week allowed us to share stories of the day and the sisters their first impressions of their excited guests for the week. Our treat upon arrival wasn’t just a warm meal made up of pasta and bread, but their amazing ability to remember our names so quickly. Smiles abounded, from our group traveling over 2,000 miles and eager to serve, and from the sisters, who have another group of Carroll students visiting for the thirteenth consecutive year.
Our team is appreciative of many things today, for safe travels, for good fellowship, for this experience, and for our gracious hosts Donna, Marilyn, Lorraine, Beth and Julia. We pray for the Kansas City Headlights cohort as they continue their travels on Sunday. We’re looking forward to sharing more in the coming days.
Headlights was such an important and influential part of my experience as a student that I wanted to write and let all of you know that you will be in my prayers. I’ll pray that your hearts and minds remain open to new experiences, that you are challenged to explore deeper issues of justice, and that this trip sparks within you a commitment to serving others for the rest of your lives.
I encourage you to not only remain attentive the particular community and people that you serve, but to also consider what you can bring back to your own community. I challenge you to return to Montana with new eyes, ready to seek out injustice at a local level, and prepared to do something about it! So often a service immersion experience becomes something we stick in our back pocket and reflect upon as an experience with both a beginning and an end. I hope that for each of you, Headlights isn’t just something you look back on and remember, but that it’s an experience you continue to consciously live.
I would like to encourage my fellow “headlighters” (I’m liking the new word) to keep these words from Mother Teresa actively in our thoughts and prayers while in Rochester/Kansas City. I’m a quote girl – my room is covered in ponderful (we can’t let Colleen invent all the words), encouraging, funny and deep post-its – so when I hear a good one, it just needs to be shared. This one is especially applicable to what our two Headlights groups will be doing over spring break.
“To show great love for God and our neighbor, we need not do great things. It is how much love we put in the doing that makes our offering something beautiful for God.”
It’s arguable that going on a Headlights trip falls into the “great things” category, but if we don’t arrive with hearts overflowing with love, we’ll only be giving/receiving a fraction of the blessings God wants to show us. However, if we reach out with our whole hearts and completely disregard ourselves and our desires we’ll experience beauty in service unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
All you wonderful people reading this and going with us in spirit, please pray that we will open our hearts and pour out the love to everyone we encounter on the trip. And all you wonderful people going to either Rochester or Kansas City – start lovin’. 🙂
XOXO (that’s how you love through a blog)
A Note From Mary
Dear Headlights people,
I am so excited for you! Headlights is such a great oppurtunity to learn about others, and in the process, perhaps, a bit about yourself. Come with an open mind and heart, ready like a bone-dry sponge to absorb all that you will experience. Don’t undervalue a single moment of your week, from the moment you gather in the parking lot to the day you finally recover from your service-week sleep deprivation. Rather be the sponge and listen, absorb all the experiences around you, for the Lord has an uncanny way of speaking in the most obscure and unexpected ways. Expect to grow and to be challenged, to experience amazing witnesses of service and hope in the midst of struggle and perhaps despair. Expect to come home different, and know that your experience will continue to germinate for many days, and even years, as you ponder what you have seen and heard and touched. When I was in Cincinnatti, it was a peanut butter banana sandwich (which I highly recommend as a headlights staple to give you the energy to serve well) that challenged me to deeply examine my relationship to those in poverty, and authentically question the manner in which I should serve them. (Give me a call if you want to hear the whole story…or ask Colleen 🙂
To speak simply, expect that the Lord has great things to teach you, and that he loves to teach us through the most unexpected means. So don’t try to expect what is entirely unpredictable, but be the sponge, ready to soak up every experience. You will be in my prayers this week!
-Mary Woelkers, headlights in spring 2009
Words to live by on headlights (and always!)
We can do no great things, only small things with great love. -Mother Teresa
Getting Ready For Spring 2011
Spring Break is coming quickly and we are getting ready for our Headlights trips!
This spring there is a group traveling to Rochester, NY and to Kansas City, MO. Students have been working hard to raise funds and prepare for the trips ahead. The Rochester trip is, as always, a popular draw for students. The stories they have heard from the students who have gone in the past and the sisters hospitality there creates a great amount of interest. This year’s trip to Kansas City is a new adventure for our students. Read below about each trip and the students participating!
Carroll students have been visiting Rochester, NY for at least 9 consecutive spring breaks to live and work with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester, NY. The sisters in Rochester go above and beyond in welcoming Carroll students and teaching them about actively engaging in Catholic Social Teaching and works of Justice. Students will be working in schools, soup kitchens, foster homes and a community center to experience the work of these sisters. Each morning the students will wake up to pray with the sisters and then each night will engage in reflection on their days of service.
To learn more about this community visit: http://www.ssjrochester.org/
Dan Minor (Carroll staff member, Institutional Advancement)
Kansas City, MO
Our trip to Kansas City this spring is a new experience for students participating in the Headlights program. Through working with the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, KS we will be spending the week at Cristo Rey Kansas City. An inner city high school that prepares teenagers for college and gives them an opportunity to learn professional job skills. Carroll students will be working in classrooms with the students and building relationships with them throughout the week. This trip will also include a trip to the Catholic Worker house in Kansas City, evening prayer and reflection and speakers throughout the week. We will be staying with the sisters who live in Kansas City and are excited about the hospitality they have offered to us. Different from the Rochester trip we will be driving to Kansas City, so will have some great road trip stories to share.
For more information about the Sisters of Charity and Cristo Rey visit:
Ardis Van Meerten
Students will begin writing blogs as we get closer to preparing for leaving and each day while serving and learning. So please check back often. Thank you for your prayers for and support for us!