Denver 2020, Day One
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.
Chicago 2020 Day 3
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
Chicago 2020, Day 2
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,
Chicago Headlights 2020 Day 1
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.
Day 3 Browning 2020
Time has flown by and it is already past the halfway point of our time here in Browning. Today was our first full day in the classroom, so we all were able to experience every subject with the students we are working with. Each of us continue to learn more and more about the young people God has placed in our lives this week. We are all beginning to understand the humor and joy that the Blackfeet people carry with them in all situations.
Today after school, we had the opportunity to go to daily Mass at Little Flower parish with Father Ed Kohler. Daily Mass was celebrated in a small side chapel, providing and intimate space for our Headlights crew and about ten elders from the community. The chairs were oriented in a circle around the altar, and we remained sitting through most of the Mass. This was a beautiful union between the Catholic tradition and traditional Blackfeet spirituality. The sign of peace was a profound moment (more like many moments) as we felt that we were truly welcomed as family. In contrast to our familiar 30 second sign of peace, at this daily Mass, every person hugged every other person in the room. Many people also thanked us for being there and added “God Bless You’s” to their “Peace Be With You’s.” We are all humbled and blessed by our encounter with Christ and Christ’s people in such a simple yet amazing Mass.
Today is John’s birthday!!! A few of us went on a secret mission to the grocery store where we last-minute picked up a cake for him. He was further surprised and blessed by a wonderful guest (and cook) Martha Padgett. Martha is a alumni of De La Salle and graduated High School two years ago. She is currently the Youth Minister for Little Flower Parish, and she answered all of our questions about her experience as both a De La Salle student, and as a Blackfeet woman. Out of her great generosity, she always provided an amazing meal for us. She patiently taught us to make frybread, and as we stood in the kitchen we talked about everything from what books we should read, to relationships with students, to the hope of the Blackfeet people. Meanwhile, Dan crafted a piece of frybread that looked exactly like John. We feasted on Indian Tacos, and when we were full, we ate more frybread with peanut butter and honey. It was life changing. We ended our night as always around the giant table, laughing and talking, and sharing our memorable moments big and small. Browning has welcomed us to learn and to change, to love and to grow. With exhaustion has come abundant graces.
Jess and Saki
Day 2 Browning 2020
This morning the group woke up bright and early and shared an amazing breakfast together prepared by Ali and Katie. The pancakes they prepared were just what we needed to start our morning. Just as we finished breakfast, the group gathered in prayer which was led by Saki and Johnny. They shared an inspiring poem about embracing our common fear of the unknown. Along with the poem, we discussed a bible passage about Mary and Joseph coming to the realization that in spite of not knowing where the child Jesus was, they put their hearts in the trusting hands of the Lord. Following prayer, we piled into the Subaru’s and trekked to the school to begin our day. Once at the school, we gathered in the gym and started getting to know different students through sports and conversation. At 8:15 AM the school started with morning assembly. This began with a school-wide prayer led by a student, where many of the students were lifting up their families and their friends in prayer. The students listened to many different announcements, including that girls’ volleyball started today. That was very exciting! The students then formed a line and participated in morning salutations. This was where all students shook hands with all teachers and immersion students saying good morning. We, the immersion students, then separated into the different classrooms we would be journeying with this week. We all met many different personalities packed into small people. It was amazing the graces that we were blessed to witness our first day in the classroom. At 12:30 PM we all left the school for a different type of adventure. We hopped into our trusty Subaru’s and adventured to Saint Mary’s to meet our guides, Park Rangers Sarah and Connor to snowshoe in Glacier National Park. Don’t worry, we did not get attacked by bears or fall into any tree wells. The weather was cold, but every bit of it was worth it. The guides took us through three types of landscapes, from a dense glittering evergreen forest, a snowy plain, and then a starkly beautiful recovering area that had been struck by a fire in 2006. On our adventure, we learned about different aspects of the Blackfeet culture and how they were connected to Glacier National Park. Specifically, the sacredness of the land, the bison, the beaver. It was a great way to embrace God’s creation in nature and truly appreciate the land in a small sliver of understanding that the Blackfeet carry with them every day. The hike ended with a sighting of a bald eagle soaring above us, which is a symbol for the Holy Spirit to the Blackfeet. We then headed back to the mission site, and Noah and Payten cooked us an amazingly wonderful dinner of French dips and tater-tots! This was followed by a wrap up discussion of the day and then a powerful ending prayer session by Jess and Ali. A key point was that the poor and having a spirit of the poor is where our salvation lies. Saki shared something that a 4th grade student said in the classroom while discussing the spirit of Christmas. This 4th grader wrote that the spirit of Christmas is found in giving to the poor. This created a change in perspective for most, if not all of us. If we as a society can acknowledge the truth this student revealed to us imagine the world we would live in today!
Samantha and Katie
Day 1 Browning 2020
A Carroll College Group of students are embarking on an adventure to Browning Montana on a Headlights Immersion Week. The first day started with us climbing into cars at 6 AM and driving 3 hours to Browning Montana on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. We arrived in Browning at 9:30am and went straight to the grocery store to get all of the supplies and food for the week. Then, we went to our residence for the week, which is a bunkhouse on the Holy Family Mission a little outside of Browning. After settling in, we went to Mass at Little Flower Parish in Browning. There we experienced the Blackfeet Indian Culture. They were very welcoming, and even gave us a traditional blessing at the end. After Mass, we headed over to St. John Baptist De Le Salle Blackfeet School. There we sadly learned that one of school’s structures, a trailer that housed some offices and records was broken into and set on fire. There were very few items that survived the fire unfortunately. While the school dealt with this unfortunate ordeal, we went to lunch at Subway across the street. After lunch, we went back to the school for our orientation. There we learned a brief history of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe and what our role was to be during our time at De la Salle school over the week, as well as what grades we were going to be helping out with. After orientation, we went back to the mission and went for a walk to a river close by. We were given some quiet time to reflect on our day and prepare our hearts for the week. It was a beautiful sight as we walked by the river and experienced the beauty of God’s creation. We reflected at the river about how God has a plan for us and even though we can’t see the end result, we can trust in his plan for us. After our walk by the river, we went back to the bunkhouse where the La Sallean volunteers made us dinner. There were about 20 of us in all sitting around a large table, meeting new friends and having good food and conversation. At dinner, some of us were also able to talk to our home room teachers of the grades we were going to be with for the week to discuss in detail about our role in the classroom. After dinner, we talked as a group for a while and shared the blessings God put before us that day. We ended the night in prayer, and went to bed, and are so excited for what God has in store for us tomorrow!
Noah and Ali
Denver Day 5, 2018
There are few things more ordinary than encountering Christ. Few are blessed with burning bushes or angelic annunciations. While there is nothing wrong with waiting for such grandiose revelations of divinity, in doing so we often run the risk of missing the fact that “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Lk. 17:21). In our expectation that God manifest Himself in the miraculous, we can overlook his true dwelling place: the normal, the pedestrian, the simple.
This was a lesson we all learned well during this last week with Christ in the City. The work we did was not spectacular, and the changes we effected are not tangible, yet as we came into contact with those we were servicing, we came face-to-face with Jesus. Several of us met people this week who exemplified Christ-like joy, peace, and wisdom to an incredible degree (in fact, a handful of our patrons quoted scripture with the ease of biblical scholars). Indeed, I would say most of us left our conversations more impacted than they. Based on our experience, there is no doubt that as we enter into communion with those discarded by society, we enter into relationship with the Almighty. “As you did to one of the least of these my, brothers, you did to me” (Matt. 25:40). Beneath the grime and knotted hair of the homeless truly hides the smiling face of Jesus.
We came to understand the unassuming nature of God’s self-disclosure during a hike that took place later in the week as well. The quiet beauty of nature juxtaposed with the chaos of Denver was breathtaking (even despite the fact that we weren’t in Big Sky Country). Though impressive, the views we enjoyed never demanded our appreciation. The Creator was present in the mountain air and the dense forestry, but such things are often taken for granted or ignored. As with the homeless, nature contains and conceals God in plain sight.
Since these examples mean nothing if we are unable to pinpoint the foundational practice in identifying God in the ordinary, I would like to posit such a cornerstone: humility. If we only allow God to speak to us in specific (i.e. magnificent) ways, then we put God in a box—a great expression of pride. “And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in a cloak” (1 Kg. 20:4). On the other hand, when we are willing to become broken bread and poured-out wine, we allow ourselves to come into contact with God. Therefore, I believe that we are all thankful for the opportunity that Christ in the City has blessed us with—namely, the opportunity to humbly serve and thereby experience God. May this lesson—taught by trees and those on the streets—be one that sticks with us long after this week.
Denver Day 3
Wednesday, March 7, 2018:
Rose Labadini, Allison Gilbert
Tuesday night, after the last blog post was written, we had karaoke with everyone at Christ in the City. Many laughs were exchanged, and the grand finale included our very own Faith, Sarah, Layne, and Reed! They killed a rendition of Chicken Fried by the Zac Brown Band. It was a lot of fun!
Fast forward to this morning, in which we woke up and went to Mass. It was great! Father John (a Capuchin priest from India) gave a homily about our dedication to our faith. He then went on to describe how we should, as stated in the first reading, pass on God’s laws to our children and our children’s children. He ended his homily with a statement about how we should not be afraid to have a boat load of children (not just yet… don’t worry mom, it’s not that kind of trip ☺ -Rose), in which uncomfortable laughter ensued.
Later Wednesday afternoon, we went to Lunch in the Park, which is a “feed” for the homeless population of Denver. It allows Christ in the City missionaries and mission troops to reconnect with our homeless friends that we had previously made as well as others that we were meeting for the first time. We were given the opportunity to engage in conversation with our friends while serving them a meal.
Allison: At Lunch in the Park, I spoke to two older men and friends, Bart and Steve. They emphasized the ungratefulness that many privileged people face. Despite the limitless opportunities that numerous families are given, we still find ways to complain about the small belongings that we lack. Steve has been living on the streets of Denver for 34 years, which has given him such great insights on the selfishness frequently exhibited by U.S. citizens. In our group discussions following the street walks, we talked about the difference between fulfilling physical and spiritual needs of our homeless friends. We are enabled to assist in initially providing physical needs (food, drink, clothing) to an extent, as it is often necessary before meeting other needs. We were made aware of our homeless friends’ need for relationships with others and a search for a deeper truth.
Rose: I spoke to Mark, Sam, and Frank and learned quite a bit about each of their lives. Mark spoke about how he’d moved around the US quite a bit and how he really fell in love with Denver, he and I became fast friends and he asked if he would see me at the feed next week and I had to sadly decline. Frank gave me insight on how suffering is good for people so that they don’t get caught up in material things. He and I spoke about Jesus and how His love is all we need, and we can get closer to him by serving others. Sam and I spoke about his life and how he loved Denver and his previous profession as a set designer and costumer, which is something I related to having a slight background in technical theater, and it was amazing to see his face light up, because someone was talking to him. You could tell by his eyes that not many people had spoken to him recently, but he had the most gentle eyes I have ever seen on a person. It was amazing to be able to connect with these men today, as well as serving those who I did not get to meet by name, but have a shared love for.
East L.A. Day 4
East L.A. Day 4 –Devyn
Well you could say we made it to day four with great adventures, tiredness, and scattered sickness throughout the group. On Tuesday, we started our day off with Mass at St. Mary’s. This was the third Mass I have ever been to and it was almost entirely in Spanish until the priest told our group what he was saying in English during the homily. This experience was incredible, and was one I will never forget. After Mass, we decided to walk to Skid Row with the sandwiches and apples that half of the group made in the morning prior to Mass. As we were walking and almost there we noticed some of the tents that were just on the border of the 15 block radius of the government sanctioned homelessness. As we continued walking, we were just about to enter the perimeter of Skid Row when Dan saw a man named Kaleb Havens. Dan talked about Kaleb beforehand as a man who was protesting the government and its lack of affection for the poor and homeless. As we ventured toward Kaleb we noticed that he was lounging in a sun chair with pants and no shirt on, and also had a chain around his waist that was linked around the buildings gate for his protest. Once we stopped in front of him, we introduced ourselves and he welcomed us to stay and chat. We asked him why he had a chain around his waist and he responded with saying that he had it around him as to prevent himself from being moved or moving. He also mentioned that he was fasting the 46 days of lent by eating nothing and only drinking pedialyte and water. To me this was so interesting by the way that he was so willing to give up food and his health for a cause that he believes in more than anything while following the teachings of God, but not being certain if he believed in the existence of God. This really made me think about my own faith and how I apply it to my life and how I live the gospel. Am I striving for God and his greatness or I am I serving the flesh?
East L.A. Day 4-Bret
Last night at dinner our group was sitting at King Taco and when Dan brought up our options for today. We could either go observe the DACA protests, or head to Skid Row and pass out sandwiches. As a Spanish major at Carroll, I have had to take a lot of classes on, not only the Latino language, but its culture as well, and for this reason, I really sympathized with those protesting Trump’s fade out of DACA and wanted to attend the protests. There were a few others in our group who wanted to go as well, but the majority voted for Skid Row, which made me sad. I was excited to serve however I could, and if that meant walking the streets of Skid Row and meeting the people experiencing homelessness in L.A., then I was all for it. Immediately when arriving, we encountered a man named Kaleb Havens who was a Catholic Social Service worker on hunger strike to protest the land banking occurring in the area. He was chained to an empty building that was on Skid Row and not being used for anything except storage when it could be being used as shelter for hundreds living on the street. Many of the realities Kaleb brought to my attention were startling and even angering. One of which was that there is only three working bathrooms or 6 toilets in this 15 block strip designated for the homeless. Six toilets for 3000 to 5000 people on any given day. Talking to Kaleb really set the mood for our time on Skid Row. God revealed himself to me continuously today. I saw him working through our freshman walking down Skid Row, shaking hands with homeless men and women and hearing their stories while handing out sandwiches and apple slices, and Erin nearly buying a convenience store out of pads and tampons to hand out to the women on the streets. I was blown away by the generosity of our group, and the joy the people experiencing homelessness brought to us.