With the Kind Heart of Angela

Our 2018 Ursuline Summer Service has begun well, with open hearts, laughter, and a desire to be stretched by new experiences.  All arrivals from New York and New Orleans were on time today, and it took no time at all for the group to begin bonding.  We are blessed with such lovely volunteers.

There was time to unpack and get acquainted, then we visited the very beautiful San Jose Mission, which helped us touch into the rich history of South Texas.

Our evening meal was followed by orientation to the week. We are all women steeped in the Ursuline spirit  and Serviam, and what that means to us flowed freely in our sharing. We desire to bring Angela’s kind heart, listening ear, courage, vision and peace-making to all we meet. We want the persons at Haven for Hope to feel they truly are our brothers and sisters.  We know we will be changed by this week, and we are  ready with very eager hearts!


The City By the River

In less than a week, young women from New York and New Orleans will join me in San Antonio, Texas, for a week of service at Haven for Hope, a center of care for persons experiencing homelessness. San Antonio is well known for its River Walk, Tex-Mex food, beautiful Missions, the Alamo, hot weather and friendly people. There are other, more ominous, things happening now to immigrants along the border in Texas.  We, Ursuline Volunteers, are deeply aware that it will be our privilege to bring compassion and friendship to other “home-less” people. What a gift it is–to be present to brothers and sisters in need–as we bring them Serviam hearts, open and ready to serve.

What we will do is fully in line with centuries of Ursuline spirit. Seven Ursuline Sisters came to San Antonio in 1851 at the invitation of the local Bishop.  Upon their arrival, they found a building with nothing more than walls and a leaky roof.  However, within 2 months, they opened their school.  By 1887, Ursuline Academy there drew students from all parts of western Texas and Mexico.  During the Mexican Revolution, the convent was a refuge for bishops, priests and nuns fleeing persecution.  The Ursuline community fed dozens of people daily during the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  And during World War II, the sisters provided day care for preschool age children whose mothers were obliged to work.  Please join us in prayer as we, 21st century women, continue the long legacy of Serviam in this beautiful city by the river!



Expanded Understanding

It was a simple invitation to an event called “Sharing Ramadan” at the Dar Ul Salam Masjid Mosque near St. Louis, and something urged me to accept.  As a result, three of us Ursulines had a wonderful opportunity to share an evening of welcome, encounter and learning.  Ramadan, the month-long fast observed by Muslims around the world (in celebration of the gift of the Koran to Muhammad), is scheduled according to the lunar Islamic calendar, so this year’s fast will end tomorrow.  The fast is from dawn to sunset, and for people in this part of the world, that means close to 16 hours of no food, no water.

We were given a tour of the mosque, school and other facilities.  We heard the call to prayer–Listen here-and the beautiful chant that proclaims: “God is great. . . I bear witness that there is no God except the one God.” Encouraged to ask questions about the practices and beliefs of Islam, we learned much while always receiving respect for our own religious beliefs.  As the meal together to break the day’s fast would not happen until well after 8:00 p.m., we were treated to having our names written in Islamic calligraphy, receiving a henna tattoo, or learning more about  Muslim dress. At every moment, there were friendly conversations with brothers and sisters, so different and yet so much the same.

I was impressed by the effort made by our Muslim community for this lovely evening, and the crowd that attended clearly showed a desire to build inter-religious harmony.  Yes, truly our God is great, and we are all one!

Seeing More Clearly

In November of last year, I was very pleased to participate in the national convention of the Catholic Volunteer Network.  People both young and old arrived in St. Louis, enthused and committed to the value of volunteer opportunities.  There were great speakers like Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, author of Tattoos on the Heart (if you haven’t read this, it’s a must!) and Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourners magazine (another wonderful publication). I came away energized and newly grounded in why we offer service projects.

Fast forward to my recent trip to San Antonio, Texas, to prepare for our 2018 Ursuline Summer Service week there in July.  I had plenty of “busy work” to do: check out the rooms at the university where the volunteers and I will be housed, work out schedule details for the week, be sure I know how to travel from point A to point B in the city. But as soon as I returned to our service site, Haven for Hope, a place of comprehensive services and new beginnings for persons experiencing homelessness, I was immersed in why I love doing this and heard echos of the speakers from November:

  • Are we willing to go deeper? Are we willing to see ourselves in kinship with those on the margins?
  • Volunteering is aimed at our blindness.  The man in the Gospel who encountered Jesus said, “Now I am able to see.”
  • “Whatever you do for one of these least brothers or sisters of mine, you do for me.” —Jesus reminds us: IT IS ME!
  • We don’t go to the margins to make a difference; we go to the margins so the folks there will make us different. It’s not “what am I going to do” but “what’s going to happen here.”

On Friday at Haven for Hope, I met some of the people we came to know there last  year.  It was a lovely reunion, and I was delighted to tell them I’ll be back in July.  In the meantime, I pray that we may all have eyes opened to see more clearly our kinship with one another, and do all we can to strengthen this.

Searching for Truth

In this week between Ascension and Pentecost, the promise of Jesus that “the Holy Spirit will teach you all things” rings clear.  There’s a whole lot I need to be taught these days—-like what to believe about North Korea, Israel, the US/ Mexican border and China, as well as what can be done about hunger, disease and terrorism.  I’d love to have a window into the truth of how to really live together in peace, starting with my own city, and extending into our country, church and world.

The Holy Spirit will teach you . . . . I believe this. But we must work hard at helping one another arrive at truth.  If the truth will make us free, which Jesus also said, then we need to get better at searching together for it.  Why does so much  communication have the effect of shutting people down instead of opening a path to shared wisdom?

As we celebrate the Holy Spirit among us, the Wisdom and Truth of God, we might take up this prayer from World Communications Day. Praying and living what it says could lead us to find what we all desire.