St. Patrick’s Day, a day so full of Irish spirit that the River runs green with it. This is what we expected as we drove into Chicago, Illinois two weeks ago, yet it was not for this spirit that we came. We came as five college students, three men and two women, from University of Nebraska-Lincoln looking for something different, something more out of our spring break than just a week to celebrate, kick-back, and/or relax. So, we volunteered through the Newman Center at the University to spend our break with the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Upon our arrival we found the Sisters and Residents warm, welcoming, and full of life. We had come to share our labor and service but before we even got the chance the Sisters and the Residents were already sharing with us their hospitality, energy and stories. We should have known as we retired that first night that for the one week we would spend in that wonderful place we most certainly give much but we would receive more.
We painted door frames, set up a banquet for the Feast of St. Joseph, helped with a rummage sale, cleaned windows and wheelchairs, and served meals for the Residents. We assisted the Sisters with a Sunday church collection and helped on their begging trip to the market. We attended daily Mass with the Residents and spent time with the Sisters praying the rosary, as well as evening and night prayer.
But by far the most important experience of the week was the time we spent with the Residents and Sisters enjoying the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in those around us. We conversed over meals, as we worked, and as they worked, and we laughed a whole lot. We told stories, we joked, and we may have even enjoyed a little harmless mischief. And over the course of it all we grew close. Closer than we could have probably ever guessed on that first night.
Throughout the week a spirit worked throughout the home we shared with the Sisters and the Residents, and it was most certainly a different and holier one than we had rode in upon just a week before. This spirit did not make the river run green, but red instead.
We came to get away, do something different, and to serve. What we found was that we were being served in an even greater way, and for that opportunity we are all thankful to both the Holy Spirit and the Little Sisters of the Poor in whose home He works so strongly. We miss the Residents and the Sisters already and love them very much. We do not know the full extent of the impact this experience will have on our lives, but there is not doubt that the love and spirit we experienced there has changed our lives forever.