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Our Faith Journey

Welcome to “Our Faith Journey” Blog.

This blog is an opportunity to share with our Ursuline School community that which is most important to us -- our faith journey. Each of us is on a journey and we hope that you enjoy reading the reflections of our faculty, staff and students.

Retreat Graces

One of my favorite parts of my annual retreat is the opportunity to bring to prayer those who have asked for special prayers.  Often when people hear that I am going on retreat they will ask me to say special prayers for them or their family or to just remember them while I am here.  This week I honestly feel that I have besieged the Lord with special prayers as they just kept coming.  I was very happy, in fact honored to do so.  This has been a wonderful grace filled week for me and as I prepare to leave today I know that I am grateful for many things.  To have the time, the quiet and the space to pray was awesome.  To be in such a beautiful setting helped me to focus my prayer and certainly added to it.  I also had the opportunity to catch up with a former colleague and a former student this week.  Each of these encounters has added to my retreat in a very significant way.  I firmly believe that God puts us where we need to be when we need to be there.  This week has really shown me that.  As I met with these two women I have to say that it was truly a grace to do so.  We talked, laughed and had the chance to catch up on life since we last saw one another.  In the midst of this sacred time the rest of the world marches on at its usual feverish pace.  Yesterday I had the experience of my phone dying for now reason at all.  It simply shut itself off and would not turn back on.  I have to admit I felt so lost without it.  It is the way I communicate with everyone.  Well this morning it came back on and is now charging.  Maybe it was God telling me to listen to Him and not be distracted.  I know that there is a lesson here for sure.

Posted by schifinp on Friday July 19
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Looking Our for Our Brothers and Sisters

Earlier today there was a prayer service and action by members of many faith based communities.  Sr. Carol Zinn said, "Civilizations will be judged by how we treat the vulnerable and marginalized, the poor and oppressed among us.". . . "We have seen the pain, suffering and trauma of our brothers and sisters." . . . "STOP the pain, suffering, oppression, traumatizing, and isolation of the incarcerated children." . . . "START placing children with family and sponsors, and community based management programs.". . . "START listening to the stories.". . ."START addressing the systems that are the reason people are coming.". . ."START addressing our own complicity and policies of 20, 30 and more years ago that have come home to roost."  We have to join with others to "STOP the inhumanity".

Earlier this week, Pope Francis urged Catholics around the world to stand with migrants and against an attitude of indifference and despair.  He said, “Migrants are persons… They are the symbol of all those rejected by today’s globalized society… The weakest and most vulnerable must be helped… This is a tremendous responsibility, from which no one is exempt if we wish to fulfill the mission of salvation and liberation, in which the Lord himself has called us to cooperate.” 

Today let us pray for all who are suffering as a result of this tragedy.  May we reach out to our brothers and sisters in love and compassion.  As a people of faith may we always try to live the “golden rule” – “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”  Let us stop the inhumanity and embrace the virtue of love in all we do.

Posted by schifinp on Thursday July 18
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Being Childlike

At that time Jesus exclaimed: "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.  Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.  All things have been handed over to me by my Father.  No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him."  Matthew 11: 25 – 27

There is something very special in this Gospel that always catches my attention -- that Jesus revealed to the “childlike.”  Jesus didn’t reveal to the wise and learned yet did so the childlike not the childish.  When I heard this reading at Mass this morning I thought of all the children I have known over the years and for those who are special in my life today.  Children are wonderful and we can learn so much from them if we pay attention.  I was in awe at a video of my six year old nephew climbing a pole and then jumping off the platform for his ride on the high ropes course.  As I thought about this image I thought about the fact that he had to trust those who were guiding him, overcome his fear of climbing 35 feet up in the air, and muster the courage it took to step off the platform.  Are these not the things that our loving God asks of us – trust, overcoming fear and courage in our daily living?  If we allow ourselves to respond to God with this childlike simplicity we will open ourselves to great things. 

Each one of us is called to love as Jesus did.  We are seeking God’s revelation in our daily lives.  Every day we are invited to show the great love that Jesus modeled.  By following the example of the childlike in our midst we are invited to grow closer to our loving God and share His great love with others.  Today let us not be afraid to climb the pole, step off the platform and enjoy the ride with God.

Posted by schifinp on Wednesday July 17
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Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

Today we honor the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.  Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as patroness of the Carmelite Order. Hermits lived on Mount Carmel near the Fountain of Elijah in northern Israel in the 12th century. They had a chapel dedicated to Our Lady. By the 13th century they became known as “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” They soon celebrated a special Mass and Office in honor of Mary. In 1726, it became a celebration of the universal Church under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For centuries the Carmelites have seen themselves as specially related to Mary. Their great saints and theologians have promoted devotion to her and often championed the mystery of her Immaculate Conception.

As I prayed today I recalled fondly the numerous Mt. Carmel feasts that we went to as children.  There were games, some rides, gold fish and great food including pastries and Italian Ices.  I remember we would go to Mass and then participate in the procession of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s statue through the neighborhood.  It was a wonderful time for all.  One of my favorite memories was as an adult one time going to the feast and winning a gold fish who we named Arthur as we won it on Arthur Avenue.  By some miracle the fish lived for about 5 years and outgrew several tanks.

Being on retreat these days has given me the opportunity to pray for others and for our world in a bit of a different setting than the original hermits.  I am on an island off Mystic Connecticut called Enders Island.  The island is surrounded by beautiful views of the water and incredible flowers.  I enjoy coming here for my own spiritual renewal – a great place to recharge one’s inner battery and live in the Lord’s love.  Sometimes I wonder if this is why the hermits went to Carmel in the first place to recharge.  If you have never made a retreat I highly recommend taking some time away to reflect and pray.  Our loving God knows what your body, mind and spirit need and retreat is a time to embrace God’s love in a quiet and gentle way.

Posted by schifinp on Tuesday July 16
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Love and Mercy

Today’s Gospel is the familiar story of the Good Samaritan.  It is a story that we have heard many times and yet it is one that is filled with tremendous meaning.  When I listen to this story I try to reflect on what am I doing to treat others with respect, how have I come to the aid of a neighbor, do I build people up or tear them down, and what more can I do to help others?  In our lives we have met people who have hurt us and we are at times hesitant to help or trust.  This is exactly what we are being called to do.  We have to be willing to bandage wounds of others, welcome the stranger in our midst and do all that we can to help meet the needs of others.  In our world today there are many who are suffering, who are marginalized and we need to be willing to put their needs in front of our own and do what we can.  Each of us is called to be Christ for one another.  In doing so we reach out as Jesus would and become that source of hope for others.  He will always lead us in the right way of doing things.  Are we willing to humble ourselves enough before Jesus to ask for divine assistance?  Are our hearts open enough to feel Jesus’ presence walking with and guiding us?  Let us make today the day where we open our hearts to extend love and mercy to others.

Posted by schifinp on Sunday July 14
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An Encounter With Silence

In the midst of the many things in our world that need healing many communities gathered last evening to pray for those who are incarcerated at our southern border.  America Magazine published the following prayer for those in this situation.  Perhaps today we can join in prayer with and for all those suffering at this time and all who will be arrested this weekend by ICE.

Loving God, I come before you to pray for my brothers and sisters, your children and members of Christ’s body, at the southern border of the United States today.

What we read of their suffering seems nothing less than a Passion for thousands. Little children crowded into cells where they scarcely have room to stand.  Without decent sanitation or food, separated from their families, the older ones taking care of the younger.

God of mercy, I believe that you live within whatever and whoever I am, the ground of my existence, its gracious cause and hope, its true future, its blessed promise of eternal life.  I could not always have said so much. But now through your grace I do believe it.

But God of all, I am shaken in that faith when I read of what is happening on the threshold of my country. Are not the women and men and children there also vessels of your eternal presence? Many of them, most perhaps, from what we call the Northern Triangle, have indeed been baptized. But your incarnate Word is addressed to all of them.  Your Spirit of freedom hovers over all of them.  Amen


Posted by schifinp on Saturday July 13
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Living Your Christian Life

Jesus said to his Apostles:  "Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.  But beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say.  You will be given at that moment what you are to say.  For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.  Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.  You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.  When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.  Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes."   Matthew 10: 16 -23

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the Apostles that they would suffer resistance from many places in their lives.  He tells them that they are to have total trust in God and to depend on the Spirit who will speak through them.  This is the same advice that Jesus would give to us today.  We have all experienced times when our families, friends and perhaps even those we work with do not understand our choices.  To truly live our Christian life can sometimes not be the easiest thing to do.  Yes Jesus reminds us that this is what we have to do.  Perhaps today may be a good day to reflect on our following of Jesus.  Our world is hurting and needs people who are willing to stand up and live their Christian lives.  Let us take time today to pray for the less fortunate, those who are ill, and those who have died and for those who are in the face of Tropical Storm Barry.

Posted by schifinp on Friday July 12
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Sr. Elisa Ryan's Blog

Sr. Elisa wrote in her blog, Backlit With Joy, a reflection on our experience in McAllen, Texas.  I wanted to share it with you as our brothers and sisters at our southern border continue to be in our hearts and prayers.

Last weekend, I saw a video of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Conversation with Melinda Gates. In it, Gates speaks of the many trips she’s made to very poor sections of the world and her need, upon return, to decompress, to be alone, to let in the pain she has seen, to “let my heart actually break.”

Just back from the Texas border and service with immigrants at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, I know our group is living with plenty of heartbreak.   The broken face of Jesus was everywhere, as was his love and beauty. So we continue to let it in: men in line for belts and shoelaces, women in line for shoes; travelers praying the rosary, tears streaming down their cheeks; children waiting for a simple bowl of soup or overjoyed with a mini tootsie pop; a 15 year old boy with chicken pox, a 14 year old girl with newborn baby; ALWAYS, from everyone, “gracias” for any small gesture or smile.

Our volunteer group was amazing.  They sliced dozens of loaves of bread (even when frozen!), and cut watermelons, carrots or mangoes by the crate.  They served meals, unpacked and sorted donations, cleaned up after sick kids, employed Spanish phrases, and stood for hours to serve the needs of others. 

We continue to let the experience in.  And while our hearts have been broken, we are deeply grateful for the privilege of meeting these brothers and sisters who have changed our lives.  And we remain in solidarity with those who serve the poorest among us, not just one.

Posted by schifinp on Wednesday July 10
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Team USA!

On Sunday, July 7, 2019, the United States Women’s Soccer Team pulled off an amazing feat, they defeated the Netherlands in the World Cup Final.  There had been tremendous hype going into the game and some questioned if they would be able to rise above the mounting pressure.  Added to this was the fact that the men also had their final game at the same time.  The women went in with the attitude of we have worked hard for this and will do our best.  It wasn’t until 2/3rd of the way through the match that the women scored and did so a few minutes later.  With a 2 – 0 lead it seemed that the women’s dream would come true.  This game was not won by a single individual but rather an all-out team effort.  The women had trained together and used their skill to win.  They played as a team, celebrated as a team and are now modeling what it means to be a team.  I believe that there is a message in this unique story.  These women had come together to show their pride in one another and more importantly their country.  Tomorrow they will have a parade in the Canyon of Heroes in NYC. There will be a great celebration for a well-deserved effort.  May we celebrate with them and applaud their determination to work together and work together for a fabulous win.  Thank you ladies for making us proud! Always remember to dream big!

Posted by schifinp on Tuesday July 9
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Take Courage

While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward, knelt down before him, and said, "My daughter has just died.  But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live."  Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.  A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak.  She said to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured."  Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, "Courage, daughter!  Your faith has saved you." And from that hour the woman was cured.

When Jesus arrived at the official's house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion, he said, "Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping."  And they ridiculed him.  When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose.  And news of this spread throughout all that land.      Matthew 9: 18 – 26

Today’s Gospel shows us the importance of faith, trust and perseverance.  When Jesus receives the official he does so with compassion and concern.  As Jesus rose to go with the official a woman risks all to touch the tassel of His cloak.  Ultimately she does succeed and is cured.  Jesus tells her that her faith has saved her and that her courage has cured her.  Arriving at the official’s house, Jesus sees the commotion and tells everyone to “go away!”  He came in and took her small had and she arose.  Two cures in one short passage.  Neither one of these cures would have happened without the faith and courage displayed by the woman and the official.  Perhaps when we feel we have no more to give it is just Jesus inviting us to stretch ourselves a little more and trust that Jesus will be there to take care of everything. 

Posted by schifinp on Monday July 8
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St. Maria Goretti

Today we celebrate St. Maria Goretti.  In her short life she was a person who reached out in compassion to others.  She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer and never went to school.  Never learning to read or write she still had tremendous faith.  At the age of 12, while she sat on the stairs mending a shirt she was approached by an 18 year old boy named Alessandro.  She resisted his advances and he ultimately stabbed her repeatedly.  They took her to the hospital and her last hours were marked by compassion – she was concerned about her mother, she desired to forgive her murderer and her desire to receive her last Holy Communion.  She succumbed to her injuries about 24 hours after the attack.

Her attacker was sentenced to 30 years in prison.  While he was in prison he had a vision of Maria and upon his release his first act was to beg forgiveness of Maria’s mother.  Maria had already forgiven him and he was present for her canonization.  Her humble life was marked by sadness, compassion and a deep life of faith.  May we seek to have Maria’s faith in all that we do.

Posted by schifinp on Saturday July 6
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Follow Me

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, "Follow me."  And he got up and followed him. While he was at table  in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples.  The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"  He heard this and said, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.  Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners."  Matthew 9: 9 – 13

This Gospel certainly speaks to our times.  If Jesus were to come today who would He dine with?  Would He dine with the rich and famous, the poor and marginalized, the outcast or those seeking a better life?  I believe that Jesus would probably dine with all of them.  He came to find the lost, the forgotten, the sick and the sinful.  Jesus’ disciples were an eclectic group to say the least.  They were fishermen, a tax collector and a zealot – not a group of sensationalists for sure.  Yet through Jesus’ interactions and the power of the Holy Spirit they were able to move Jesus’ mission forward.  Jesus came to minister to those who were able to hear His message at the time.  His message is as strong today as it was then.  We need to be willing to live the message and invite others who are searching for the way, the truth and the life!

Posted by schifinp on Friday July 5
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Prayer for Independence Day

I received this prayer in an email from Autom and thought it summed up what this day truly means so I share it with you.

Dear God our Father, we praise You for who You are – a God of love, who reveals to us that love is truth and freedom.  Thank You for our country, the United States of America, conceived in liberty, and for all those who have sacrificed that we might enjoy these freedoms.

Like a city on a mountaintop, help us to share our blessings with the world, and to allow the light of Your Holy Spirit within us to set others free in spirit, soul, and body.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

May this prayer instill in us what this day is truly about – truth and freedom.  As we celebrate this day let us remember the many who are not free and are not able to enjoy life, liberty and happiness.  May our loving God always bless the United States of America.

Posted by schifinp on Thursday July 4
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Book of Life

Today I attended the funeral of the father of one of my co-workers.  It was a truly beautiful tribute to a man who lived a long and full life.  As the funeral was at a great distance when we decided to go we knew what we were committing ourselves to.  When we arrived at the funeral home we had some time to spend with the family and that meant a great deal to us all.  The Liturgy was simply beautiful as was the eulogy that his wife delivered for the two of them.  One of the most beautiful parts was when his brother inscribed their father’s name into the Book of Life, as a reminder that he became a member of the Kingdom of God at Baptism and his membership continues throughout eternity.  This was the first time that I have experienced this ritual and I have to say it was very touching.  It brought the life of his father full circle back to his baptism and recalls that in death we embrace new life.  Today let us pray for all those who have gone before us and for those who have lost loved ones.  Let us pray that each person may be able to feel happiness and peace.

Posted by schifinp on Wednesday July 3
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Christ, You Spoke to Us of Children

Having just returned from working with Catholic Charities in McAllen, Texas I was moved when I saw this song.  So many innocent children are suffering.  May we pray for them all that God will protect them and bring them safely to peace and a new home.

Christ, You Spoke to Us of Children

W ZLOBIE LEZY ("Infant Holy, Infant Lowly”)

Christ, you spoke to us of children:  “Let the children come to me.  Do not stop them, for the kingdom is for little ones like these.”  God, we grieve now as our nation fails its moral obligation to receive the refugees.

Christ, you spoke of God’s intention:  “Do not cause my children harm!”  Yet we place them in detention, Far from loved ones, scared and worn.  Children, huddled close together, Grieve for families that are severed; God of love, what have we done?

Christ, you taught us to give water and to help the ones who thirst.  Yet in places near the border, we confess we’ve done our worst.  Those who walk must now walk farther. We have made their journey harder; We dump water in the dirt.

God of immigrant and stranger, God who welcomes those in need, when your children are in danger, will we love them or concede?  May we not seek cheap forgiveness Till we dare to work for justice— till your little ones are freed.

Biblical References: Isaiah 58; Matthew 19:14 18:6; 25:31-46; James 2:14-26.

Tune: Polish melody Text: Copyright © 2019 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette.

Posted by schifinp on Tuesday July 2
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Jesus' Daily Call

When Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other shore.  A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”  Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”  Matthew 8:18 – 22

Jesus daily invites me to follow Him.  He wants me to make Him the number one priority in my life.  Most of the time this is a reasonably easy thing to do.  However, there are many things that take my attention from Jesus.

Today, Jesus is gently inviting me to open my heart, so He can rest in my troubled heart, bringing me peace.  Each day Jesus gently invites me to accept His loving invitation.  I, on my part, in order to accept the invitation need to commit each day to following Him.  It is during these times that I find myself calm and willing to respond.  When I remember deep in my heart that Jesus only wants what is best for me I am able to respond with eagerness.  Each day I need to make the choice to prioritize my events so that Jesus becomes the primary thought and not an afterthought.

Posted by schifinp on Monday July 1
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Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

When the days for Jesus' being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him.  On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?"  Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.  As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus answered him, "Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head."  And to another he said, "Follow me."  But he replied, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father."  But he answered him, "Let the dead bury their dead.  But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."  And another said, "I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home."  To him Jesus said, "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God."  Luke 9: 51 - 62

Today’s Gospel is packed full.   There are at least four different scenes going on in it. When they entered the Samaritan village, they were not welcomed.  James and John had an excessive response.  They wanted to call down fire and annihilate them. Jesus calls them back to reality.  Next we have a conversation with two potential followers, one who responds and one who ask for more time before he commits.  In this Gospel, Jesus tells us that we have to put our relationship with Him first. 

This Gospel reminds me of everything I experienced this past week.  I was called to serve in a situation that had many inconveniences and difficulties.  Yet through it all the one thing that kept us all going was knowing that the people we were serving had been through so much already.  Let us remember the importance of putting other needs before us.

Posted by schifinp on Sunday June 30
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Serviam Concludes for Now

Yesterday was our last day of “work” with the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas.  For me this has been an incredible week of meeting those who have suffered so much to come to the United States for a better life.  Being at the CCHRC gave us the opportunity to meet many travelers, some of whom were there most of the week and some who were leaving that day.  These are the lucky ones who have been cleared from the detention centers and are going to family members who will welcome them for the next phase of their journey. 

Seeing the faces of so many infants, toddlers and young children will forever be engraved in my heart.  St. Angela said, “Have each one engraven in your heart, for this is how true love acts.”  This simple phrase came to me many times during this week as I gave our clothes for those in need.  Simple things such as shoelaces and belts were a precious commodity as they were taken by ICE at the detention centers.  It was so hard to tell the men we had no more.  Yesterday another young child had to be taken to the hospital for dehydration as he had to be ready to travel later in the day.  After a four-hour emergency room visit the child was cleared for travel and returned to the Center to be with his family.

A highlight of this time was having the opportunity to meet Sr. Norma Pimentel, MJ. the Executive Director of CCRGV (Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.)  She is an incredible model of welcoming God’s people and lives the social mission of the Church. I had the opportunity to thank her for all she has done and for the example she is for all of us.

While our Serviam time has come to completion I know that this experience has taught me so much and will forever be in my heart.

Posted by schifinp on Saturday June 29
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One World, One Family

Today's blog is shared by Kayla and Faith.

Bittersweet feelings as we are writing this. Today, we said goodbye to many of the people who worked with us throughout the week. With their help, we were able to attend to the needs of many, many travelers: preparing food, serving food, collecting donations, distributing clothes, and working with the sick.

Describing the Catholic Charities Respite Center does not do it justice. You need to be there to truly experience the obstacles that the travelers have to endure. Looking into the eyes of the sick, scared, hopeful, and very grateful travelers, you will be transformed for ever.

Today, we woke up and headed to another day of service. As we walked through the double doors past the security guards, we instantly went to work. We cleaned, cooked, organized, passed out clothes/food, and played with many children. At 1:00, a new group of volunteers came to release us at our stations so we could take our lunch break. Soon after, we came back and got to work.

At 4:30, we had the opportunity to visit the local area. After that, we walked to a local food trucks court called "The Yard".  Now we are heading to bed to get rested for another memorable day.

Through our experience this week, we have seen how immigrant people are beautifully able to rise above all differences and unite as brothers and sisters.

                                                                                                    Kayla and Faith

Posted by schifinp on Friday June 28
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Day Three of our Serviam Experience

Today we set out to our service site and were surprised when we did not see too many people in the reception area. When we entered the clothing area, we realized that everyone was just in the inner area.  We immediately got to work, preparing breakfast, distributing clothing and whatever else needed to be done.  Upon entering the clothing area, we realized that everything was totally mixed up and we needed to shut the station down for a few minutes to reorganize the clothing which was everywhere.  In less than 15 minutes we were all set to begin the work of welcoming our guest with a change of clothes and shoes if needed.  The kitchen crew did an amazing job feeding the many hungry guest and had the experience of not being sure if the promised lunch donation was really going to arrive.

What is amazing to see is the number of guests who volunteer their services to help cook, clean and distribute clothing.  One of our guests today was cleaning and tidying and when asked where her shoes were, she humbly responded, “No tengo zapatos.” In a manner of minutes, she had shoes as one of our volunteers made sure that she had what she needed especially after she had been so helpful during the day.  Such simple actions cause one to be humbled by all that is happening.

After our group left for the day, we returned to our Basilica Hotel for a quick shower and change of clothes and we went out to a Mexican restaurant for dinner.  It was a nice way to end the day.  After dinner we came back and had our reflection and sharing session.  During this time, we focused on where we saw/met Jesus today.  The responses were often in the faces of the men, women and children that we had encountered during our day.  Each one shared how they saw Jesus in the faces of those we served today and in the faces of many of the other volunteers.  Even though we are not able to take photos the faces I believe will forever be imprinted in our hearts and minds.

Posted by schifinp on Thursday June 27
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Day Two

Today's reflection is written by three of our volunteers Cameron, Chloe and Hope.

Hola!  Day Two

Starting off the day, everyone packed a healthy lunch that we would take downtown with us to the center for a quick lunch. As we arrived at 9, the center swarmed with groups of people of all different ages. Our small group split up to conquer the tasks of that day, whether it be helping out in the kitchen, giving out personal hygiene products, or sorting and giving out clothes to those who needed new articles. A few of our people went in the back, sorted out donations of hygiene products and put them into little family bags. While serving lunch, a little boy named Joseph* kept coming up to us asking how to say basic words in English.

The lunch shifts are very hectic due to the number of people who need food, but there are always travelers there who step up and help us serve the lunch. They are all very noble, serving the others before grabbing their own, even though they had been working already to help with the food. When it was our turn for lunch break, we took a little stroll downtown to eat our picnic lunches. We sat outside and soaked up the sun, finishing with frozen yogurt! Closing out the day, we served soup for dinner, sorted and passed out more clothing, and overall lent a hand to those in need.

Returning to our hotel near the Basilica, Sister Rose gave us a backstory on the Church and Our Lady of San Juan. Shortly after, we all piled into our cars and ate dinner at Luby's - which was a first for most! Putting an end to our eventful day, we came back to our hotel to reflect on the day and eat some more ice cream! We reflected and shared on the people who impacted our lives and how we are trying to help restore human dignity to these persons!

-Chloe, Hope, Cameron

*Names were changed for safety

Posted by schifinp on Wednesday June 26
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Day One Complete

Today we began our work at the Catholic Charities Respite Center where we welcomed some 350 guests who are beginning a new life in the USA.  There were so many women with small children and there were people everywhere.  After a brief orientation we began work.  Not always sure of what we were doing we just kept on doing.  We helped serve breakfast and lunch, prepared an huge supply of fresh vegetables, distributed clothing, two went to Sam's Club to purchase some badly needed supplies and we smiled a lot.  Two of us even took a mother and her 3 year old daughter to the medical clinic for treatment and then went to get the prescriptions she needed.  It was an amazing day filled with God's grace.  As we worked in the many areas we found ourselves communicating with smiles and simple words as our Spanish is limited compared to the need.  We had a huge thunder storm last night and watched the waves of water ripple through the parking lot.  When we gathered to reflect on our day we shared on the power of the experience and how it impacted each of us.  We will go back today filled with the energy of yesterday and hope that we can touch a few lives as much as our's have been.

Posted by schifinp on Tuesday June 25
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Serviam Begins

Today we begin our Serviam project in McAllen, Texas.  Yesterday was arrival time for the rest of our group and some exploring of the town we are in.  We had the opportunity to go to the International Bridge and see some of the border wall.  It was a rather daunting sight with multiple layers of razor sharp barbed wire all over it.  We could see the Rio Grande River in the distance and are hopeful that we will get to see it.  At our group orientation last night messages were shared that had been received from our sisters and some school administrators.  It was heartwarming to read these messages and know that people are indeed praying for the success of this trip.  There is great energy in the group of women gathered here.  We are eight in number with three juniors in college, two seniors in high school and three Ursuline sisters.  The girls are all getting along as if they have known each other forever.  I look forward to going to the Catholic Charities Center today where buses of legal immigrants will arrive before going on to meet family in other parts of the United States.  Let us pray for all who are seeking homes and refuge from dire situations.

Posted by schifinp on Monday June 24
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Getting Ready

Tomorrow morning I will leave for a Serviam experience in McAllen Texas.  As I anticipate the journey I can feel myself getting more excited and slightly a little anxious about it.  I will be journeying with seven other volunteers to work at the Catholic Charities Center where some 600 people come through daily seeking a better life.  Each time I share the experience with others I get mixed reactions.  Do you really want to do that?  Are you going to be safe?  Why are you doing it?  These are some of the questions I have been answering along with others telling me how great it will be.  In today's Gospel, Jesus calls us to live in the present moment and not to be fearful of the many things going on in our very busy lives.  Today I have tried to keep that very much in the forefront of my mind as I have tried to pack, pay bills and make sure I have done everything before I leave.  Now that I know I will be leaving in a few hours I know that all shall be well if I continue to remember to trust and be at peace with it all.  I look forward to sharing this experience through the blog this week.  Please pray for us and for those we will be serving.

Posted by schifinp on Saturday June 22
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Baggage You Don't Need to Carry

This morning as I was reading an ad popped up with the caption, "Baggage You Don't Need to Carry" and I was immediately intrigued by it.  Below the caption there were five suitcases with the following luggage tags:  Your Past; Guilt; Expectations; Other's Mistakes; and Negativity.  As I looked at each luggage tag I was struck by how many of these things I sometimes feel burdened by.  Continuing to pray over this image I was struck by the reality that it all has to do with choices.  We make choices all the time and sometimes they are good for us and other times they are not.  Looking through this list I took time to place each one in a pile and then consciously made the choice not to live by these for at least today.  It was a rather freeing experience and made me fee very relaxed.  Perhaps this is an exercise that we all should participate it -- to take note of those things that drag us down and consciously choose not to let them even if only for a day.  Each day as we continue to choose life and let go and let God we will more than likely find ourselves being happier and healthier.

Posted by schifinp on Friday June 21
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