Twenty young adults joined SCNs Luke Boiarski and Nancy Gerth in January 2008 for an immersion experience in New Orleans, La. This collaborative project, sustained by the Charity Federation and Operation Helping Hands through Catholic Charities, has been growing strong. Those who participate in the experience return changed and deeply moved by the relief work, says Sister Luke, who has led several groups to the Southern city. The young men and women are encouraged to write about their experiences. Below are some excerpts from these powerful writings.
In the face of a natural disaster the magnitude of a level five hurricane, even our greatest efforts felt small, so it was a real challenge to deal with being assigned the task of cleaning up shells from the landscape of a nursing home that was just getting back up and running after the storm. For two hours, a group of twenty some volunteers picked up seashells and stones that had been washed up by the flood. I know my ego was screaming at me to be doing something bigger and more important, like helping build a house or something. In light of everything else, plucking shells from soil seemed to just be a total waste of time. However, against my own nature, I felt a letting go through just doing what I believed to be God’s will for me in that moment. It’s like Sr. Monica said, “Some days, you’re just picking up shells.”
…Not only were we working together; we were recognizing our roles as little bitty pieces of God’s plan together. The beauty in that realization was so much more than I expected, and having experienced it, I have felt myself recognizing God at work in my life more now that I’m home, too. Volunteering with the sisters felt more like a long-needed retreat than work. (Casie Fox)
New Orleans is a place that suffered terrible destruction, but as one member of the group said, “Sometimes God breaks you down in order to build you up to be even better and stronger.” I think that’s what’s happening in New Orleans. All of the thousands of volunteers that have gone to help have given the people hope and shown them God’s goodness.
Nature often holds up a mirror so we can see more clearly the ongoing processes of growth, renewal, and transformation in our lives.“ I do not know who spoke those wise words, but whoever it was must have had New Orleans in mind when they said it. As a result of my experiences with the Sisters of Charity in New Orleans, I can see that it is not only the city itself that is undergoing a transformation, but the people as well. (Natalie Committee)