Vocation Director Nancy Gerth, SCN, regularly travels from Kentucky to New Orleans helping to rebuild the city still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. She often takes students with her. The groups stay at the House of Charity, where they pray, eat and live together for a short time, each day going out to repair homes destroyed by the massive storm. Sister Nancy has shared her journal with us below as she travels from Kentucky to New Orleans, back to Kentucky and then on to Florida with another group of students. Click here to see a video of Sister Nancy with a group in 2015.
In the early evening I had a conference call with the TEC (Teens Encountering Christ) advisory board in Louisville and finished in time to join our group as they enjoyed their tacos. Then, we had time for reflection on the day at the Café, the museum and their work on the home of the woman and her 13 year old daughter. So moved by the stories and visual remnants at the museum – the students experienced a new level of mercy and understanding for those affected by the storm. We ended the reflection with words of gratitude for new learnings and experiences, work accomplished, and being able to come on the trip.
A day filled with blessings in ordinary events with some generous young adults. A good way to turn out the lights and meet my pillow!
Started the day with morning prayer in the Vincentian spirit. “Holiness is found in the world, rather than apart from it.” Let us go forth in our day to meet our loving God.
After seeing the film “We Shall Not Be Moved, we took a visit to a levee and flood wall. Much of the devastation named a “man-made” disaster due to the levee breeches. A student commented, ” It almost made me cry – the personal stories of loss are overwhelming.”
Dropped off the students for their afternoon shift. Today’s task-subfloor installation! Just to fill you in on the house they are working on… it’s named “the house that Elizabeth Built” (Seaton that is!). This project is another of our Charity Federation projects. It is honoring three events: the 5th Anniversary of the New Orleans House of Charity, the 49th Anniversary of Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Canonization and the Year of Consecrated Life. Charity congregations and their friends are providing financial means to rebuild the house and volunteers who stay at the House of Charity. The home owner, Pam, has experienced contractor fraud among other obstacles in her efforts to return home. Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005; it’s not a journey for the faint of heart. Pam has a heart of gold and as strong as steel.
Last night our evening oyster and reflection evolved into the sharing from each person telling the gifts they appreciated in each person. The beauty of it was that everyone had been paying such close attention and could name several things after being together after only 5 days. What would our society be like if we paid more attention to one another’s gifts?
This morning at prayer, we used the prayer of the diocese to end murder, violence and racism. Before the work on the house begins, we will visit a program for moms with children that is getting ready to open – Hotel Hope.
Yesterday, S. Monica and I picked up a donation of a used baby crib. We will assemble it after the tour.
Plan B…crib snafu. On to lunch ahead of schedule.
Blessing – we attended a welcome home party for a family who finally got home. Both parents – musicians – the party wouldn’t have been complete without a jazz band. 2pm Finding God in the Everyday: after shopping for a new crib and determining that the ones available were not appropriate it was time to go to another plan! Come on St. Vincent – we need help on this one! Next, phone a friend to ask about another shopping suggestion. Instead, got a referral to her family member’s workplace – a furniture store. A call revealed that a crib was in line to be donated but did not have a destination yet! Pick up scheduled for tomorrow. A match made in heaven! ? more later…
Took group for poorboys for lunch – great ambiance! Check that food off the NOLA experience list!
(On being a Blessing)…at the work site, homeowner Pam, stopped by with a thank you card and cookies and her concern that the group might not know about the impending storm.
9pm: After a long day of laying sub-floor, we spent some time enjoying the night sights in the French Quarter. Posing with “Fats Domino” at Jazz Legends Park. Gratitude. ??
Friday 4:30 am: fierce thunderstorms and pouring rain
Friday 8am: localized flooding with some street closures. Still pouring. Work site delayed start from 8:30 to 10:00 am.
Friday noon: Crib is ready for pick up! Sister Monica and I have a letter from the agency. First stop: business of donor!
12:30: picked up second van and more sets of hands from the work site then on to the warehouse for crib pickup.
1 PM: good thing we had second van. Crib wouldn’t fit in ours! On to deliver it to mom!
1:45 delivered crib. Still needs to be assembled. Group coming next week will work on it. State of emergency just declared for the entire state.
2:30 purchased mattress and some food items
3:00 Delivered mattress and food to mom. She and baby were napping. Oops! Sweet Dreams! Finding God in the every day…
3:30 T-shirts ready at printers. Rain continues but starting to dissipate. Last errand of the day!
Friday 10 pm: Last dinner was this evening at a Cajun restaurant with live band and dance floor. The students had fun trying foods from the area. One topic of conversation: Interesting things learned about sisters on the trip. Responses: “not strict, personable, not just all the same group of sisters everywhere – there are different kinds, I never knew a Sister until college… there’s a lot, how the groups of sisters branched off. Then, we all filled up the dance floor providing some free entertainment for guests. A great way to end the week and close the trip. Each being a blessing to one another. Now it’s time for bed as it’s early rising at 4am to get ready for the airport. Good night. Peaceful rest.
Saturday 3:45am: jump out of bed to see the group off. They have a sixteen hour drive back to Kansas. Departure time 4am…haven’t heard everyone stirring yet. Bob, the group leader knocks on doors! At 4:10 hugs goodbye and we wave them off with white tissues, the traditional farewell.
6am In security line at the airport. Flights on time, so far so good. Afternoon plans will be to visit with the sisters at home, do laundry and re-pack for tomorrow’s service trip to Florida!
10:00 am: First Leg of the flight successful. Even had a good nap! Before my nap, I flipped through the Southwest magazine. The feature stories were on Light. One article grabbed my attention. It pointed out that the miracle of light should be celebrated, but it is good to remember that often out of darkness come beginnings. After a week in the rebuilding city of New Orleans, I couldn’t help think of the many dark times people endured before a new beginning emerged for them. Sometimes the only light we can see comes disguised in a kind word or an unexpected gesture of help, just at the moment when we think we can’t go on. Will I be a light in someone’s darkness today?
SATURDAY 2pm: Arrived home without a glitch and managed to sneak in another nap the second leg of the trip. Gratitude! Had a bite for lunch and caught up with the home happenings. Got my laundry started and off to do errands. First stop: Nazareth Home to pick up a cookie delivery. Beautiful homemade cookies by S. Reenie Daugherty! This time some shaped like houses, hammers, saws, etc. AND a special St. Patty’s Day batch. How appropriate from a woman who has been known to sport some green and shamrocks on the festive day and share a tale of blarney with the best of them! ? I always feel like I’m taking the community with me when I have these cookies to share. And I can’t wait to see the faces of the students when they lay eyes on them. My second task was a grocery run to stock up for some essentials for the trip. Now to finish laundry and begin packing!
Saturday 11pm Got everything in and ready to crash! Spring forward tonight. Hope I can spring out of my bed at 3am! G’night!
Sunday 4am At the University of Louisville interfaith Center. Vans loaded. We counted off – 34 –we each have our number for the trip to make it easy to make sure we are all accounted for. I was invited to say a prayer of sending forth. And we’re off… 6 vans in our “care a van”! Our van is wide awake…jamming to tunes… ?
Sunday 8pm we arrived at our Florida destinations- two churches are housing us, males and females. We grabbed a quick supper, unloaded the vans, had prayer and got things settled. By midnight, everyone was quiet in bed. Falling asleep to the memories created during the trip.
Monday 7am students did a warm-up game “Ninja” and we had prayer then off to the Habitat Orientation. They have a great orientation that includes a demo and practice with tools. One part of their program focuses on systemic change. The adult can earn a college scholarship and then monies go into a fund for their children to attend the local college. Stopping the cycle of poverty through education!
Monday 5pm: the work was excellent. Habitat is creating a development of houses for 70 families. 21 have moved in the completed homes as the others are being built. Our group worked on several of the homes doing different jobs. Some of us layed sub-floor, worked from 2-story scaffolding to complete jobs on exterior walls, framed walls and more. A group of seniors from a local church called “Hope Circle” provided a hot meal for lunch. It was great to interact with them and eat delicious home cooked food! Now the students are off to enjoy an hour at the beach before going to the local Y to take showers. Later we’ll cook supper together, reflect on the day and socialize a bit before bedtime.
Monday 11pm: some members of the group made tacos for dinner, another made apple pies to celebrate Pi Day (3-14-16) and the last group created a reflection around the song from the movie Mulan and a reading from Isaiah about being refined. Small group sharing followed. Time to socialize for a little while then time for bed. Good night all!
Tuesday 5:45am This will be the last day of my entries for this peak into my week. It’s quiet here; not a creature stirring – especially not a student! The team has started to rise and get their shine on! Although I prefer a good morning that you can roll out of bed with no alarm, there is something sacred about the quiet of a dark morning and creeping around being careful not to awaken a house of young dreamers. In just a few minutes there will be an explosion of hurried readying and excitement for continuing their gifts of love, sweat and cheers from yesterday. I am so grateful for another day…