Thursday, August 25, 2016

Staying with the Sisters: Week 5

The weekend after Evansville, we took a ziplining trip in French Lick, IN and had
a lot of fun flying through the trees.

Everyone has to leave home sometime. Though, it can be terrifying at times, it is worth it  when you go for the right reasons and with the right people. The sister believed the same, so we started week five not by driving back to Ferdinand, but by going on mission to Evansville. The goal of was to see where all the sisters’ interests have taken them to work, but it was here that I learned just a little more about what makes these sisters truly extraordinary.

The five of us and Sister T split up, since any one house didn’t have room to accommodate all of us at once. My sister, Claire and I stayed at the original convent toward the center of town, St. Theresa’s, with Sister T and her former formation director, Sister Jackie, who was in Evansville taking care of family and working. Emily and Kelsey stayed at two other houses with sisters grouped in five or six in various places around the city.

We had been inserted into each mini community, sharing their meals, their prayers, and their free time. The evenings were very much like back in Ferdinand; I had already realized that these women were fun-loving, ice-cream-craving, belly-laughing, ordinary people that prayed and ate and worked as one. This theory was put to practice every evening that week as we went to see the Fourth of July fireworks display, visited the public library, played movies into the night, and made dinner for each other.

I was making family, one sister at a time. Once again, though, God decided my eyes were not open wide enough. When I finally saw my sisters in action, I began to see how God had changed them to think and do differently. 

Each day we shadowed one of the sisters at their job and did various service work for their organizations, learning about the charities and the meaning the sisters chose it. The day that truly stuck out to me was our journey through Habitat for Humanity with Sister Jane.

Habitat for Humanity, for those who do not know, builds houses for struggling families in neighborhoods that are devalued because the people there cannot afford to keep the neighborhood clean and kept. Sister Jane led us on a tour of nearly every single house that she had helped build while working for Habitat. We were out for hours.

The truly wondrous part? Sister Jane not only remembered every single house we visited (it had to have been 50), but also the families, the neighbors and all of their stories. We stopped and said hello to neighbors living in homes with roofs that were caving in. We spoke with the retired men who volunteer all of their days to building houses for the under-privileged. Through it all, Sister Jane knew every name, every child and grandchild, and the whole story of how they ended up with Habitat for Humanity.

Most people try to skate through streets like the ones we saw, thinking they are in danger because of the location, but Sister Jane saw this neighborhood and said, “This is full of people with histories and struggles and I am going to help them make a home.”  

It was later in the week  when I the full brunt of this off-hand thought really hit me. My aunt, who lived in Evansville, came to have dinner with my sister and I at the convent. We were excited to share our stories and everything went well, with our aunt making typical Edgar family inquiries (you know, the ones that bounce between the crazy things you did when you were a kid and the ridiculous politics of the land).

In a quiet moment, I could see a bit of tension in my aunt’s shoulders as she geared up for another question. She stumbled around for a few words before saying, “Is it, well, safe to be living here?”  

I had noticed when we arrived that the part of town we were in was not the greatest, but, since being with the sisters, I had forgotten what it was like to be on guard because of appearances. 

Sister Jackie barely paused. “We have never had any problems here. There are crimes that happen around us, but the neighborhood knows us and is always respectful and pleasant to be with.”

There were a few other questions tossed around, but I was still thinking. From the time that I entered Evansville, not once had I felt scared or nervous to be out and about with these sisters. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I should have been afraid while in a strange town, in a strange place, with strange people surrounding me. I trusted them to take care of me and everyone around me.

Sister T explained to me sometime later that part of being Benedictine is trusting God to take care of your needs and letting him keep you safe wherever you walk. In Evansville, I found that so long as you are doing His work, the people know and respect you for respecting them.

Jesus said to treat others as we wish to be treated. In that way, I know that we will be safe doing what He asks of us, because God knows that love spreads peace.

Also at French Lick: Elephant washing, up close and personal. 

Psalm 138:7 -- Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life.

No comments:

Post a Comment