Macon Memories

by Katie Sullivan

This past week, from December 2-9, residents of DePaul’s Vincent and Louise House (V&L) spent their winter break service immersion trip at Daybreak, a project of DePaul USA, in Macon, Georgia.  Daybreak is a day/resource center that provides the homeless population of Macon with critical services in one location.  Daybreak believes that “everyone should have a place to call home and a stake in their community.”

Featured image

The students from V&L got to know guests and helped with the daily tasks that needed to be done, from serving breakfast to helping with laundry and showers to assisting guests with resumes and job searches in the technology room.  It was a week filled with connections and memories and gratitude.  Being welcomed into the Daybreak community was like being welcomed into someone’s family!

Featured image
Olivia Johnson, a junior living in the V&L House, is excited to help guests in the technology room at Daybreak.
Liam Kemmy, a sophomore V&Ler, pets a puppy one of the Daybreak guests brought with him.
Sophomore Erica Dix sits with Caleb, one of the guests from Daybreak.
Morgan Spears, a senior living in the V&L House, plays checkers with Eric, a guest at Daybreak.
Juniors Katie Wallace and Nicolette Prociuk sit in the great room at Daybreak. Nicolette made beaded bracelets for many of the guests and Katie kept her company.

Daybreak provides much needed services to those in need in the Macon community, and it also provides volunteers, such as the students from the V&L House, the opportunity to simply be present with the guests and get to know them and hear their stories.  Sr. Elizabeth Greim, DC, the program director, encouraged the V&Lers to participate in the “ministry of presence” during their time at Daybreak, which for some involved sitting with a guest and talking.  For others, it involved playing a game with a guest or two and getting into the competitive spirit with them. The ministry of presence looked different for everyone in the group, but all were embodying the spirits of St. Vincent and St. Louise as they used their time intentionally to get to know guests.

The V&L House residents pose with a statue of Otis Redding, who was from Macon, in a park close to Daybreak. Front Row (L to R): Olivia Johnson, Nicolette Prociuk, Liam Kemmy, Morgan Spears, Katie Wallace. Back Row (L to R): Erica Dix, Beth Pedraza, Nick Cuba, Alli Grecco
Vincent and Louise House residents outside Daybreak. Front row (L to R): Beth Pedraza, Morgan Spears, Olivia Johnson, Alli Grecco, Nicolette Prociuk. Back row (L to R): Erica Dix, Liam Kemmy, Nick Cuba, Katie Wallace

Interested in learning more about the Vincent and Louise House and the work they do throughout the year?  Think you might want to apply to live in the house next year?  Follow the V&L House on Facebook for updates about what’s going on in the house and information about the application process, which takes place during Winter Quarter.

Katie Sullivan is the University Minister for Catholic Social Concerns in DePaul’s Catholic Campus Ministry office and coordinates the Vincent and Louise House.

Knit with Meaning: Crafting for a Cause

IMG_1039

Katie Sullivan is the University Minister for Catholic Social Concerns in Catholic Campus Ministry.

In the last few years, I’ve found myself doing a lot of knitting. Some of this knitting is definitely because a lot of people I know are having babies – friends, siblings, co-workers, you name it. Some of this knitting is because I simply enjoy it or want to make something special for a loved one. And some of it is because of Crafting for a Cause, our CCM program for students who want to knit or crochet things to donate to those in need and build community with each other as they knit.

In the process of doing all this knitting, I’ve discovered that when I knit, I keep the person I’m knitting for in my consciousness and hope that the love I’m feeling for them goes into the item. In this way, knitting is now a spiritual practice for me. Knitting with intention, as I try to do, has become prayer.

During the 2013 summer months, one knitting project in particular took on extra special meaning for me – a blanket I was making for my older sister, Keary.   She had been diagnosed with breast cancer earlier that summer, and I had decided to make her a blanket she could take with her to chemotherapy.

This blanket felt extra special; it was a big blanket and required a lot of yarn and every time I worked on it, I thought of Keary and put my heart into the project, essentially praying for her health and recovery. Yet, it somehow seemed to have more mistakes than usual in it.

When I gave it to her, and apologized for the many mistakes, she smiled and said, “Don’t you remember what Mrs. Samson [our former teacher who taught us both to knit] said about mistakes? They’re your love.”

I hadn’t remembered that little nugget of wisdom from the woman who had taught me to knit but hearing it made me happy because it felt so true. I had been thinking of any mistakes in my knitting as my signature (thanks to a friend for sharing that piece of wisdom with me). Now, though, I think I’ll look at any mistakes and see them as both love and a signature.

In a very special way, knitting, for me, has become prayer in its own unique way. What are some things that you do that have become spiritual practice?

Do you want to try knitting as a spiritual practice now? If so, please join our Crafting for a Cause group on Fridays at 11am in the CCM office (Suite 104 of the Lincoln Park Student Center).

A Parade of Casseroles

casseroleWorking at DePaul University I’ve learned a lot about St. Vincent DePaul the charity saint. While many others were doing good works during his time, Vincent was the first to organize charity in a systemic way. One of the first places he experimented with this was at a parish in Chatillon, France. He recognized that parishioners would respond when there was a neighbor in need, but that the person would be overwhelmed with too much attention all at once and so the good will was not put to good use – back then they didn’t have freezers to hold extra casseroles! So, Vincent began to organize the parishioners into small groups of people who would go out and do home visits to assess need and then decide together how to respond to it. In these visits, both the physical and spiritual needs would be attended to.

This practice continues today around the world with the St. Vincent DePaul Society and other ministries, where volunteers go into others’ homes. It is also happening right here in Chicago in my own St. John Berchmans (SJB) parish community thanks to the ministry of HOPE (Helping Other People Enthusiastically).

For the past few weeks my family has been the gracious recipient of the generosity of SJB friends who have brought us meals as we welcome home our son Theodore.

Typically I’m on the giving, not receiving end. At first my husband was hesitant to receive such generosity since “we” don’t really need it. When I asked if he was going to suddenly take up cooking as his new hobby and leave his newborn in order to go to the grocery store, he quickly changed his mind. Yes, perhaps we could use some extra help! It is a humbling time as we welcome with open arms a parade of casseroles and tasty treats to give us the endurance to push through sleepless nights.

There is something very intimate and sacred about inviting someone into your home, especially during a moment of need. People we see in the pews on Sunday entered both the joy and messiness of our life with a newborn. Some would stay and visit for a while, sharing their wisdom on parenthood. Others saw we had our hands full and just left instructions of how to heat the food.

The simple act of preparing and delivering a meal is profound way to continue to build bridges of solidarity together. We are grateful for the physical and spiritual nourishment we’ve received from the SJB community –the actual meals and the many powerful prayers that have made all the difference in our and Teddy’s life. Hopefully someday you will have the opportunity to join or receive a parade of casseroles too.

Joyana Dvorak serves as Service Immersion Coordinator with DePaul University Ministry when she’s not home on maternity leave with her son.

Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org