When students signed up to participate in the SND Summer Service Experience, taking time out of their summer vacation, they knew one thing. They would be connecting with other students from SND schools and connecting with people less fortunate than they in the greater Cleveland area.
From June 17-20, 2012, 24 students and their 12 chaperones from Clearwater Central Catholic in Florida, Cleveland Central Catholic, Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, SS. John and Paul, and Notre Dame College came together to learn about the SND charism and translate it into service. For three days they volunteered from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm at five service sites: Office of Migration and Refugee Services assisting with English tutoring, moving families into living quarters; West Side Catholic Center and Bishop Cosgrove Center helping with food preparation for the noon meal, working in the pantry, sorting clothing and socializing with the homeless; Holy Spirit Catholic Church and Sacred Heart Chapel assisting with Vacation Bible Schools. They visited and heard the story of Blessing House, a children’s crisis care center.
After interacting with about 100 children and adults per day, they returned to St. Leonard Youth Retreat Center in Avon, OH, their home base. They volunteered to prepare all their own meals and to participate in daily morning and evening prayer reflection. Each evening a different speaker addressed the group on topics such as the charism of the Sisters of Notre Dame, the two feet of social action and a witness talk from a past participant. Afterwards they enjoyed the rest of the evening with outdoor and indoor games. A rousing campfire with s’mores rounded out the fun of the last evening together.
When these same students left after three days of service, they knew real people behind the face of poverty. They had connected with their own creative and compassionate spirits, experiencing a kinship that desires to make good things happen for others. They had the lived experience of seeing God’s goodness in the faces of those with whom they had worked and played and prayed. They had a better understanding that a caring God does provide for all His children.
Among the spontaneous blessings they named were: “Witnessing people who are suffering and still are happy and grateful; not taking for granted what we do have – parents, a roof over our heads, a good education; finding joy and happiness in serving others, not only because I am helping them, but they are helping me too. . . every time I serve the needy I feel that a part of me has changed for the better; learning respect for others and from others.” One student who had participated in a Nicaragua Immersion Trip with her classmates over Easter break responded: “This [SND Summer Service] experience opened my eyes and made me realize that there are people that need our help right here in Cleveland.”
It is clear that these young people now know a little more about the charism and the work of Sisters of Notre Dame and feel a part of their great story. A new school year has just begun. Watch how these committed students serve and advocate for others in need because together they can do it.
Article submitted by Sister Mary Lisa Novak, SND,
SND Mission Effectiveness Coordinator