Sunday, March 8, 2015

Back home to Duquesne

St. Benedict the Moor Church in Dayton

Two windows from St. Benedict the Moor's Stations of the Cross

Oh the joys of youth!  Some of our students were awake last night to see their phones switch from 1:59 to 3am at day light savings time.  The were up playing Mafia, a roll playing and story telling game that is now a staple of Cross Cultural Mission trips.

We were up and out of Fr. Francis' house by 10:30am and over to St. Benedict the Moor for the Gospel mass at 11:00am. The choir was outstanding as today they were missing their keyboard player and sang a cappella.  Fr. Bill was the celebrant and Fr. Francis the homilist.

After mass it was into cars and away to Pittsburgh. And now we are home.  Tired but thankful for such a wonderful week.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The world is too much with us

Too much work (the painting looks great)

Followed by too much food (the tacos were great). 

Followed by too much Dodge Ball (O God, I'm so sweaty, but it was great). 

Followed by too much reflection (those insights were great). 

Followed by too much desire for ice cream (it will be great, Fr. Bill, we'll be right back). 

After dinner dodgeball 

The world is too much with us; late and soon, 
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;— 
Little we see in Nature that is ours; 
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! 
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon; 
The winds that will be howling at all hours, 
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers; 
For this, for everything, we are out of tune; 
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be 
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; 
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, 
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; 
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; 
Or hear old Triton blow his wreath├Ęd horn
                         William Wordsworth 

United States Air Force Museum

We had the morning free today so Fr. Francis led us over to the US Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson Base. We got there when they opened the door so we could be first in line for the tour of the presidential hanger and the 707 used as Air Force One. The plane was the one used to transport JFKs body back from Dallas and on which LBJ was sworn in as president. 

Along with the presidential planes hundreds of concept air craft and military planes were on display. 

We got back to the parish at 1:30 and by 2:00 we were ready to finish the painting of the school gym that we began on Friday. 

Lastly the warm weather was enough to melt some of the hard packed snow and make it pliable for snowballs. Katie soon found out that the rank of Graduate Assistant does not protect you from attack. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

St. Benedict the Moor School & Church

At the very beginning of this trip we impressed on our students that we go not to accomplish a task but to be a community that meets other communities and walks with them and shares our faith with them. That's not always easy to see. We know there is an entire community dedicated to St. Ambrose and Hales Franciscan and Kenwood United Church of Christ and St. Vincent de Paul and St. Benedict the Moor. We also know that those people are committed to reaching out to the poor and marginalized in their neighbourhoods. We just joined them for a few days and walked beside them. We ended the service component of our trip this afternoon by joining some remarkable people. We joined Fr. Francis and his almost quixotic quest to keep the parish school open as a lifeline in a troubled section of the city. We joined the loyal workers at the St. Benedict the Moor Fish Fry and entered into their family circle. And most especially we joined with Emmit and Rita and listened to their stories of overcoming segregation in the Catholic Church. It was a good afternoon more so for the people we met than the fish we served, the church we cleaned or the school we decorated. 

We're getting too good at this

This morning we were at the shelter at 8:30.  The rules of this shelter are that everyone must be up and out of the dorms by 8:00am. Those women who have nowhere else to go can stay in the day room. The day room is pretty stark. A few tables and stackable chairs, a case worker at a desk to offer assistance and a radio playing jazz music are all that are there. 

We arrived and were put to work painting the toilet facilities at the day room. I was asked why everyone wanted us to paint. I had to think about it but the answer was pretty obvious- the biggest cost in painting is the labour and in the case of painting cinder block bathrooms it's labour that doesn't have to be very skilled. For the church or the school or the shelter our painting was the biggest cost savings that our volunteering could provide. 

We're back at the rectory for a lunch of PB&J (the Lenten standby). A game of cards on the dinning room table while we wait for the afternoon assignment. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Out of the cars and right to work

We traveled from Chicago to Dayton today. We had an early start and everyone ate their lunch in the car so we could arrive on time for our afternoon service project at the St Vincent de Paul homeless shelter. 

This was the largest shelter I have ever seen. They serve 1,000 meals a day and house over 90 women plus children and men with families. They have a separate facility for single men elsewhere. 

We arrived and got right to work painting the men's toilet and shower room.

Many hands make light work and many practiced hands make quality work. Our crew were well trained in Chicago so when the maintenance man asked if we could paint he was surprised that we jumped to it and finished the job in no time. 

One enterprising student who forgot to change shoes didn't want to be left out and found a creative use for painters tape. 

Fr. Francis Tandoh and Miss Cynthia, the parish council president, came and spoke to the students this evening. They gave a very clear picture of the challenges facing the parish and the community and spoke about the parish commitment to education. 

We are all settled in to Fr. Francis' house and after pizza for dinner we are turning in for the night. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dinner with Liz and Beverly

Lake Point Tower is a wonderfully iconic Chicago building capturing the city's love with curved walls in architecture and political intrigue.  It is the only building east of Lake Shore Drive and commands great views of the city and the lake.  Liz Richards, a Duquesne Alumna and her friend and fellow almna Beverly, welcomed us to Liz's apartment at Lake Point Tower for dinner tonight. 

As we walked in all eyes and cameras were drawn to the wall of windows.  After gawking like country bumpkins we settled in to a fine meal and conversation withour hosts.  Bev told us stories of her time in Duquesne and her life in Chicago and France.  Liz was full of stories of "old Duquesne" and had the girls laughing at the rule that stated coeds were not allowed in the dinning hall in trousers.  Liz got a kick out of hearing that some students now come down in slippers and pajama pants.

Tomorrow we're off to Dayton.  After reflection everybody packed their lunch for tomorrow.

Time capsules on the walls

Our students were fascinated by the old intercom system in St Ambrose rectory.  We're sure it was state of the art when the house was built.

But maybe even more curious are the names still in the directory.  We're not sure of what ever became of Fr. Dragastin, Fr. Rosemeyer or Fr. Hazard (hopefully they are in their heavenly reward) but they were the last to receive calls on this intercom.  Once the technology was no longer useful it was abandoned with so little thought that no one even bothered to remove their names from the little windows.  Today we have junk drawers were old cell phone collect for years after they received their last call.  Some things never change.

Finishing up the painting and going back to High School

Wednesday is here and it's our last full day in Chicago.  We split the crew up into two groups, half went over to Hales Francisan High School and half stayed here at St Ambrose.

Hales Franciscan has less than 100 students. Many schools are struggling in Chicago.  The City closed over 50 public schools in the past two years and laid off many teachers.  There are many factors in this, low birth rates and declining population is the easiest to understand but there have been other factors like the rise of Charter Schools and the proliferation of high end private academies.  Catholic schools, which have always been seen as the affordable option in private schools, have seen a steady decline in enrollment.  The widening gap between the rich and the poor in Chicago means there is little room for the lower and middle class education option, a niche that Catholic Schools once filled.

Eight of our students volunteered to go over to Hales this morning and help the principal make calls follow up the parents of eighth grade students who have taken the Catholic School entrance exam.  They were admissions officers for the day.

The rest oh the group stayed at St Ambrose and finished up the last two rooms on the third floor.  Navy  blue isn't often a colour that you see in wall paint.  Maybe as an accent wall but diffenately not a colour for four walls in a small room.  Painting those walls was a worthy morning's labour.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Kenwood United Church of Christ Soup Kitchen Experience

Greetings from Marianne and Andrea! We started the day with volunteering at the soup kitchen down the street this Tuesday morning. While the weather was gloomy, we were optimistic to jump into a new experience. Three of us, Marianne, Darren, and Minha, helped cutting peppers. Two of us, Matt and Kelsey, helped cutting apples. And two others, Andrea and Elyse, helped prepare breakfast and lunch in the kitchen. For breakfast, we made rice, hot dogs, and white bread with hot tea. For lunch, we made pasta, bread, carrots, salad, fruit, and desserts. After the meals were prepared, we helped serve the food to the members of the community and some of us were able to interact with them. They were very grateful and pleased with our generosity and willingness to help during our Spring break. We also got to see their beautiful 130 year old church. We were in awe with the sense of community that this area has and we're grateful for this opportunity and experience.