Saint Bridget Parish Millbury MA 8-3-2017

On August 3, 2017 we have the pleasure of the company of volunteers from Saint Brigid’s parish in Millbury MA. This day of work was set up by Greg Bernard. They came to volunteer as part of their parish youth program C.S.A.W.  which stands for “Christian Servants At Work.” Tim” and “Allie” brought 6 young men and women with him to do 4 hours of work.

As always we spent some time with them explaining the Urban Missionaries of Our Lady of Hope and what we do. Once that is done,  we take groups on a tour of the different programs housed here at 242 Canterbury St.: the Christmas Giving Program upstairs, the food pantry in the store, the store itself, and the shed. This helps our volunteers visualize just how large of an operation we have. Then we tell them what they will be doing during their stay and how it will  contribute to the success of this mission.

We broke St. Brigid’s parish group into two groups. Group one brought redeemable bottle and cans to the redemption center. They brought home $102 to help support our food program. The second group worked at filling up a 15 cubic yard dumpster with the remains of earlier smash and bash efforts.

It was a hot, bright sunny day and they worked outside. Needless to say we had to take frequent hydration breaks but they did not shrink from their tasks. They accomplished everything we needed them to complete and had about 20 minutes at the end of the day to sit and share their experiences.

We ended up the session by telling them that without them the work they accomplished would not get done and how we considered their volunteer efforts as a gift from God.”  With that we shared some hugs, took some pictures and said good bye.

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Saint John’s High School Shrewsbury MA

Once again the young men from St. John’s High School, Shrewsbury came to visit. And once again they did an outstanding job for us. We get 4 groups a year from St. John’s and it is always the same. Hard working young men eager to pick up a 5 pound sledge hammer and reduce anything within a 5 foot radius to splinters. Nothing brings a smile to a young man’s face quicker than when you say, “smash it.” Absolutely nothing!

This group had the pleasant task of smashing and bashing 4 couches, an assorted number of small pieces of furniture, 10 or so suitcases and baby seats. These are items that were left in the parking lot in the dead of night, or boxed in with other donations.  Locked suitcases with no keys, unusable baby seats, damaged couches … not helpful to anyone but really fun to smash up!  The students then  sifted through the piles  sorting out the metal to recycle, swept up the pen area, and cut back the grass and bushes that had taken hold in one corner of the pen. We also started to organize the tool area in the shed. We received a donation of 5-drawer dorm bureaus that fit nicely into the shed area. We are now organizing all of the tools into the drawers and labeling them. We had some shelving that we received as a donation from Polar Company almost 30 years ago. Over the years we used it  for various functions in Little Store.  Well now they have been disassembled and we will put the lumber and plywood to be sold in the Flea market.

At the end of the session, as we do with all groups, we sat them down and explained what we do here, who we serve here,  why they did the work they did and its impact on the mission here. We also answered their questions about what they observed during their stay here. It is always nice to shake their hands and accept their thank you’s as they leave. Another nice job Saint John’s!!  

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Retreat!

No, I’m not talking about running away from an enemy, but running away from this busy demanding world we live in. And where did we run to? The St.  Scholastica Priory and St.  Mary Monastery in Petersham, MA. Kathy and I did our personal retreat on Sunday and Monday and the Urban Missionaries of Our Lady of Hope had their day of Recollection on Tuesday, August 1, 2017.

 

The location is truly bucolic in the very best sense of the word. Kathy and I refer to it as “holy ground”, a place that has been graced. We stay at the guest house with its welcoming atmosphere and intimate areas where you can sit and pray, contemplate, or just sit and listen to the quiet. The food is provided or you can bring your own and the cost is a “free will offering.”

 

Whenever we are there we follow the daily schedule of the Benedictine community of sisters and monks. We gather to pray the Liturgy of the Hours seven times a day, starting at 5:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Daily Mass in incorporated into the  hour Terce at midmorning.  This sounds very aggressive in the sense that it might seem that your day is always being interrupted, but in reality your day is being held together by this thread of prayer through it.

 

Each hour has its own psalms, antiphons, readings, and prayers. The community sings each of the hours in Gregorian Chant in Latin. We follow along using translations provided for us by the community. We have, over the years, become somewhat familiar with the chanting of the Latin and when to sit or stand, but it is the peacefulness that fills the chapel while the chanting is takes place that causes me to wonder.  This 10 to 15 minute prayer break that beckons you out of the day’s toils, fears, and turmoil brings you back to the peace of the Lord.

 

We do this for two days and on the third day we take part in the Urban Missionaries of Our Lady of Hope’s day of recollection.  Once a year on the first Tuesday in August the Urban Missionaries gather to pray, share, and enjoy the companionship of being an Urban Missionary.

 

We gather for prayer with the monks and sisters and, during the time between one hour and the next, usually 2 to 3 hours, we meet and discuss topics relevant to the Urban Missionaries of Our Lady of Hope. This year reviewed our constitution and the duties and responsibilities of being an Urban Missionary. We will take up this topic again next April when we meet for our Spring meeting.

 

Kathy and I are thankful for a chance to rest and pray with all of these wonderful people. It was a blessing.

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Y.N.I.A. St Gabriel Upton 2017

Y.N.I.A. St Gabriel Upton 2017

 

Part Two of our Young Neighbors in Action experience was with a group of very hard workers from Saint Gabriel’s Parish, Upton MA. They arrived on Monday July 17, 2017 full of enthusiasm and with bright shiny faces.  They left us on Friday full of Coney Island hot dogs, wearing their battle badges of light blue paint, a little tired, but still full of enthusiasm.

 

This group had the job of finishing up painting the walls in the Just New room and in the back warehouse area. They took to the work even though it called them to do things that they never ever imagined they would be doing in their young lives. We had them paint with 15 foot handles on their rollers and drive the lift around the Little Store so they could get into position to “paint” the wall.  They also worked “way up there,” nearly 40 feet high, in the cage using our forklift truck. They learned something new about this painting stuff every day.

 

It isn’t all just work. During lunch we discussed what happened during the morning and what we hoped to get accomplished in the afternoon. But most often Kathy and I would answer their questions about just what was going on here at the Little Store and what are Urban Missionaries.  This is often the best time of the week because it’s when we get to know each other, share ourselves, and enjoy the camaraderie that develops each and every day.

 

Each member of the group also gets a chance to work the front counter with Marieilis. This allows them to have some interaction with the people who use the store. It is interesting to listen to their experiences at the front counter. For some it was the first time in their young lives that they interacted with a person of color or someone with a much different cultural or language background.  More often than not they come away from this touched by this particular experience here at the Little Store.

 

Saying good-bye is always difficult. The week passes so fast that Friday pops up and we start the closing process. We do our trip to Coney Island Hot Dogs which is always fun to do. Then we have our wrap up meeting where we tell them that, “If you didn’t come and do the work you did this week, it would not get done.” We tell them that we consider them a gift from God and that makes them special. Then we have the final hugs and handshakes and pats on the back as they file out the door into the parking lot for the last time. Then we sit and wonder at the gift we received.

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