By Jessica Taylor
Special to The Texas Catholic
CHICAGO — Over Spring Break, I was one of eight student missionaries sent by SMU Catholic Campus Ministry to partner with students from Southeast Missouri State University to assist the Sisters of Our Lady of Angels, located in west Chicago.
Sleeping Spring Break away sounded tempting, but I was convinced by Kallin Zehren, an SMU missionary for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, to go on the mission trip to inner-city Chicago for the entire week. When I found out we’d be staying in a convent and getting up at 6:30 every morning for daily Mass I have to say I was nervous. I’m the exact opposite of a morning person and not a big fan of roughing it.
But upon arrival, we saw the amazing and important work the Franciscan nuns are doing daily serving the very low-income community in which they live. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the sisters to help provide food and educational assistance to the children, adults and seniors in need. We helped out at the food pantry and served hot meals. We also tutored neighborhood kids at a YMCA program the Sisters work with. Forming relationships with the sisters and the people they serve made for an unforgettable experience.
We especially loved working with the kids, including a boy named Jared. He loved dogs, cars and learning. While he was doing his math homework he asked “Can you check my work after? If I do this by myself then I can grow my brain.”
Hearing this warmed my heart and I hope he continues to have this kind of enthusiasm for school as he grows up. We also volunteered in Sister Stephanie’s theology class. We worked with kids from fourth to eighth grades and helped prepare them to receive their sacraments. I’ve never met kids more excited to learn about Jesus. When Sister Stephanie explained that the Holy Spirit was inside everyone, one little girl got the biggest smile on her face while she said, “Wait, so you’re telling me the Holy Spirit is inside of ME?”
Throughout the week I saw God’s light in these kids and adults we served and also in the sisters. Each evening we had holy hour and finished with small group discussions. I think the other Mustang missionaries and I discovered that not only were we helping these people in need, but they helped us in ways we never imagined. The experience deepened my faith and helped me realize I want to continue to serve in the years to come.
Jessica Taylor, a graduate of Bishop Lynch High School, is a freshman at Southern Methodist University.