By Ellie Sommers
Sun contributing writer
Sixteen members of the EDGE junior high youth group at Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville made a one-day mission trip to the Bronx Oct. 6. Students and chaperones partnered with the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal to serve the poor in New York City’s northern borough. Ellie Sommers, a 7th grader at Immaculate Conception School who participated in the trip, offers her reflections on the day here.
The convent is alive with Franciscan nuns and volunteers. Very soon the guests will progress through the convent’s doors. Then, amidst the preparation, the Immaculate Conception EDGE youth group arrives from Central New York. Help is on the way!
Our EDGE group, under the direction of Kelly Colangelo, was on Mission NYC. We were on a quest to make a difference. Whether it was through words or actions, our job was to change the world one step at a time. Kelly and the group — consisting of kids in seventh and eighth grade — had made the four-and-a-half hour trip to reach out to others.
The sisters greeted us warmly. They told us all about themselves, including where they came from and what they did before now. We learned that the sisters don’t earn money. They can’t just go to the local grocery store to stock their pantry for the week. They need donations from caring people to put their dinner on the table. The sisters not only need food for themselves but also need to provide for their guests. Many people depend on them to produce a hot meal Saturday afternoons.
Then we got down to work. The groups divided and conquered to cover as many tasks as possible. Some kids were involved with food preparation, while others went to an upstairs room to fold clothes for the needy men of Harlem.
After a few minutes a bell rang, signaling the group to meet downstairs. We were broken up again, anticipating the guests who would soon be welcomed inside for a hot meal. Some kids went outside on the porch to pray the rosary with the guests waiting in line. Many people went into the kitchen to cook the food, and also to lend a hand with food distribution. The other job was greeting the guests as they walked in. Many youth group participants had never done soup kitchen service work before. As the kids and their group’s sister went to their stations, everyone was extremely excited.
It was an eye-opening experience to see the sisters’ compassion and the joy on the guests’ faces. The visitors were so happy, and it was humbling to see them take only what they needed for that day. Before they left, we gave them a loaf of bread and fruit. Since we had extra bread, they could take two loaves. Most of the guests only took one loaf, and some didn’t take anything with them!
People like you and me might take a banana or an orange for granted. When the patrons saw the bowl of oranges on the counter in the foyer, their eyes went wide. A sister explained to us that sometimes just the bright color of fruit makes them joyous. Fresh produce is hard to come by for most of the guests we met.
We truly saw Jesus in the faces of the guests. They were so generous, although some of them live on next to nothing. One kind man came in and gave a mint to everyone at the greeting station. That small act of kindness and generosity meant so much. Life’s simple actions can say a lot about you.
The sisters’ way of life was also really special to see. They are grateful for what they have, and they live in such a prayerful atmosphere. They say the same prayers each day, and the pope says them each day at a different time. So, one sister explained that it was a revolving circle of prayer, geared toward our safety and world peace. Isn’t it nice to know that someone is praying for us every day?
On this trip, I learned that we can make a difference in the world. We can do something so simple, so miniscule, but something that can greatly impact fellow children of God. We can help. We can go out and do something good today.