I arrived at the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown Motherhouse on a quiet Saturday afternoon. Sister Dorothy Kundracik greeted me and showed me to the guest room. It had been about six months since my last visit to the Motherhouse, and it had been over two years since I had done my last extended internship with the Sisters. As my life’s journey unfolds and as I continue to grow and change, something continues to draw me back to the community. This wasn’t something I verbalized to Sister Dorothy that afternoon, but as our conversation went on, she responded to my unspoken thoughts.
Sister Dorothy told me about a book she was reading called Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self. The premise of the book is that we seek out the people who mean the most to us because they are reflections of our own soul, our most authentic self. Her words resonated with my return to the Motherhouse and the relationships I have developed with the Sisters over the years. By spending time in their presence and immersing myself in their stories, I receive new clarity into my own journey.
During my weekend with the Sisters, I enjoyed talking with them and doing puzzles together, and we even shared a beautiful outdoor picnic. I also had the opportunity to join the Sisters for Mass on Sunday morning. On the eve of my day of service, I listened carefully to the words of Psalm 34: Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. The priest’s homily described how we are constantly bombarded with advertisements that appeal to our human needs, whereas Psalm 34 appeals to our spiritual needs. As the priest explained, we are called not only to see Christ in the Eucharist itself but in the people who receive it. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them (John 6:55-56). In the Eucharist, we receive the Bread of Life. We become the light.
Those words were my stepping stones as I left for the Antonine Village the next morning. I greeted Sister Marie, an Antonine Sister, who was finishing breakfast with a couple residents of the assisted living facility. I would be shadowing her for the first half of my day, which began with praying the rosary. Sister Marie and I waited in chapel as the residents filed in. They shared the concerns on their minds that day, and I prayed with them for their intentions. Sister Marie and I then went to the memory care unit, where we prayed and sang songs with the residents. A 99-year-old Italian woman smiled as we played “C'e La Luna Mezz'o Mare” and “Tarantella Neapoletana.”
After lunch, I met up with Ursuline Sister Martha Reed at St. Columba parish. Our time together began with a tour of the cathedral. Sister Martha led me along the bright white walkway to the front of the building, where Bishop George Murry’s coat of arms was engraved in the stone, along with his motto: “Christ My Light.”
The words echoed back to the homily given by the bishop of my own diocese of Cleveland during a celebration called The Fest, who had told us to “Be the Light.” Those words had lit the path along my journey to Youngstown, where the flame now continued to glow. I carried that light back to the rectory, where I helped Sister Martha prepare bags for the food pantry. She encouraged me to pray as I packed the bags of food, that those who receive it may be nourished.
To end the day, I joined Sister Martha at the Youngstown State University volunteer fair. We set up a booth for the St. Columba food pantry, where I would help recruit student volunteers to do the work I had been doing that day. We spoke to many students who seemed excited about the work Sister Martha was doing, including one student who said his experience as a grocery store cashier would come in handy.
By the time I arrived back home, I felt tired from a busy day but also re-energized from a weekend of reflection and service. The night sky shone with one million acts of light. My day of service was a single constellation in an infinite expanse of stars.
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