We participated in an Alternative Spring Break experience sponsored and organized by the Campus Ministry program at St. John Church and Catholic Student Center in East Lansing, Michigan. St. John Church and Student Center is a part of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish of East Lansing, and the ASB program relies on the support of parishioners at both sites. The participating students were Eric Collins – Student Leader, Amanda Kujawa, Mike Kujawa, and Christine Weingartz. These are the student’s reflections from their experience at our home:
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Spending my senior year college spring break with the Little Sisters of the Poor and all of their residents was such an uplifting and eye opening experience. Before staying with the sisters I was always nervous and shy around the elderly, but spending a week talking with all of them and helping in any way possible I developed a desire to spend more time with them while I was there. My faith grew during the few days just by watching how the sisters interacted and cared for all of the residents, they had an individual relationship with each person. A lady that helped make my experience so inspirational was Miss. Charlotte. She was always making me laugh and had a smile that was permanent on her face. In the past she helped the Little Sisters of the Poor and now she gets to be a part of it and we got to help her. All of the residents have a special story and I know they enjoy living with the sisters and receive the loving care that they all deserve. Thank you sisters for all that you do! God Bless.
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When I first walked into the St. Paul’s home for the elderly, I thought it would be like any other home that I have visited. My vision of long, white, hospital like hallways quickly faded as soon as I met the sisters, staff, volunteers, and residents. Even though I was just a guest for a week, I felt like I wasn’t a stranger and welcome into the Sister’s and the residents lives. What stood out to me the most during my visit was the dedication to their mission of “Making their Residents Happy”. While staying at the St. Paul’s home, I adapted this same attitude. There was no task too big or too small that would bring a smile to a residents face.
One day after mass, I had the pleasure of wheeling one of the residents, Richard, back to his room. After making sure he was comfortable in his chair, I asked him if he needed anything else. He asked if I could put on a record for him. What should have been a two second task turned into 10 minute conversation about his taste in music and who was his favorite musical artist. This was one of the many highlights of my week with the Little Sisters of the Poor.
It’s not hard to find a resident with a smile on their face at the St. Paul’s home, but when you are the person who creates that smile it is truly a great feeling that will stick with you forever. The Little Sisters and their staff truly embrace their mission of making their residents happy. I was glad I could be a part of it.
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My spring break experience living with The Little Sisters of the poor is one I will remember for the rest of my life. The thing that stood out to me the most about the Little Sisters is their dedication and love for their work. I spent most of my week on the second floor with Sister Rosemarie. One of the moments that really struck me, was Gisli was crying and Sister Rosemarie went over to her and began speaking Turkish and calming her down. After she left Gisli’s side, Sister Rosemarie came over to Christine and I and said, “I Google Turkish words to speak to her. I know just the basics.” I thought she knew Turkish, for her to care so much to learn another language really inspired me. The love at the Little Sisters of the Poor is evident from the moment you walk in the door. There is a clear love for God and all his people. I will never forget this experience.
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As we arrived in Cincinnati, I felt a little anxious about the prospect of interacting with the citizens of the home. Our main goal was to talk with the seniors and provide them with company, but what if they didn’t want company? What if their hearing impairments or other sense deficits got in the way of their communication? Was our trip for naught? These worries quickly subsided as I got to know many of the residents of the St. Paul Home, befriending them and gaining insight about life from the stories they had to tell me. One night I talked with a resident named Helen for about an hour, and she told me about her life and her family. We went back and forth between watching TV and having a conversation, something I used to do with my grandma. It made me realize that I could have been fulfilling the role of a grandson for her, since perhaps she isn’t able to see hers very often. Also, it was very refreshing to be in an atmosphere of constant service. Many days we were there, we would be volunteering in one way or another for about 12 hours of the day, and leading the charge were the Little Sisters of the Poor. It was inspirational to be in the company of so many women so dedicated to serving others. All in all, Cincinnati was a great experience. To spend the whole week humbling ourselves in the service of others was a very rewarding experience, and it reminded us of the benefits of hard work in all that we do. We will take this attitude of service with us as we continue our education here in East Lansing.
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What a blessing to be able to witness the hand of God at work in this wonderful place! The residents of St. Paul’s Home are in excellent hands. It is obvious that Love flows in both directions in this special place. “To live in Christ is to die in Christ” is faithfully demonstrated by all of the religious affiliated with St. Paul’s home (Sisters, Priests, and Brothers), as well as the entire staff and volunteers. I have no doubt that the MSU students who spent their spring breaks here with have learned much from the experience and will carry it with them for the rest of their lives.