Service Saturday: encountering the art of caring for one another

By Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA Membership Director

Sister Rita Heires and Viterbo University student

In January, volunteers from Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin, joined FSPA at St. Rose Convent for Service Saturday, our fourth annual gathering. Together, sisters and students made blankets and cards for homebound and nursing home residents and educational games for Hamilton Early Learning Center. They also wrote thank you cards to La Crosse emergency response personnel. Service Saturday is an extension of Integrated Learning at Viterbo and offers monthly service experiences. The projects create a vehicle for conversation about the needs in our local community, and the program encourages a mutual learning experience between volunteers and sisters.

In addition, 12 fleece tie blankets were made for Project Linus, an organization that donates blankets to children in hospitals and homeless shelters. These blankets not only provide warmth but also comfort in times that are often difficult and traumatic. The blankets provide each recipient with a sense of safety when their world seems to be in turmoil.

Conversations between sisters and students flowed easily as they found zeal, common ground and a desire to learn more about the trials and tribulations among them.

Sister Juanita Hytry and Viterbo University student

The sound of laughter filled the room as volunteers created learning games for Hamilton students. Reflections of what was learned in kindergarten and memories of elementary school were contrasted with the new daily challenges of college and life. Generational gaps were suspended.

At the front of the room was a large card making station. Without the pressure of earning a grade, students jumped wholeheartedly into the project. Scissors, glue, markers, stamps, stickers and a variety of paper covered the table. A package of googly eyes added a sense of joy and whimsy to drawings and cutouts of the various animals. Simple materials were transformed into works of art and acts of love. Each card is distributed to an individual who may not regularly receive such a greeting filled with care. When was the last time you remembered to give a simple thank you to a firefighter, police officer or paramedic who serve daily in our communities and put their lives on the line for our safety?

With projects completed, volunteers walked together to the dining room to share lunch. Sisters who live at St. Rose offered hospitality and conversation. A sense of common ground was discovered as each learned more about one another and the needs found not only in La Crosse but throughout our world. At the end of the meal, sisters stood to sing our traditional FSPA blessing on the volunteers. Pope Francis would be proud of not only the ministry that was shared but also of the encounter and exchange of ideas between two generations.

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