Sunday, May 26, 2013

Life Lived in Milwaukee

I arrived in Milwaukee, WI on April 1st and remained in ministry there until Thursday, May 16th.  I spent most of my days at St. Joseph’s Academy where a high percentage of the students and their families speak Spanish.  We accept children for childcare from the age of six weeks to three years old.  The school, located on the upper levels, begins with Kindergarten and goes up to the second grade.  Four of our Sisters in the area minister there as well.  Sister Mary Brendan helps guide the mission and ministry team; Sister Mary Camille goes in early every morning to open the building and greet all with smiles from the front desk; Sister Mary Susan happily spends her days with the infants; and Sister Mary Victoria brings joy and organization to the library.

As for me, I got to visit almost every classroom!  Each morning at St. Joseph’s I began in the childcare area with infants and toddlers, helping to feed babies and wipe runny noses when needed.  I was always greeted with tiny hands holding up books for me to read, but try as I might, I could never keep up with the high demand.  In the afternoon I would go upstairs to work with the school-aged children where I either floated among small-group activities, or worked one-on-one with students who needed the extra help.  The children and I would work on letter and number recognition and I enjoyed watching them improve as the weeks went on.  José is one of the students with whom I worked regularly.  When we first started out he said to me, “I have to learn this so I can go to first grade,” but he was never unhappy about the extra work.  In fact, one Friday he said to me, “This is fun!  I wish it was school tomorrow so we could do this again.”  For learning a second language while at the same time adjusting to a school environment and new concepts, these children never seem to believe it is impossible or even too difficult.  They are true examples of perseverance.

Other than the classroom, I got to spend time with Sister Victoria in the library where I was able to read with the first and second grade classes.  Many of the children began asking about the Bible and wanted me to read them stories about Jesus, or explain to them how to make the sign of the cross.  I also had an opportunity to attend a Brewer’s baseball game as a chaperone with a kindergarten class.  It was wonderful just to watch them on the bus ride over and see them simply enjoying life as children.
Praying the rosary at Holy Wisdom Academy
From May 6th – 10th, I was with Sister Mary Rosalie at Holy Wisdom Academy.  I got to know Sister Rosalie’s 4th grade homeroom class as I helped with art projects and homework.  By the end of the week I gave a total of nine vocation talks.  It was extremely enjoyable!  Thanks to the help of many Sisters in Chicago, I was able to give out several water bottles, hundreds of rosaries, buttons, lanyards and a few Felician magazines.  The students, in turn, gifted me with hundreds of questions!  In speaking with grades 3 – 8, I am sure you can imagine the questions I received: “Are you allowed to go to the mall?”; “Can Sisters paint their nails?”; “Do you have a cell phone?”  I also received a question I had never gotten before.  A fourth grade girl with her hand raised asked, “If you weren’t a Sister, what do you think you’d be doing now?”  It was a question I attempted to answer at the moment, but one I think I will continue to reflect upon as I consider how much I feel I have grown during my time in community.

Overall, I enjoyed getting to know the Sisters in Milwaukee by spending time with them in ministry and in their homes.  It was difficult to leave, but I look forward to whatever God has planned in the coming months, especially as three of us novices prepare to make our first vows.  Please keep us in your prayers and thanks for all of your support thus far!