Reflections by Laura & Mary Grace
Opening my eyes to the possibilities
Whenever someone asks me to describe my experience this summer, the only thing that I can say is, “It’s been so good! I absolutely love it here!”
Looking back after two months of living, learning, and working with the Little Sisters of the Poor at Jeanne Jugan Residence in Pawtucket, RI those few words don’t even begin to express all of the amazing experiences that I’ve had here. I’ve worked in a nursing home setting before, but I’ve never seen a place quite like the Little Sisters. From the cheerfulness of the Sisters to the gratefulness of the Residents, I was amazed from the very first moment I arrived.
This experience has truly opened my eyes to the possibilities of religious life and discipleship. I fully believe that God has granted me this experience to reveal the mysteries of charity and humility. Of course, I knew what these meant before beginning my time here but getting to see them lived out constantly changed the way I perceived them.
For instance, spending time with Gert, one of the Residents, helped me to not take things for granted. Gert has a lot of trouble with both seeing and hearing, but she always loves to go outside. So, whenever I would have some free time, I would take her out and wheel her around the garden. She loves looking at the flowers and hearing the birds and planes flying above her. I would point out things out to her and she wouldn’t be able to see or hear them. It made me realize that these are gifts from God that we never think about, that we take for granted, each and every day. It takes a person like Gert to make us stop and look at the beauty all around us and truly see it, as if for the first time.
I was also amazed at the diversity of Sisters, volunteers, and staff members, some who have worked here for more than 30 years, this longevity due to the beautiful environment and community the Sisters have created. Many of the staff members are not Catholic and have had no experience with religious before working here but the presence of the Sisters is now their main reason for staying.
They were called to the spirit of charity and hospitality that the Sisters promote. The Sisters themselves come from all different places – India, Sri Lanka, and here in the United States – Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, and even Pawtucket, RI! They come from all walks of life and yet are all called to the same way of life, the same mission. I have often found it interesting and sometimes entertaining to compare the different personalities of the Sisters, each having something unique to offer to the spirit of the Home.
My personal journey of discipleship and discernment has been nurtured and furthered as a result of my interactions with and observations of the Residents and this beautiful community of Sisters. I am so grateful to have been able to have had this two-month summer experience as I continue to discern what the Lord is asking of me.
God likes to surprise us
This is my second summer working with the Little Sisters of the Poor and I expected the experience to be familiar and routine. Last summer, at St. Joseph Home in Enfield, Connecticut, I learned what it was like to work with the elderly and to enter into the loving family the Sisters create in their Homes. So upon my arrival at Jeanne Jugan Residence in Pawtucket, Rhode Island I figured I had already “learned the ropes” of Spring into Service and knew what to expect and what was expected of me.
But God likes to surprise us! Last summer God helped me to become a stronger and happier person through the simple joys of interacting with the Residents and the Sisters. Last summer I became more open and outgoing versus the introverted individual I was before.
This summer, God built on that. The Homes of the Little Sisters of the Poor radiate love and peace and they stand out as a safe harbor of joy amidst the worldly distractions and stresses of our lives. This summer, in the steady schedule of Mass and prayer, in the quiet of this Home and in the Chapel, my faith and relationship with God has been strengthened. This summer, He came to reveal Himself to me in everything. This summer hasn’t been about me learning new social skills. It has been about Him and a constant awareness that everything contains His grace and blessing, that every interaction is simply a chance to interact with Him.
Father Caul, the retired priest with whom I am blessed to share a meal each morning captured the essence of this in a recent homily. During Mass around Trinity Sunday Father offered, “let the Holy Trinity wrap you so tightly in love that you feel it from the tips of your toes to the top of your head.” This focus on God results in a beauty that shines forth from your being. Every act and every moment is informed by this and everything you do will reveal God to those around you because of the focus on Him above all else.
This has defined my summer and what I have pursued and what I have tried to become. And what better place to undertake such a pursuit? The Sisters are perfect role models of the goal I hope to achieve! They have given their lives over in such pure love to Jesus that it shines through their every action and interaction.
One might often wonder how the Sisters radiate so much joy and affection every time they interact with a Resident. The answer: it is because in every face they see, every hand they touch, they are loving Him.
– Mary Grace