2017 is a breath of fresh air. It is also the marking of the almost half-way point of my year of service with Amate House…which is strange to say, because routine and life in community has become the new normal for me. I attended and graduated from the University of Dayton this past May and had chosen to pursue a year of post-grad service early on during my senior year. Formed in the Marianist tradition, teaching, and spirituality, I had previously lived in intentional community for 9 weeks in Appalachia on a mission trip in college. I gained many valuable thoughts, feelings, and lessons from that experience and wanted the challenge of living together in a committed community for a year.
Amate House pulled me in last January. UD does Service Break-out trips during our winter breaks and I was asked to lead the break-out to Amate House by my Campus Ministry. My lay Marianist community member, Tia, was already there serving her year and because I was looking into Amate House as one of my options, I jumped at the chance to visit and explore Chicago. I took a group of about 10 students up to Chicago and we stayed a week at South House in McKinley Park, visiting different service sites each day and spending reflection time together in the evenings. I’m a firm believer that God has this funny way of working in our lives and His presence was made known during this trip. One of the places we visited was a food pantry, called St. James Food Pantry. We participated in handing out groceries in the morning and left before the homeless lunch program, which happens every afternoon. When I walked into this building, it felt like home. The volunteers and staff were extremely welcoming and I began to picture myself in this place if I ended up choosing to apply to Amate House. I met my current boss, Peter, and I could tell the Holy Spirit was hard at work. Time would tell where I would end up...
|Clare shows off the stocked shelves of the St. James Food Pantry.|
My experience at Amate House has taught me about sacrifice, especially recently during the Christmas season. I had to work on Christmas for the first time in my life this year because St. James puts on a Christmas Lunch for the homeless. The entire week leading up to Christmas, I was experiencing this anxiety, dread, and jealousy because not only was I attempting to pull enough volunteers together for this lunch, I was watching my community members get excited about going home to see their families for Christmas. I’m not proud of my feelings, especially the negative ones, but I won’t discount them because they were real, valid, and it was my right to feel whatever I felt.
I had to remind myself that this year of service was not about ME. It wasn’t about what I wanted or how this year could serve me. It is about how God is breaking me down…flooding me with His Grace in order to mold, shape, and use me this year to serve others. I am sure I will gain something from this entire experience, but this year is about giving to others and being a servant leader as Jesus calls us to be. I was giving up my Christmas in order to be with those in need; people like me who otherwise wouldn’t get a meal or get to experience a place of warmth if St. James did not have a lunch program. Thankfully I ended up having enough volunteers and Christmas Day went pretty smoothly. We had about 220 people come to lunch and we able to give out gifts to kids and their parents. I saw such joy on people’s faces as they received their buffet lunch, laughed with their families, kids visited Santa, and listened to the live music. I went home that day with a full heart and am extremely thankful I was able to experience this Christmas program. Christ was present amongst everyone that day, more so this Christmas than any other recent Christmas and I was blessed to experience the richness God can provide us.
Now, it is back to work and the everyday life, but it is a start of a new year and a clean slate. For the rest of my year of service with Amate House and throughout 2017, my constant prayer is for God to use me. Use me. Love me. Use my hands, feet, heart, soul, words, and actions to bring Your kingdom to life. Break me. Break me down in order to bless me up with Your abundance of mercy, grace, love, and compassion… Help me seek the richness in the extraordinary and normal moments. To give me the eyes to see the richness in the thin places in my life. Be this force to continue to stretch and push me out of my comfort zones. Not my will, but Yours be done, Lord.
I want to walk away changed from this year. My prayer for you is that you will not be hesitant to seek His will in your lives. Because He’s never going to leave you in this place where His Grace will not sustain you… I firmly believe God’s will for me is to serve through Amate House. And this year, I want to be as present as I can for the remainder of my time.