It is with a touch of nostalgia that we watch summer fade into fall as we treasure our many happy memories of the four young summer service live-in women who gave so generously of themselves here at Sacred Heart Residence during the past few months. Julianna Ortiz from Florida and Molly Weingart from Montana, who were participants in the Little Sisters’ Spring onto Service program, were joined by Jung Hyun (Kayla) Lee and Lydia Piendel—both from Georgia—who came to us through the University of Notre Dame’s Summer Service Learning Program. These four amazing young ladies, who have certainly left their mark on our hearts, would now like to share with us what the experience meant to them…
This summer proved to be two months that I never imagined I would have the opportunity to experience. I was greeted with the unenthusiastic emotions from family and friends while explaining my summer plans to stay in Alabama. Something that I realized from this summer is that I could spend a week trying to explain why and what and who but I could never come close to doing this experience justice. One of the many takeaways from this opportunity was the ability to find the beauty in patience. In a world full of rushing around, it was life changing to enter a place of meditation and peace through the company of 75+ beautiful souls. Through sitting in a Resident’s room for hours listening to their life story or stopping to find the beauty in peeling potatoes, God never ceased the outpour of blessings that came from doing every single task, especially when doing these with love. God knew what our hearts needed and how to satisfy the burning desire within. Also, being able to have a sneak peak into the life of a Little Sister of the Poor made me even more appreciative of religious life. I pray that every young adult gets the opportunity to experience such a prayerful and fruitful time of mission work and discernment.
What did I experience in my time serving with the Little Sisters this summer? Well, simply put, I experienced a transformation of heart. My heart was transformed in ways I never could have predicted. Coming into this summer I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew that I would have the opportunity to serve the elderly and grow in my faith. But I had no idea just how I would go about accomplishing these things. I came into the summer with one prayer; that I would have an openness to receive whatever God had in store for me. Going in with an open heart I was nervous. Openness can feel very exposing and vulnerable. But what further shocked me was that upon my arrival at the Sacred Heart Residence in Mobile, I was flooded with peace and purpose. I knew that I was exactly where I was meant to be this summer. I still didn’t know what I was here for or why, but it was enough to know that I was in the right place for God to work in me and through me.
In my time spent with the Residents, friendships were fostered and unforgettable memories made. From Miss Barbara teaching me the “Electric Slide” to the contagious laughter of Miss Esther, to the gift of gaining Miss Ethel as my adopted grandma and receiving life-giving words of inspiration from each and every Resident, my heart and thus my very life has been transformed. I knew I would be serving the elderly this summer but what I did not foresee was how much the Residents would be serving me. Whenever I would sit with a Resident it was like they were speaking to my heart. The advice and wisdom I received from them is nothing short of priceless. I would walk away from our conversations feeling like my heart was about to overflow. These people didn’t hesitate to let me into their lives and share everything with me. They might appear to be but a shell of a person with few possessions, but trust me, that is but a mere camouflage to the greatness that lies within each and every one of the Residents I was blessed to share life with this summer. There is so much to be gained from friendship with an elderly person. Their knowledge and outlook on life is eloquent and yet straightforward with a certain simplicity that is the perfect guiding light for young people.
I leave Mobile with a newfound purpose. I want to embrace my youth and immerse myself into this one life that I have been given. If there was one thing all the Residents echoed it’s that life is short and your youth is even shorter so don’t waste one precious moment. And I can tell you this; I don’t plan to waste a single second of mine. Thank you Little Sisters for providing me with this opportunity to serve and to all the Residents for welcoming me into your lives. I love you all and will keep all of you close in prayer, please do the same for me 🙂
Jung Hyun (Kayla) Lee
The Sacred Heart Residence as a Home for the elderly and poor has given me the opportunity to learn and install into my heart the meaning of service, compassion, and kinship. Likewise, the Sacred Heart Residence as a home for the Little Sisters has allowed me to understand the beauty of a simple and humble life that allows oneself to recognize the value and joy in every blessing. When I compiled all of the things I learned at the Sacred Heart Residence, I realized that these things add up to the life of a true follower of Christ. Meaning, a person who recognizes the importance of compassion, kinship, and humility.
Spending my summer with the Residents and Little Sisters at the Sacred Heart Residence in Mobile was not my original plan, but I’m so glad it was God’s plan. In a relatively last minute turn of events, I ended up in Alabama and instantly could sense a special sort of family and love in the Home! The Residents captured my heart, and I was able to form so many wonderful relationships with Sisters and Residents alike. Spending time just talking and getting to know the Residents is something I found so engaging and exciting, and I hope the Residents know how much those times meant to me! Marriage advice, family advice, career advice, and advice for spending my youth in the most fruitful way possible cover just some of what I was able to learn from the Residents; not to mention hearing all the stories from their youth, and learning what it means to love another in service. I was given the opportunity to participate in serving three meals a day, attend Mass and evening prayer daily, attend and help at different fun Resident-centered activities (manicures, outings to a casino/store/restaurant, etc.) and through this was able to really grow in my own understanding of the teachings of the Catholic church, love, and compassion. This summer program allowed us to not only experience the unique community and love at the Little Sisters, but to live it. I know I left a different, more caring, and kinder individual than I was. The Little Sisters of the Poor and the Residents there have given me so much to grow with and I am deeply thankful for the past two months!