Reflections from Arkansas

When the St. Leo’s church group was here on their “Spring Break On” trip, we asked them to take a few minutes and jot down a reflection about their experience at the Rebuild Center. This small group of students served with Lantern Light for three days and helped us out tremendously.  They did a little gardening for us, a whole lot of chopping (in preparation for the Fish Fry), and they gathered our guests around a guitar and sang for and WITH them.  We look forward to welcoming them back to our center in the future!

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“When I first heard we would be doing service that helped the homeless, I envisioned a place that was cold and made of cinder blocks.  This place was completely opposite of anything that I could have imagined.  The center provides everything that people with homes forget they need.  The fact that you can get your mail there was awe-inspiring for me.  Things like showers and phones are blessings when you don’t have a place to call home.  The guest themselves are more hopeful than I thought they would be.  Everyone has a story.  They all have hopes and this is just a pause on their journey.  The center helps people who have reached their bottom to reach for something more.

The Center itself gives off an atmosphere of happiness and peace that comes from the building as well as the volunteers.  The architecture itself really made an impact on me because the city is so gray that a pop of color is enough to lift the spirit.

This haven that I was lucky enough to spend my Spring Break at was greater than I could imagine and completely opposite of a cinder block cell. “

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“The Rebuild Center is a place of compassion and hope.  The people who work there every day choose to live a life of holiness and humbleness.  I have been very impressed by the amount of organization the Center keeps and the way it has been run.  My favorite aspect of the center is the atmosphere it has.  It truly is a “recovery: center in every aspect, where individuals can come and rest, and feel safe about themselves in a faith-filled environment.  I’m so very thankful that I’ve been able to volunteer at and encounter this beautiful place, and I know that God has a hand in every aspect of it.”

 

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“My experience at the Rebuild Center throughout this week has been an eye opening experience to say in the least.  The individuals I have met while volunteering here have been some of the most positive people.  I have been able to meet people who I will always remember in my life and in my prayers.  I can only hope that one day I can bring about the hope and faith that this institution has brought.  The center is more than a shelter or a place to be fed, it has become a loving community in which each guest is a part of.  I cannot express the amount of gratitude I have for this center and everything it does for the less fortunate.”

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“My time here at Lantern Light Ministries has truly been a humbling and rejuvenating experience.  When I entered the center for the first time, I didn’t really know what to expect. As Sister Vera talked to us about how the Center ran, I was blow away.  It was wonderful to see so many people doing the work of God.  As my time progressed, serving at the Center, I had to the chance to speak to some of the individuals that utilize the services offered…Wow!  We, as humans, can learn so much from those who have little.  The responsorial psalm for Sunday is “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” I was hit like a ton of bricks.  There are so many things I want in this life and sometimes I am too focused on the future events.  Being here in New Orleans, at Lantern Light, has caused some reflecting and reevaluating on my behalf.  Like the song says, “I once was blind, but now I see!”

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“It has been a magnificent blessing to have a spring break “on” (not a spring break off) and to come to New Orleans to help out with the Center.  Through small projects, I feel like I can help this wonderful ministry.  When I think of servitude and giving back, one word continuously pops into my head: LOVE.  That is exactly what I have witnessed these past couple of days with the service we have tried to do. All of the sisters and volunteers at Lantern Light Ministry have given so much of their time, talents, and efforts to help the guests at the Center and to provide things they may not have been able to get easily.  For what?  For love. Service brings joy to the soul.  When our group spend part of the day playing guitar and singing, it felt like nothing much, but hearing from the guests how much they appreciated it, my heart was filled with happiness.  And if one small thing like singing can make an impact, then what else can we do when our hearts are on fire and we put our mind to serving and loving others the way Jesus graciously did?”

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“During my stay in New Orleans I volunteered by helping out in the Rebuild Center.  It really opened my eyes to different things.  I had never been on any mission trip before this, I didn’t know what to expect!  The first day I ended up helping in the kitchen.  We chopped over 8 cabbages for the fish fry that would be happening on Friday.  We also helped pass out fliers and landscape the garden.  The second day I helped in the kitchen again!  I really enjoyed being in there since I enjoy cooking.  We ended up cutting apples and more cabbage.  While in the kitchen, I noticed a big amount of organization.  The organization didn’t stop in the kitchen, it happened throughout the center!  There are many volunteers who come daily and help (which is magnificent).  The center also has restrooms, showers, meals, and a post box people can use to receive mail.  Seeing all the thigns some may take for granted like showers and restrooms really got me thinking.  People don’t think of some common necessities others may need like the simples thing as a shower.  In the center I noticed two little girls around three years old who were so excited to receive a bottle of juice.  This made me smile but it also upset me, these children were happy with the simplest things while others cried over the wrong color juice or the mom didn’t get the one with their favorite character on the box.  Some people also shared their past with me.  A few had college degrees and others just had a great mindset.  They wanted to rebuild their life through God.  A man, lets call him Tim, said “ I won’t blame others for the mistakes I’ve made. No one makes you do anything you don’t want to do!”.  Tim told us many things and even sang along with us.  Singing to everyone there really was great because you could tell they appreciated it and enjoyed it.  Overall my experience here has made me want to come back and help out in any way I can!”

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“I have been to a lot of volunteer centers that help with different things.  When I first saw the Rebuild Center I was astonished on how amazing it looked!  I would have never imagined looking that amazing, I was speechless.  The Rebuild Center has been able to create an incredible atmosphere.  It is so united and well organized, that it has impressed me.  It is definitely one of the best volunteer centers that I have ever been to.  The last couple of days that I have spent with the staff and the guests has been one of the most amazing times I have ever spent anywhere.  All these memories I have created with the staff and guests I will cherish for a very long time.  I couldn’t imagine spending my spring break anywhere else!  I am very grateful for the opportunity that has been given to me.  There are no words that can explain all of the amazing things that the Rebuild Center stands for.  Thank you for everything that is done here and for all of the memories that I have made here!”

Photos from our 5th Annual Lenten Fish Fry

A special thank you is in order for Marianne and Steve Sabrier!  Steve helps us continuously for all of our technological needs and Marianne is kind enough to shoot events we have.  Below are some of our favorites from what she shot.  Please be sure to read her latest posting about the Fish Fry on her website: Photography by Marianne Hawkins Sabrier

 

To see the entire album click here:

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Fifth Annual Fish Fry is a Success…even in the rain

Oh boy, the skies sure did open up on New Orleans today!  It down poured incessantly, but we still carried on.  Although we did not meet our goal of 2000 plates to be sold due to the weather, we are had a wonderful time.  We can’t thank our volunteers and all of those who donated food enough for what their contributions to the fish fry.  A very special thank you to our Fish Fry committee: David Hardin, Justin Kennedy, Matt Murphy, and Sr. Vera!

 

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March in a nutshell

Whew! March has been QUITE the month for Lantern Light Ministry. Shall we recap?

Sr. Vera Butler was honored as the Hibernian of the Year by the Ancient Order of Hibernians (New Orleans chapter). Sr. Vera accepted this great honor on behalf of the entire congregation of Presentation Sisters. This honor, naturally, came with a few social appearances. Sr. Vera (and Srs. Dolores and Enid) were spotted at the Hibernian mass, leading the order at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the Irish Channel, and the dinner that honored her.

Sr. Vera marching with AOH

As mentioned in an earlier post, St. Joseph’s Altar took place with a lot of our (wo)manpower and storage space.
When we weren’t preparing for the St. Joseph’s Altar, we have been preparing for our Fish Fry. All of the pieces shall come together this Friday for (what we hope, but know) will be a really great event.

Aside from all of this, each of our sisters have been attending regional meetings and prayer discussions. It’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago we were all celebrating Mardi Gras and the beginning of the Lenten season.

Fortunately, we have not been short handed! While many college students participate in “typical” spring break activities, we have been blessed to host three sets of mission teams. These students have chosen an “alternative” spring break and committed their free time to service. We have seen students from Iowa State, Iowa University, Fordham University, Molloy College, and St. Leo’s Church in Arkansas. These students have brought smiles and enthusiasm to the Rebuild Center. We’ve enjoyed them and pray that they’ve taken away just as much as they have given.

 

 

Below are reflections from three students:

“My week at Lantern Light was filled with hospitality, laughter, and love. Hearing the stories of the guests was an experience that I will keep with me for a lifetime. The sisters and volunteers are true examples of faith in action. The Rebuild center brings hope and light to all who enter it and I am thankful that I had the pleasure to experience it!” — Meghan McGuire, Fordham Class of 2014

“The week I spent volunteering at Lantern Light was a blast! Sisters Enid, Anna, Vera, and Dolores are fearless and funny. They treat all the guests here with so much respect, compassion, and hospitality. The guests all have such incredible stories and I am so glad I was able to meet them! This was definitely the perfect way to spend my spring break!”—Francesca Leite, Fordham University

“Lantern Light has provided me with an unmatchable and rewarding experience. The sisters have guided me to find the light through interactions with the guests. Sharing stories with the guests has been both a challenge and a blessing. Hearing their stories allowed me to reflect on my own story”—Lynn DiOrio

Lenten Fish Fry

Lenten Fish Fry

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St. Joseph’s Altar Day

The Feast of St. Joseph is a notoriously busy day for Lantern Light. Due to our strong partnership with St. Joseph’s Church on Tulane, we offer as many hands and services in the preparation and execution of the Church’s Altar Day.
St. Joseph's Altar at St. Joseph's Church on Tulane

And what a day it was!

The Presentation Sisters, with the help of our wonderful volunteers, put together 3000 bags of prayer cards (with the lucky Fava beans and garbanza beans), countless cookies, St. Joseph’s note cards, and items for the Catholic Gift Store. Our kitchen was used to prepare the spaghetti meal that the parishioners of the Church. In total, approximately 675 meals were served.
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The Rebuild Center functioned on its normal schedule, with a lovely addition of jazz music performed by local musicians. Their sweet music kept spirits high even during frazzling moments. The Deacons performed their weekly foot-washing program and guests enjoyed the company of visiting college students. Although it was hectic at times, we’re so grateful to have been part of this great tradition.

It’s always such a whirlwind when large-scale events take place. Weeks of planning and preparation come to fruition and end within just a few hours. We’re so thankful for the help and patience of our regular volunteers and this week’s visiting volunteers. We hope you enjoyed the beautiful altar and mass just as much as we did.
The Feast of St. Joseph is a very special Feast Day for the Sicilian culture. Legend states that the Sicilians prayed to St. Joseph during their great famine and after some time Fava beans began to grow. These beans kept the Sicilians from starving. Fava beans are now kept as a token of luck.
St. Joseph’s Altars take place all over New Orleans. All of the altars include three tiers, cakes, breads, cookies, and place settings for the Holy Family. Please follow this link to learn more about the symbolism of the gifts on the altar http://www.nola.com/food/index.ssf/2014/03/religious_symbols_behind_of_st.html

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Thank you for our new kitchen

img_90467658The past few weeks have been uncharacteristically cold in New Orleans.  There have been several freeze nights, sleeting rain, and even two “sneaux days” for the city.  It’s during stretches like these that we attempt go above and beyond for our guests to provide anything they need.

We’re so thankful for the blessing of our (more…)

Central City Lions Club donates to Lantern Light Ministry

The New Orleans Central City Lions Club presented Lantern Light Ministry with a generous cash donation on Friday, February 14th.  They have been serving at Lantern Light Ministry since August of 2013.  Every second Friday of the month, the Lions provide lunch and snacks for the guests of the Rebuild Center.

The New Orleans Central City Lions Club was established in 1972 to provide service and support to people in need.  Michael Carriere, president, presented the donation right before serving 160 guests.

(Left to right) Sr. Enid Storey, Michael Carriere, Sr. Vera Butler, Sr. Dolores Cooney, and Sr. Anna Raimon

(Left to right) Sr. Enid Storey, Michael Carriere, Sr. Vera Butler, Sr. Dolores Cooney, and Sr. Anna Raimon

A few members of the Lion's Club and a few of the Sisters who serve at Lantern Light

A few members of the Lion’s Club and a few of the Sisters who serve at Lantern Light

Aspiring Deacons wash the feet of the homeless

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Today a few members who are aspiring archdiocesan deaconates began their bi-weekly feet washing program.  This program began last year after the 2013 discernment class visited the Rebuild Center.  They were so inspired by our guests and the love that is fostered within our gates.  It was decided that some element of service should be part of their discernment process and thus the feet-washing program was born.

The Deacons delicately scrub and shape up the feet of any guest willing to participate.  These actions are reflective of when Jesus washed the feet of the 12 Disciples.  One deacon shared with us that this experience forever changed how he will deliver his sermon on Holy Thursday.

We’re grateful for their service and the creation of this program and so are our guests!

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The cold front from the New Orleans perspective

We had a polar vortex in New Orleans this month.  Alright, maybe that’s an exaggeration (especially from a girl who lives in the Pocono Mountains), however it was FREEZING.  There were about five freeze nights between December-now for those who lived on the streets.  A freeze night is when shelters—regardless of their capacity/rules—must open their doors because it is dangerously cold to sleep on the streets. That exception sounds a lot nicer than how it plays out.  Due to fire regulations and physical space, not every single person can get off of the streets. Also, many choose not to enter shelters for various reasons.

The Rebuild Center has a very air-flow type design to it.  Working outside is definitely a challenge.  I bundled up in ways I never expected for living in the south.  It was startling to feel the intensity of the cold and see people enter the center with sandals and no socks.  I was blessed because I had the opportunity to step into the kitchen to prep lunch and get a break from the cold.  Each time I snuck away to the heat, I felt guilty because those I serve don’t have this luxury.

A stronger reminder came in the mornings when I found it to be too cold to get out of bed.  By too cold, I mean my thermostat had dropped under 60.  This was a reality check for me, each time I complained of it being cold in the house and I had the luxury of raising the heat.  I couldn’t imagine how unbearable it would be to live on the riverfront in a warehouse.

I then began to think of how the homeless and poor are coping in colder parts of the country.  It’s alarming how many people don’t have adequate shelter or means to brave the elements. I’ve heard of about 5 people dying due to sleeping on the streets.  The scarier fact is that I think I’m only privy to that information because I work alongside the homeless. I hear from them about people that pass away in their sleep because of the cold—a heartbreaking reality for those I serve.  This is something that really frustrates the guests, because they feel that this should be considered news versus the latest holiday shopping spree sale. It hurts them that their reality is often overlooked and swept under the rug.

If I remember nothing else of this experience, I’ll always hold onto the winter month of New Orleans.

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