The 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…)
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.
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 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.
One of my responsibilities as a volunteer is to submit monthly reflections to AmeriCorps and to Lantern Light. I am constantly floored and inspired by the interactions I have with our guests. The slightest happenings transpire between myself and a guest, and for a moment, a weight is lifted off of their shoulders and my own.
Below was my reflection for November:
Life truly is about the good and the bad. This hit me real hard after I had the most perfect weekend visiting with my parents. I hadn’t seen them in awhile so it was wonderful to be in their company. I came back to New Orleans feeling rejuvenated. I wasn’t home for 30 minutes when my roommates (one of which works closely with me) shared that one of my favorite guests from the center may have possibly been killed. There was a rumor on the streets that he got into a really bad fight and his head was cracked open on the concrete. All anyone knew is that he was brought to the ICU.
The news didn’t sink in with me at first. I just couldn’t believe that someone who I barely KNEW, but loved, was possibly dead due to such a violent occurrence. I prayed so hard that night, that morning, and all the next day.
The center felt so empty without him. What was worse was that my co-workers were tense because they all know he’s one of my buddies. The other guests began whispering that he was seriously hurt but no one had any update. Thankfully, my one coworker found out which hospital he was at and my roommate and I decided to visit him. I made him a card and had a bunch of guests sign it.
We went to visit him but he’d already been discharged. This further upset me because I couldn’t fathom how someone could be discharged out of the ICU…and where WAS he brought to?! A few days passed and there was no word. I kept the card with me at the center in hopes that he would soon surface. One busy morning I heard someone shout for me from a distance. I looked up to see my roommate and standing next to him was my, very battered looking, buddy.
I ran right up to him and hugged him. His face looked awful; his eyebrow was split, eye swollen shut, and his mouth was busted open. He explained that he had no recollection of what happened and that he got hurt real bad. We sat down and he cried to me about how confused he was by the situation, how much pain he was in, and how lonely he felt when no one came to visit him in the hospital—not even his sister. My heart broke into a thousand pieces. I explained that I had tried to visit and then I handed him the card I made for him. He read the card right in front of me and continued to cry. He was so touched that so many people wrote personal messages to him.
It’s been two weeks since that day. My buddy laid low and wasn’t at the center, but reappeared recently. He’s healed up nicely. Every single time he sees me he thanks me for the card and tells me that he reads it all of the time. He thought he was alone in that hospital but he was so touched to know that there are people out there worrying about him and loving him.
I’m just so thankful that he’s alright.
Today the Harry Tompson Center hosted a beautiful Advent prayer service for the guests, staff, and volunteers. We all sat together in our meeting room and shared messages of hope. It’s special to us to see how the guests are impacted not only by the services provided, but by the staff and volunteers. It’s equally rewarding to hear the messages of hope that the guests give to us. Many prayers of thanksgiving were shared as the service came to an end.
A message of hope was shared by each one of our founders/foundresses.
“Wherever you go, whatever you do, take God with you”—Nano Nagle, Presentation Sisters
“Be but faithful to God with your whole heart, and never fear. God will support, direct, console and finally crown your dearest hopes.”—Elizabeth Ann Seton, Daughters of Charity
“God Allows us to give rise to the practice of two beautiful virtues: perseverance, which leads us to attain the goal, and constancy, which helps us to overcome difficulties.”—St. Vincent De Paul
“One day I received a phone call from a family. Their son, one of my students, was in jail and needed my assistance. I met them downtown and helped the father do the necessary paperwork. I stood there when the son was released and witnessed one of the most beautiful acts ever seen. As the son walked into the room, the father spread open his arms toward his son. The son went into his father’s arms and the father stood embracing him. The only words spoken were ‘Let’s go home.’ No scolding words. No words of shame. The father did to his son what Jesus does to us daily. He opens his arms to comfort us, to forgive us our sins – to love us.”—Harry Tompson, S.J.
Erika Enlund is an AmeriCorps/Christian Brother Lay Volunteer serving with Lantern Light Ministry for a year. She lives with our good friends, the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers, in a unique Brother-Volunteer community. Erika graduated from Iona College in May of 2013 with a degree is Mass Communications.
Her role at the center is mainly to interact with the guests and troubleshoot their needs. She has taken on the responsibility of lining up the guests for lunch and reading the daily prayer. Because of her background in Mass Communications, Erika will be a contributing writer for our blog and has recently launched Lantern Light’s Facebook page.
We’re glad to welcome Erika to New Orleans and to be part of her year of service.
Be sure to ‘Like’ Lantern Light Ministry on Facebook to receive our latest updates, share photos, and be up-to-date with the on-goings of the Presentation Sisters!
We recently posted the pictures from our GivingTuesday event with our guests. Check em out!
In honor of #GivingTuesday, we’ll be sharing with you how performing the simplest acts of kindness can go a long way for our guests. We thrive on a year-long season of giving: love, patience, and meeting basic human needs. Follow along as our staff, volunteers, and (most importantly) our guests explain the importance of service and giving back.
If you’re not familiar with what #GivingTuesday is, check out http://community.givingtuesday.org/News Essentially, it is the “opening day” for the giving season. #GivingTuesday will take place on the Tuesday after Cyber Monday. Join in on the movement by sharing with us your experiences with helping those who are poor and marginalized.
After a 2 week break in August, Lantern Light’s kitchen went offline to receive an upgrade. The kitchen needed to be insulated for a heating/cooling system and a new walk-in freezer had to be installed. In the absence of the kitchen we’ve managed to continue serving lunch each day. More importantly, we still were able to provide homemade meals for our guests at least three times a week. This wouldn’t have been possible without our faithful volunteers!
Serving has been a bit different. We’ve utilized the meeting room as a quasi-kitchen, which has affected all services at the Rebuild Center. Fortunately, we are a team that works well together! Just a few minor adjustments and all was well! These 90 days have left us all anxious as we slowly watch renovation coming to a close.
We’re excited to announce that the kitchen (should be) running just after Thanksgiving (our final walk through is this Wednesday). We will have a special ceremony to bless the kitchen in the upcoming weeks. We can’t wait to return to normalcy, but we’re pleased with how the last three months have unfolded.
Once again– thank you to all of our volunteers who made this adjustment run smoothly, and thank you to all of our supporters and contributors!
Below are some pre-renovation and current shots of the kitchen. You can see our new orange flooring, white interior, and new walk-in freezer.