On this Mission Sunday, Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Pamela Biehl writes about a heart-inspiring Chicago mission experience.
This past August I went on a mission trip for three days with nineteen of my parishioners from St. Mary’s, Winneconne, Wisconsin to Chicago. We worked with a group called City Service Mission (CSM), a Christian organization that was created in 1988 to give people a life changing short term urban experience. Their philosophy is to help people “experience a city, learn a city and help a city” and that is exactly what we did nonstop from morning until night for three days.
After we arrived on Monday afternoon we chose a bed in our assigned two-flat apartment that had enough bunk beds to sleep about forty people—only two bathrooms! Then we broke up into two groups and ate dinner in a family-owned Vietnamese or Cuban restaurant. Dinner was followed by a three hour “prayer tour” of the city of Chicago which included downtown and many of the city’s 77 neighborhoods. It was called a “prayer tour” because we prayed for the people that lived in the places we drove through and learned about.
The next day we began our mission work and here are some of the things we did in only three days:
- helped to serve meals for those in need at two community kitchens.
- played bingo with senior citizens in an apartment complex.
- worked with the Green Star Movement to create mosaics for the city.
- pulled weeds at one of the local community organic gardens.
- worked with Hispanic children at a school in Albany park.
- experienced a cultural plunge into a Hindu and Muslim neighborhood.
- ate dinner at a family-owned Vietnamese, Salvadorian and Thai restaurant.
We learned and shared a bit of life with so many people. We were able to lend a helping hand and a listening ear to young and old. We met people who looked different from us but reminded us that we are all part of one human family where everyone matters and is loved by God. It was definitely an experience that not only broadened our understanding of the city of Chicago but also helped us to appreciate its cultural diversity and the hundreds of people who work every day to care for those less fortunate than we are.