What is it that compels us?

By Kaitlyn Sterneker, FC 18 SyracuseFrancis House - Kaitlyn 2

“Christ’s love compels us […]” is what 2 Corinthians 5 tells us. With us being the object of Christ’s ultimate love and affection, it leaves us fulfilled, complete, and at peace. That feeling of fulfillment and love is how we are compelled to do things we can’t explain, but it just feels right. It feels complete and we are at peace with those decisions.

I normally leave work between 4 and 4:30pm, depending on how much time I spend saying goodbye to the residents. This particular Friday, I was adamant about leaving work on time because my community members and I were headed to Boston that evening and we wanted to leave as soon as possible. For some reason, I felt compelled to sit down for a few minutes and listen to some music with the last resident, who I will call Clare, I was checking in on. The clock struck 4:15 and as I stood up to leave, a compelling feeling persuaded me to sit back down. I decided to pray the rosary with Clare, who was unable to talk and was comfortably resting. I held one hand and rubbed my other hand across her forehead and hairline – a practice I mimicked after my own mother who would always do that to me when I was feeling unwell. The final ‘Amen’ was recited, Clare’s breathing became softer and slower and she had passed away the minute the Rosary had ended.

The caregivers had entered the room. Whenever a resident passes away, there are final prayers we say as we hold the resident while they pass on to peaceful eternity in Heaven. I stayed with Clare until the funeral home personnel arrived. It was 5:10 when I left Francis House. It wasn’t until the next week when I had found out Clare had no family left.  It was a privilege to be at her side when she passed. The compelling feeling to stay at work despite my determination to leave on time left me with the most peaceful, humbling, emotional, and meaningful experience of my life.

What compels us to set aside our plans and make these decisions can be debated forever. I believe it’s Christ’s love that allows us to feel at peace and motivate us to go forward with these decisions, decision that leave us feeling fulfilled and complete with those life-changing moments.

Making Connections and Building Relationships

By Nicolette Tiernan, FC 18 Syracuse2016-08-23 12.20.12

“Love is a patient effort by persons who dedicate themselves to listening and drawing closer to others” –Pope Francis.

Working at the Assumption Food Pantry has taught me how to be compassionate and understanding to others in more ways than I ever could have imagined. Coming into my year at FrancisCorps, I was very worried about how I was going to be able to relate to the clients I was serving. I wasn’t sure how I would find common ground with the clients who came to the pantry but in just the few months I’ve been here, I’ve been surprised at how easy it is to find common ground, as long as you’re willing to try.

There is no such thing as a “typical day” at the food pantry. The number of families we serve each day changes, the volunteers who are at the pantry change, and the amount of food available changes. One of the only things I can control is how I go about interacting with the clients and volunteers I work with. My ministry is largely a ministry of presence, and being fully attentive to the clients who come into the pantry is a very important part of my work.

As a volunteer my job is to take families back to the pantry to make sure they are registered and able to get food from the pantry. In the few minutes I have with families back in my office, I have the opportunity to talk to the clients who come to us looking for help. Sometimes the conversation is brief, but other times clients come back and tell me their life stories and the daily struggles they face. It has been extremely humbling hearing these stories from complete strangers, who willingly trust me and share their background. These conversations help me to feel connected to the clients I serve, and have helped me realize that at the end of the day we all strive to feel loved by others.

Often when I think of communication, I forget about the importance of listening. My time as a volunteer has shown me how important it is to let others talk, offering different perspectives and helping me to understand them better as unique individuals. Saint Francis of Assisi told us to “preach the Gospel always, and if necessary use words.” I am learning how to live the Gospel in action by serving the smallest and most vulnerable that come to the food pantry and soup kitchen, sometimes everyday.

From my experience so far, I see God in the people that I work with everyday along with my community members. We build relationships that bring us closer together; valuing the importance and uniqueness of each person we encounter every day, and share those stories with each other during prayer. I see God’s love and grace in the community I serve and am excited to deepen the relationships I have been building throughout the rest of my year as a volunteer, and am excited to see how God’s guidance helps to bring me closer to my community members and the clients at the pantry throughout the year.