This week I talk about what I did last week: serve on a mission trip called Austin Caritas. it is a mission through the University Catholic Center and Schoenstatt University Men in order to serve the local Austin community and help its members grow in spirit to live out their Catholic faith. CARITAS, latin for love, stands for Catholics Answering the Redeemer’s Invitation To Authentic Sanctity.
This year focused on “Foraging a culture of encounter” as our theme. In the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis calls for the church to step outside of itself to be alive in society. He wants us to have a culture of encounter, where we encounter others with Christ’s love. Blessed Mother Teresa, our mission saint (she will be one soon), inspired our efforts to love the poor and see Jesus in other people we serve. We pay attention to the Corporal Works on Mercy Jesus talked about in Matthew, which calls for serving the poor and needy.
“…Whatever you did for these, the least of my people, you did for me.”
I had a great time at this retreat, bonding with my group, and serving others.The schedule start with Mass in the morning then, morning and afternoon service projects, then games and spiritual activities in the evening. The charities and other activities I served are listed by day, with link to a website for more information on serving them yourself. All people in this article will remain anonymous for security.
The mission started Tuesday with Confession, reflection, Mass and games. We didnt serve anyone, but it focused on rejuvenation of spirit as a retreat and getting the right mind-set before the actual service.
Morning Activity: Heritage Park Rehab Center
This is a home of the elderly who can barely support for themselves. They might have memory loss, dementia, or other disabilities etc. I learned to look past that. My group talked with some residents outside. My friend and I played dominos with two of the residents . Once I understood the game, I started winning, and had to remind myself that they should win too. It is not about making yourself busy, but wasting and spread time with others. http://www.regencyhealthcare.com/locations/heritage-park
1st Afternoon Activity: Mobile Loaves and Fishes
This noprofit organization began at St. Thomas More Catholic Church and grew quickly. It is a food truck for the homeless, except the servers are outside the truck talking o the homeless and guiding them through with what they want to eat. Some tend to tell their life story, or current dilemmas during this encounter, some may not. One person had a Christian brother that he looked up to, and wanted to go back to Dallas.
Each experience is different, but unique. http://mlf.org/
2nd Afternoon Activity:
We helped an old lady and her son, who are on government care. We raked leaves and threw them off the side of the highway. She called all of us angels, and hugged every one of us. She was very nice. Since this is not a charity, there is no link. I would recommend communicating with those around you under great care.
Morning Activity: St. John Paul II Life Center
My group made postcards about how abortion affects women. It is interesting to see that pro-life movement does not just talk about the baby, but its effects on the mother and others. The center has new ways like NaProtechnology to track a woman’s hormone cycles and get a better chance at having a baby than artificial insemination. The center provides help for women expecting children and cares for them until about a year after the baby is born. http://www.jpiilifecenter.org/
Afternoon Activity: Chicon Pregnancy Resource Center
This place provides care for women in East Austin who want to choose life despite their circumstances with free tests and ultrasound, and ways to earn money for clothes and whatnot. We cleaned up around the area. The director knew some of us by a former coworker, and she gave advice and prayers. She is definitely one of the nicest people ever.http://www.chiconprc.org/
Morning: Spiritual Activity
Here we did a Lectio Divina, in which we read a bible passage, Pslam 103:1-10, aloud multiple times and mediated on it as truth. We discussed our findings and made a reflection prayer for that night’s Adoration.
Afternoon:Austin State Supported Living Center
We got to serve the mentally and/or physically disabled through helping them witharts and crafts, and rolling some of the residents around. They are not able to do much on the same level, so we try our best to entertain them. It is not about doing something remarkable, but rather a nice gesture, such as coloring a picture together, or enjoying their favorite song. We cannot undo their disabilities, we just have to make do, and enjoy their presence as they enjoy our presence. https://www.dads.state.tx.us/services/SSLC/austin.html
Morning:St Louis Food Pantry
St Louis Catholic Church has a food pantry where once a week, the hungry would line up, fill out a form, and get food. I stayed in the back and got cleaning supplies and other miscellaneous jobs. The contact is not direct, but a smile helps to show you care for the needy. http://www.st-louis.org/parish-social-ministry
The afternoon was spent on closing the mission, free time, going to mass etc. The mass was a Spanish, but during the homily and announcements the priest spoke English to the Missionaries. There were other charities served by different groups, I only participated in the above. It was a joyful experience to see Jesus in people and look not only serve, but be aware of God so to let that service not be in vain.
That was my week. Until next week,