Monday, October 26, 2015

Seminarians Offer Service at St. Joseph Shelter

Story and photos by Dustin Vu

The time at last came. This was the day that the second half of the College II class was to do a community service project.  The eight of us assembled in front of the Damian Center around 12:40. For some, this was not their first time going out to do off-hill work; for others this was unprecedented.

After we had all gotten together, our crew went off in two cars along with Fr. Steve Clovis.  At St. Joseph’s Shelter, which is run by the Benedictine Sisters of Mount Angel, there was one large main building surrounded by other residential buildings and a large storage building.  Our supervisor started to explain the services that the shelter offered which include housing homeless families, migrant men, and migrant families while they seek a way to be self-sufficient. I had never been to a shelter before, so I was excited to get a feel for how the place was.

Then we got our mission. Our two objectives were to 1) dust, sweep, and mop the basement storage and dining area and 2) clean out a resident’s room that was just recently vacated. We all started our work in the basement, which stores the majority of the facility’s clothes, food, and some furniture. The place that we started to work was filled with racks for clothes and shoes; I wondered at how the clothes were distributed as there were all sorts of shoes there, some of them quite used.

The College II seminarians working in the stairwell leading
to the basement and the area for distributing clothes.

After working in the basement for a short while, two of us left the others to their work and went up to start working on the resident’s room. Going into there was like stepping into a still life painting. Everything was set up as if the person who was living there just stepped out for work; there were cups and mugs here and there, food in the cabinets, ice trays ready to be filled lying by the sink and shirts hanging in the closet.

The living space was actually quite substantial; it was a room divided in two by a windowed wall that separated the kitchen and dining area and the sleeping area and doors opened up two a walk-in closet and a bathroom. We proceeded to work to clear the room of all loose objects except furniture and appliances. It was interesting work as we pondered the conditions as to the person’s leaving especially seeing that things were left as they were.

We also talked about how strange it must be to live in such a way that the things you used weren’t actually yours but were to stay like this. What was that like? This and other reflections would be further talked about at the discussion later in the day. We packed these things into boxes and sent them down the little goods elevator, which got stuck on the way down for a while before we could get it to the basement.

Then, after doing some extra minor work, we settled in the basement dining room and had a theological/spiritual reflection on our activities that day. I was surprised at how much we ended up talking about seeing as we only had two main jobs to carry out and actually worked for about two hours. I found it edifying how the group of us supplemented one another’s reflections and revealed different perspectives and insights into the work that we did. It did seem like a good refresher of our vocation to the diocesan priesthood; we were reminded of our duty to serve and our connection to the wider Church, which can be easy to forget sometimes as we continue in our routine of study and prayer up at the seminary.

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