|Br. John, Dan, Scott and Sarah, Akif, Br. Charles|
On August 19th The Christian Brothers Volunteer Community welcomed Scott and Sarah Willins, Dan Lerintiu and Akif Rahman to the community as part of the annual visit of volunteers from schools associated with the Ursuline Sisters in the United Kingdom. The 20 volunteers, predominantly young women, [we house the boys], work with the St. Bernard Project rebuilding housing that was damaged nine years ago after the levee failures post-Katrina. 1600 people lost their lives, over a million were displaced for months, and the city of New Orleans today has only 75% of its population. Over 100,000 people did not return.
As one of the largest ports in the United States, and with rebuilding efforts showing results in a billion dollar bio-medical corridor and the Central Business District initiatives for new technology and start-ups there are opportunities in many areas, but there are many still in poverty, lacking education and opportunity, as well as housing. Reconstruction, thoughtfully done, and carefully planned, is being done—but it is slow and steady work. Volunteers like the young people associated with Ursuline Links bring real help, encouragement and a lively spirit much in keeping with traditional New Orleans life. In return they receive signs of gratitude, hospitality and good food.
|Scott and Sarah in the front of the bus, Dan and Akif on the left with other students|
This year, our group was welcomed to our home and given an orientation by John Petrullo [2012-13], visiting from Madrid where he now teaches. Br. John was at a meeting, and Br. Bob and Charles were battling some health issues, though Br. Charles was able to join the folks at the opening night meal with the Sisters. So John Petrullo took charge and did a masterful job.
Scott and Sarah Willins had been to New Orleans on previous trips and since then, married! They acted as chaperones, and guides. They were experienced enough to even regret not being able to visit all their old haunts. On a previous visit they discovered ‘Sucre’, [a sublime ‘gelateria’ much favored by Br. Charles]. They were unable to fit ‘Sucre’ into their schedule this year, but they did get in a cruise on the Natchez one hot day, enjoying river breezes and views. Dan and Akif were quick learners and welcome guests in our home.
|Dan on the left with co-workers in 100 degree heat.|
The group spent most days installing insulation and dry wall—gritty messy work requiring hard work and some skill. They also studied the culture of this unique bit of America and went on a swamp tour and visited an authentic plantation experience at Laura which avoids stereotypes and gives some idea of slavery under French and American rule.
|Akif enjoying a snowball -- an appropriate tradition in a hot climate|
The group ate at our house one night—jambalaya and crawfish monica—and had a reflection facilitated by Br. John. Scott, Sarah, Dan and Akif helped set up for the dinner; Scott organized the buffet; and all pitched in to serve, and to clean up. They were outstanding.
St. Angela Merici said: “Beware of trying to accomplish anything by force, for God has given every single person free will and desires to constrain none; he merely shows them the way, invites them and counsels them. “ The Ursuline Links program is faithful to this counsel from their Founder.
Front: Srs. Ginger, Mari Cruz and Mary Ann [NOLA-Prioress]
Ursuline Links connects students in the UK with opportunities for two weeks of service in New Orleans, in India and in cities in the UK; Ursuline students in the USA are now replicating this process. The internationality of the Ursuline community enables them to bring students together for periods of service and reflection guided by their Ursuline motto, “SERVIAM” and formed by their Catholic faith. For the Brothers community it is a welcome opportunity to share our home and learn from the Sisters and the student volunteers about other expressions of values we are to espouse: presence, compassion and liberation.
REFLECTION: What are we waiting for. . .?
risk new things,
stick with it,
then be ready for
St. Angela Merici—just saying.