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Youth, elders learn from each other

One group of Providence teen volunteers pose on the fountain.

Thirty teenagers from as near as the Wabash Valley and as far as Corpus Christi, Texas, made a difference at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in June. For elder sisters and other residents of Providence Health Care (PHC), the Providence Teen Ministry presence provided a unique opportunity for learning from and enriching one another through the sharing of stories, spirituality, gifts and talents.

Sister Joni Luna, SP, asked to organize and facilitate the teen opportunity after she observed how much “enthusiasm and joy her nieces and nephews derived from being with the sisters in health care,” when they have visited her at the Woods in the past.

“Why not invite other high schoolers to volunteer in PHC as well?” Sister Joni, a veteran school teacher and coach, now ministering at St. Patrick School in Terre Haute, Indiana, asked herself.

Once the General Council approved her proposal, Sister Joni enlisted the support of Sister Becky Keller, SP, volunteer coordinator, to help with practical details like name tags and certificates for participants. The Mission Advancement office helped to promote the project. And Sisters Barbara Bluntzer and Teresa Costello worked with her in planning daily activities. With directors at Providence Health Care, she worked out how the teens would interact with the residents. Each session of the camp was two days from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

A teen volunteer pushes Sister Miriam Clare Stoll in her wheelchair.

Being a support

The teens began each day with icebreakers or a learning activity. They then joined the sisters in the PHC chapel for the Rosary followed by their daily exercise session. The teens assisted the residents in going to Mass or devotions. They then escorted them back to PHC for their lunch, while the teens took a break for their own meal in Providence Dining room or at a location outside if they wished.

Each afternoon, a teen volunteer could choose one of several options that enabled each one to learn a little more about the Sisters of Providence, the various sites on the grounds, and to share their own experiences and questions.

Sister Jane Gibson is very pleased to have not one, but three teens accompany her.

About 2:30 p.m., the teen ministry group and their leaders gathered in Providence Hall parlor to reflect on how their day had gone, what they learned, how they knew they had made a difference and what effect serving others had on them.

Some, like Amanda Lakstins, commented on how much they learned from the sisters. “Some of the sisters have been all around the world. It surprised me how much some of the sisters know about everything. “

Living history

After visiting with Sister Marceline Mattingly, age 102, Jolyssa Cortez wrote: “I asked her in what year she was born and she said, ‘1915;’ I think that is amazing because she lived through so much history in her life. She said the most amazing part of the history she lived was seeing the technology industry grow. After my visit, I felt like a whole new person.”

Teens enthusiastically said they would consider recommending the Teen Ministry to their friends.

Sister Laurine Haley gets ready to “fire” the ball to an unsuspecting teen.

Wrote one teen: “Yes, I will definitely consider coming back so I can make someone’s day. I felt really important when I made the residents smile. It made me feel like I really had an impact on them with something I was not really confident with.”

The Teen Ministry was partially funded with a grant from Altrusa of Terre Haute. Watch in the months ahead for Teen Ministry volunteers to assist at events like Christmas Fun at the Woods or to return to help again during summer 2019.


(Originally published in the Fall 2018 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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Sister Cathy Campbell

Sister Cathy Campbell

Sister Cathy Campbell, SP, is a freelance writer and editor. She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in Spirituality from Catholic Theological Union/Chicago. Sister Cathy also ministers as a retreat facilitator for the Providence Spirituality and Conference Center with special interests in scripture and the mystics.

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