Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It's a Wonderful Mystery

Joanne Lockwood, who has been studying to be a Franciscan for the past year, often leads the kitchen volunteers in prayer before opening the soup kitchen doors. Last month she was formally admitted into the Secular Franciscan Order as a candidate, and given the Tau cross to wear as her “habit.”

But running the kitchen every weekday has been an unexpected blessing, she says.

“In the past nine months I’ve done a lot of reading on Franciscanism. I’ve learned more working here than in any book I’ve ever read. It has given me the opportunity to live it.”

Dianne Hnat, another Secular Franciscan, was volunteering in the kitchen Wednesday, too. She has been there every week since Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen opened – even though she is recovering from spinal surgery and has to wear an upper body brace for six months.

“My grandkids think I’m invincible. Just call me Xena, the Warrior Princess!”

Out in the dining room was no warrior, but rather a young volunteer with a huge smile -- Elizabeth Sczerzenie, a junior at Notre Dame High School. It was her second time there. As guests would leave and arrive, she would wash table tops and chairs, engage in occasional chit-chat, or spend a few moments playing with a child.

She mentioned how she likes journalism, but has a passionate interest in pursuing a healthcare career, looking to major in biology in college and eventually working with children in a hospital setting. Cancer patients in particular.

Another volunteer with an interest in healthcare is Donna Nelson, who was behind the kitchen counter serving up meals. She is a maternity nurse at Faxton-St. Luke’s Healthcare, who likes to drop in on a day off after working 12-and-a-half-hour shifts.

“I’m not a parishioner here, but I come here for mass, and I heard the deacon’s sermon (announcing he wanted to start a soup kitchen). The deacon has provided the leadership for people who want to do something, to do some good.”

Donna went on to express gratitude for the opportunity to serve.

That gratitude is part of what Joanne refers to as “a mystery going on here.”

She explains: “I’m not sure who goes home happier – the guests, or the people who serve them.”