Walking on a wintry Kansas day, I came across this mural as I was pondering my February blog post on love. “Lovingworth” is a fitting play on words for Leavenworth, the home city for the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth (SCLs). Why do I, as an SCL, think so?
It’s in my community’s name: “Charity.” In its original translation from the Latin, “caritas” means “love.” Really, we could be called the Sisters of Love—or better yet, Sisters of Lovingworth. I say this to counteract the negative connotation of “charity” as a hand-out from the giver to the receiver without any follow-up interaction. Instead, I want to redefine charity as being in relationship with people, seeing everyone as a person of worth—something that my community has focused on from the beginning. Since our founding in 1858, we have been embedded in the larger community, investing time and trust to build relationships with people.
When I moved back to Leavenworth last August, S. Pat (my sister mate in our local house community) and I intentionally moved to the older section of town where, historically, SCLs lived and ministered. S. Pat works at the Interfaith Community of Hope, a homeless day and night shelter for Leavenworth residents. Part of our intention is building and weaving community through our interactions and relationships with people in our church, in our neighborhood, in the shelter, and by supporting our local businesses and farmer’s market.
I have enjoyed spending time this winter with the residents at the Community of Hope. While I have only helped S. Pat with Thursday dinner and programming three times in the last four months, I have found I do remember the residents and their stories, and they remember me.
This past Thursday, we did a simple supper of tuna melts and played games. I played Yahtzee with two of the residents and we really enjoyed reminiscing about playing games in our youth. When it was time for the residents to move over to the night shelter, one of my game partners said to me, “Thank you for coming, and you should come more often.”
I was surprised that despite my few interactions at the shelter, I received an invitation to deepen the relationships between myself and the residents of the Community of Hope. As I reflect on ways to strengthen my spiritual life during Lent, this personal invitation is one I will humbly accept. Hearing God’s invitation through this resident is what being a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth means to me. I pray that Pat and I will live up to our SCL legacy of building relationships with the people of “Lovingworth.”