Waking up this morning at 5 A.M. to meet my friend Margaret. Several months ago we signed up together to volunteer to cook breakfast today at our local homeless winter shelter.
The day before, I was hesitant, wondering if I could do the work. I had suddenly realized I would probably be on my feet for at least two hours, sometimes that is a challenge for me. Last night I woke up at 2 A. M. and I could not get back to sleep for several hours. I was hoping I could stay awake.
Margaret drove me to the church, where we both go. Several years ago I was drawn there, when they had an evening liturgical service. A notice in our local paper invited people of all faiths to attend. The group was small and gradually, I began to attend the planning meetings to choose liturgical readings and music.
Encouraged by the group, I began to occasionally share my prayer poems and creative dance as part of the evening service.
Then about a year ago, I decided to join the church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. That is how I was invited to sign up to volunteer to cook breakfast at the winter shelter, during the week that St. Paul’s church volunteers there.
As I chopped onions, celery, and green peppers for the egg omelets, and while slicing the English muffins or washing the cutting boards, I remembered the kitchen job I had, as a college student.
Skills I had learned from other short term jobs as a cook and kitchen assistant were also remembered as I helped in the St. Paul’s kitchen.
In the summer of 1969, I followed a hunch and I walked down a rural dirt road, near my college. The sign said, St. Mary’s in the Field and I was interested to know what the place was. Someone at my college may have told me that it was a home for “wayward” teenage girls and that they might need someone to work in the kitchen.
Halfway down the road I saw the Episcopal priest, who was repairing a doorway on a building and I asked if they needed anyone to work there. He said that he was only there for a brief stay.
He told me to go to the office and talk to Sister Bonaventura. Sure enough, they were in need of a part-time cook. I could have my own room there and walk to my summer college classes down the road.
Being in that environment was good for me. I learned something about what nuns do…they do arts and crafts and garden, supervise, nurture, pray, play guitar and sing. At a young age, I was able to see spiritual women out in the world. I longed for a retreat, somewhere I could pray and have peace. I feel that I was spiritually led to St. Mary’s in the Field, at that time.
I still have a few clay fired beads from an arts and crafts class that I took with a local volunteer who came by to work with the teenage girls. Most of the girls were there because of problems in their families or because they had run away from home.
Although I was only nineteen, and just a few years older than the resident girls, I was in charge of making breakfast during the week and dinner on weekends.
I recall once, Sister Bonaventura came in to the kitchen and asked me to wear a skirt instead of trousers. Another time, she came in to the kitchen with fresh picked corn from their farm, for me to cook.
I eventually left St. Mary’s in the Field to attend college full-time in the fall.
Later I returned and the atmosphere was changed.
Although I didn’t realize at the time, I was slowly developing an interest in God, spirituality and devotion. I was finding my own path, went to their chapel for services occasionally, and mostly, just learning that wearing a nun’s habit involved more than sitting in church.