After my Global Citizenship class took a trip to the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice, I found out that there were still spots open for their spring break service and justice trips. I applied and interviewed two days before the first preparation meeting. There, I found out I’d be going to Stroud, Oklahoma to work with Habitat for Humanity. At the site, we were told we’d be working on siding the house, patching drywall, painting and installing moulding, cleaning the shower, and putting in a window and the doors.
While the trip was cut one day short due to the coronavirus pandemic, we were able to spend lots of time with the Stroud community. They were able to teach me a lot about community and genuine human interaction. The first day, we went to Mass at the local Catholic parish. The priest spent much of the homily talking about service and thanking us for being there. It was almost uncomfortable, as we hadn’t done anything yet. Afterward, they invited us to eat breakfast with them. One of the men who was sitting next to some of us knew that we were planning to go to Oklahoma City for the day. He asked if we were going to go to the bombing museum. We told him that we were going to stop by the memorial, but would not be going into the museum because of the fee. This man pulled out his wallet and gave us more than enough money for everyone in our group to get in. The community wanted us to learn about them and their experiences.
Every night for dinner, we ate at local churches. The church members, our group, and the family receiving the house all ate together. I was reminded of the commensality discussion I’d had in theology. Commensality is essentially what we eat, where we eat, when we eat, how we eat, and most importantly, with whom we eat. In Christ’s ministry, Jesus open-eating commensality. He broke bread with everyone, even if they were strangers. The Stroud community lives out this open-eating ministry. They ate with us and welcomed us with open arms. From this, I am grateful I had the opportunity to learn from and work alongside the Stroud community.
- Catherine Slenker ’23