“A lot of eye-opening things happened that night.”
Jade Canale spoke of the service trip she and other teens from St. Stanislaus parish in Wardsville took to the Salvation Army’s Center of Hope in Jefferson City.
They prepared and served dinner to about 50 people, including a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old, none of whom have a permanent place to call home.
“It’s not every day that you get a chance to help other people out,” said Miss Canale, 17, a junior at Blair Oaks High School. “I think it was a good way to spend my time.”
She noticed that the people in the dining room were courteous and very grateful for the meal and the company.
“A lot of people who have everything they could possibly want in life don’t appreciate it when someone does something for them,” she said. “But if you don’t have anything, I think it tends to make you thankful for anything people do for you.”
Come, Holy Spirit
Miss Canale believes LeAnn Korsmeyer, St. Stanislaus’ director of religious education, worked the evening in Jefferson City into the confirmation prep schedule to give the candidates a faith-based change of scenery.
“People from Blair Oaks and Helias don’t usually see a lot of homeless people who need the basic things we take for granted,” said Miss Canale.
“It was also kind of a wake-up call for me to be grateful for everything I have,” she said.
Drawn to helping people, the teen plans to be a doctor someday.
She wants to be sealed with the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of confirmation in order to have a better relationship with God.
“Being a confirmed member of St. Stanislaus is going to make my future better,” she said. “I feel like I’ll always have God with me.”
She acknowledged that having gone to a Catholic school until she finished eighth grade, she “kind of strayed away from my religion a little bit.”
But going to the classes and taking part in the activities to get ready for confirmation “has opened me up to religion again and helped me get closer to God,” she said.
She plans on staying Catholic for the rest of her life.
“I respect the Catholic faith a lot,” she said. “I appreciate all the values and different things the faith represents. I want to raise my kids Catholic. I want them to be close to God in that way.”
She likes having adults around the parish to show her what living the faith looks like in everyday life.
She hopes the Church can help her find more opportunities to do volunteer work and assist other people.
“It really opens up the compassion that our faith wants to express,” she said.
As they were setting the tables for dinner and putting the finishing touches on the meal in the kitchen, Miss Canale caught sight of a woman in her 20s, far along in pregnancy and accompanied by a 1-year-old.
The teen noticed that the mother looked worn down and tired.
Miss Canale introduced herself and asked the woman if she could get anything for her or her son.
“She told me his name,” she recalled. “He was crying. She was a little stressed out.”
Once again, Miss Canale asked if she could help. The mother said she was fine.
“At dinner, she looked really upset,” said Miss Canale. “Her son was asleep. I went over and checked on everyone. I’m a waitress, so that’s kind of a habit.”
Tears ran silently down the mother’s face.
“I was like, ‘I don’t think she is staying here. I don’t think she and her son have a place to live.’”
It was near freezing outside.
Miss Canale’s heart was burning.
Her favorite blanket was in the car.
She went and got it and gave it to the mother.
The woman said, “You don’t need to do that! I appreciate you guys coming here and cooking for us. I don’t want to take your things.”
Miss Canale spoke softly: “If you don’t take it, I will leave it here for you. You and your children don’t deserve to be cold.”
The woman hugged her and wrapped her son in the blanket.
“It made me want to cry,” the teen stated. “To me, it was just a blanket. To her, it meant her little boy doesn’t have to be cold.
“It meant that there are people who care about helping people who are struggling.”
One at a time
Mrs. Korsmeyer said she saw the lights go on in the eyes of many of the confirmation candidates that evening.
“It was beautiful seeing them expressing compassion and acceptance without judgment,” she said.
“The hope for this service project is that they become more aware of what is happening in our own community and how we can make a difference, one act of kindness at a time,” she said.