New Orleans Service & Discernment Trip: Spring Break with the Sisters

Pictured above, New Orleans commemorated 300 years since its founding the same year Presentation Sisters celebrated 300 years since Nano Nagle’s birth.

Have you ever gone on spring break with Catholic sisters? This year six collegiate women from Iowa and New York did just that. On March 16-23, they joined Presentation Sisters Jessi Beck, from Dubuque, and Sister Mary Catherine Redmond, from New York, on a service and discernment trip to New Orleans. Prayer, service and community were key components of the experience.

One highlight was volunteering at Hotel Hope, which provides housing and support to women and their children. The group babysat the children, moved and organized a new storage room for donations and set up a playroom following a tragic loss of toys and games from a sudden sewage pipe breakage.

Dubuque Presentation Sisters Julie Marsh and Mary Lou Specha, who minister at Hotel Hope, inspired the group with their commitment to welcoming each person with the love of God just as Nano Nagle did in her day. The inspiration was mutual.

“There is something very different about the way this group approached the work,“ comments Sister Julie. “It was more than something to get checked off their list. There was a loving presence among them as they simply spent time with the children. I was most touched when the children stepped back into the once devastated playroom only to find new toys and a new space in which they could play safely. All this was due to the persistence and determination of these women. The kids were screaming and I was in tears. I never could have gotten it done so quickly without them.”

Visiting with guests at Lantern Light Ministry was another meaningful experience. Lantern Light was started as a collaborative ministry of the North American Conference of Presentation Sisters and continues to provide meals and resources to people experiencing homelessness.

Morning prayer and evening faith sharing were the foundation of each day. Time was spent reflecting on discernment and listening for God’s call throughout life. There were also opportunities for New Orleans-style fun! The sounds of light-hearted laughter and deep conversation were evidence of the strong community being built throughout the experience. “I was so grateful to be able to join my sisters in serving, praying and connecting with this group of wonderful women,” comments Sister Jessi.

Participants share these reflections on their experience:

“This trip has helped me deepen my faith and desire to serve through the experiences and relationships I have formed and the wonderful ways I was able to feel God’s presence through it all,” states Emmalee.

“It was truly a gift to be able to take part in the New Orleans trip this year. The Lord blessed us with the opportunity to live, love, and serve, in order to bear His light into the world. The trip reminded me that I have the ability to love people as Christ loved people, and if I can do this, I need to do this!” recalls Anna.

“I really enjoyed getting to know all of the other young women on the trip and, of course, spending time with the Presentation Sisters. It was so great to be able to give back during my spring break and especially to meet and serve the people of New Orleans. Some of the men and women I met throughout the week had such great deep faith and a joy for life and the Lord. I know I will continue to be inspired by them and reflect on my relationships with them for years to come,” reflects Katrina.

“The experiences I had in New Orleans with the sisters were life changing. It was exciting and empowering to get to know the sisters and the other college-aged women; together we worked, served, prayed and grew through our experiences of service together!” comments Holly.