Union US – Fruitful Fulfilling Lives in Shaw, Mississippi

We began with spring break here in Shaw, Miss., a glorious nine days! That is until the coronavirus broke out in early March. No more tutoring. Its sudden attack, deadly implications and national stipulations for safety found us going from doubt to the perplexity of its unceasing impact as the weeks and the months passed and, as an unknown future still holds dread and uncertainty.

So how are we coping? What was/is our response?

First, in keeping with our care for the active ladies we worked with, and the children we teach, we called both groups early on to ask how they were and if they needed anything. The ladies mentioned the need for masks. The parents of the children seemed to be doing okay. Our seamstress, Sister Wiona Engel, got the sewing machine out along with the fancy materials from the Center, while Sister Maura Fitzsimons did some cutting and ironing. We had 24 ladies stop by our house to pick up their masks, but then they wanted some for their families too – we ended up doing around 70, and are still taking orders. We decided also that the children should have their tutoring workbooks at home, so we had the parents come to pick these up along with extra study pages to ensure the children had lots to do! Not so sure about that!

Around this time we made a sizable donation to the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi to help feed the children in the Delta. Keith Fulcher, vice president, came with his camera and with much enthusiasm that other donors might donate to our mission if they saw what we were doing. Keith took a video as we answered questions about the Center. (Should you come across it in Facebook know that it was a very windy day!) There was no distribution of food for the children of Shaw from the F.D.A., so we mentioned this to Keith. A week later, a donor matched our contribution. Keith arrived in with the check and 100 boxes of food to the Delta Hands for Hope facility where we frequently co-work in partnership with them.  We are now, along with some high school and college students, helping Delta Hands for Hope with the distribution of nutritious dinners for the Shaw children. The parents do the pick-up.

Having time on our hands though our personal waiting list has yet to be done; Sister Wiona is busy crocheting scarves and Christmas booties for our fundraiser next October. Maura is learning the art of crochet (ripping and redoing at the moment!) and trying to give the garden a face-lift after all the rain. We have been inquiring from the city council and other agencies about the needs of the city, with the intention of helping poorer families. At present we are helping one stranded family and one shut-in lady. We expect to follow this up on a larger scale, though the black communities with their cultured pride look after their own very well.

Every day we have Eucharist on line, and apart from our usual standard Mass in Santa Monica, we have had Mass also from California, Ireland, India, Texas, and even in Singapore. We found that sharing other Eucharistic venues of faith in keeping with our own is a very enriching experience; we are indeed one the world over, but especially one in union with the Eucharist everywhere.

Stay safe.
Wiona Engel and Maura Fitzsimons