By Sister Gina Fleming, OP (Amityville)
Director, Dominican Young Adults USA
Students from the Molloy College Chapter of Dominican Young Adults began their new year with a week of service. Jan. 3–5, students volunteered with Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Lindenhurst, New York, to assist some of the families whose homes were devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
Day one was spent picking up and delivering furniture to needy families. The students were very touched by the greeting that they received in particular from the families who were receiving the furniture. As one student said, “It was like you were giving the families a million dollars. They were so grateful and appreciative of our efforts to help them.”
The next two days were spent at an older gentlemen’s home which was in terrible need of repair. The walls had been gutted, leaving just the two by fours and a tremendous amount of work to be done. The gentleman’s nephew and some friends had started to put insulation in when we arrived. Without skipping a beat, the students picked up masks, and with a little bit of instruction, were measuring, cutting and installing the insulation where it was needed in all four first floor rooms.
The next day we went ahead and started to put up the drywall over the insulation. Screw guns and hammers could be heard throughout the house. By the time we left, the entire first floor had been insulated and sheet rock covered all the walls. To say the least, the students felt greatly accomplished, but once again, it was the gratefulness of the family that really touched them.
On one of the evenings, we traveled to St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Long Beach. Sister Diane Morgan, OP (Amityville), a pastoral associate at the parish, met the students in the church and spent some time describing some of the devastation her community has had to endure. In addition, the pastor and two of the secretaries from the parish spoke to us about their own personal experiences during and after the storm and how they are coping now. Later on that evening we shared pizza with four other members of the parish who described the destruction done to their homes and how their lives have been dramatically changed by Sandy. Three of the four are still displaced, living with family members in other parts of Long Island, and there was no timeline discussed as to when they could or would return to their homes.
Despite all the tears and loss, it was clear what was holding these people together: FAITH. They had faith in their God, faith in their families, and faith in their parish community. They would survive all of this and still continue to HOPE because of their faith. I believe, without a doubt, that listening to these people and their stories was an experience these students will always remember.
During the three days that the students volunteered, they stayed with the Amityville Dominican Sisters at our Dominican House of Hospitality. The four sisters who live in the house welcomed the young people with open arms. We ate together, prayed together and shared a wonderful spirit of laughter and fun during our time together. The students shared in the tasks involved in preparing our evening meal (cooking, cleaning up, etc.) and were happy to do so. They made themselves comfortable in the house and seemed very at ease being there. Each night they shared their thoughts about the day and how they were moved by their experiences. It was a truly holy time for all of us as they spoke openly about their faith and how they experienced God in their encounters with the many people they met.
On Friday evening, as the students began saying goodbye, it was clear by the hugs and kisses that they enjoyed their time at the house and bonded with the sisters who live there. An open invitation was made to the group to come visit us again soon. Plans are already in the works to do something similar in the spring semester. Though they ate us out of house and home, the house was so eerily quiet after they left that we could truly say “We missed them already.”