by Elizabeth Walden
LEAVENWORTH — For Nishimwe Maria-Goreth, a student at the University of St. Mary here, the Sisters of Charity live up to their name — they dispense charity to anybody and everybody. They are always ready to help with their beautiful faces and radiant smiles.
“I admire their spirit, which is why I love working with them, especially at events like this,” said Maria-Goreth.
Maria-Goreth was one of a handful of USM volunteers serving a community meal at St. Joseph Church on March 17.
On the third Thursday of every month, members of the Sisters of Charity, Wallula Christian Church and the University of Saint Mary come together to serve a community meal for the Leavenworth area known as Third Thursday Meal.
Sister Rejane Cytacki, assistant campus minister at USM, said, “We have been serving meals for almost three years now. Each month, approximately 500 meals are served between dine-in and carryout.”
“I knew from the Sisters of Charity standpoint that we would love to participate in a community meal, but we could not do it alone,” said Sister Vickie Perkins, founder of Third Thursday Meal.
Because Wallula Christian Church is known for its strong advocacy of social justice, Sister Vickie approached its pastor and proposed collaborating on third Thursdays. Soon after, the partnership with Wallula and the Sisters of Charity began. Members of Wallula provide the entrées and sides for each meal, as well as prepare all of the carryout meals.
When Paula D., the lead member for Wallula, was discussing her passion for this meal in particular, she said, “We are all here. We are all humans. It does not matter what state anyone is in. We are all here to share and to love.”
For one family, this has been a singular blessing to them for almost a year now and it continues to be a blessing for others as well.
“We have been coming since last summer, and it is helpful,” said one guest. “Community meals here are meals that I do not have to make at home which frees up a little bit of money.”
“After the last month’s meal,” said Sister Vickie, “the next Sunday one of the salons in Lansing was giving free haircuts to some of our folks, and I drove some of them down. One of the guys that I took said that they had a great lunch, but he could not eat much because he had not eaten anything since the spaghetti meal on Thursday.
“Moments like that — and the number of meals we serve each month — tell me this is needed.”
At the same time, said Sister Rejane, “this is a great opportunity for [the students] to connect with Sisters and a good experience with working with people in need.”
“I would definitely recommend volunteering at these meals to anyone,” said USM freshman Margaret Stark.
“It shows you how to serve others,” she added, “and teaches you to not take anything or anyone for granted.”