• July 21, 2012

A Welcome Refuge for our Friends

Melanie, Cheryl & Marian with Pat and Paola

By Marian West
On Thursday July 12th two mem­bers of the Brooklyn com­mu­nity and a member of the St Maximilien Kolbe Fraternity took two of our friends from the nearby women’s shelter for a day out to the Catskills.

"Pat and Paula arrived at our front door at the appointed morning hour for our day jaunt to the ICCC — a chance for them to breathe fresh country air into their citi­fied lungs and to behold lush green fields aglow in the sun, with eyes so accus­tomed to cin­derblock walls and over­head lighting.

They were so happy to arrive at the Center for Compassion. "This is beau­tiful!" they exclaimed, as they got out of the car. We enjoyed a leisurely BBQ picnic under the trees and then ven­tured up to the Shrine of Our Lady of Compassion, praying the Rosary together as we climbed the mead­owed hill. There was a calm and focus. I could sense these women decom­pressing, bringing their full hearts in a simple way to each bead, to each pil­grim’s step.

“You see it, Paula?” (the sculp­ture of Mary holding Jesus’ fully sur­ren­dered body).
“Yes, I see it, Pat.”

After a peaceful rest at the shrine, the women were coura­geous enough to con­tinue hiking through the woods to the pond. Sr. Diana took Pat for a little boat ride. Pat was holding onto the sides of the canoe for dear life, but as happy as a clam, being rowed mer­rily along. A huge, bright smile shone across the water to a delighted dock of cheers and thumbs-ups!

While our friends enjoyed ice cold water under a canopy of shade, I offered them two dances: the first as an expres­sion of their fem­i­nine strength and call, and the second as a prayer for the calm of this day to rest in their hearts as they return to their trying lives in the city. All of nature was joining in my heart’s cry for these women — for soft breezes and gentle sun­light to find a home in their hearts, for Beauty to carry them no matter what ugli­ness they may face that evening in the shelter.

We asked Pat and Paula if they enjoyed their time at the ICCC. Pat flashed her white, teethy grin and in her Trinidadian accent said with deep delight, “It was beau­tiful. It was spir­i­tual. Real spir­i­tual.” To my sur­prise, quiet Paula chimed in, "My favorite part was lunch! (laughing)... and walking up to the shrine. I liked praying."

We sent them home with fresh-cut hydrangeas from the garden as a living memory of the beauty they expe­ri­enced. Fr. Alex offered them a spe­cial blessing, and then we headed home to Brooklyn — all smiles... and sleepy, con­tented eyes.

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