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Local Student Volunteer Sets Example For All





When Hannah Fernung, a 17- year-old senior from Tipton, is asked to write the proverbial back-to-school paper, “What I Did This Summer,” she will have no trouble getting started . . . ending it, however, may be more difficult.  Hannah participated in a program, Companions in Mission, sponsored by the Congregation of St. Joseph for high school girls interested in giving time and energy to explore how ministries can make a difference.  Her time was filled with visits to a homeless facility, an animal shelter, a Hispanic mission, a Ronald McDonald House, an immigration detention center and an environmentally friendly nature area. Hannah, who hopes to become a teacher, was energized by the experience to be with other young women, “I feel a greater passion to help others.”

Companions in Mission is a program designed to engage high school girls in hands-on mission work.  This was the first year for the program, and involved twelve students working with several Sisters of St. Joseph. “I don’t think I’ll ever see things the same way again.  It’s totally different to actually serve meals to homeless families, talk with inmates and walk the streets of Chicago, care for animals and clean rooms at a guest house than seeing and reading about these things.  It was a powerful experience,” Hannah commented.

To say she ‘visited’ these places is an understatement.  She spent hours helping at the various sites as well as observing.  The homeless shelter engaged the girls in serving meals to the hundreds of guests who needed food, showers, clothing and helping hands.  House cleaning duties were on the Ronald McDonald House menu for Hannah and friends.  She worked with various animals in social settings while visiting the animal shelter.  At the detention center, Hannah, spoke with a man who was being deported the day the girls were there,  “It was so touching to have a few minutes to talk with an immigrant whose family was there, but not allowed to talk with him before departing.  He had no idea where they were sending him . . . immigrants don’t always get sent back to their home country.”

The Congregation of St. Joseph sponsors a ministry, Taller de Jose (Joseph’s Workshop), in Chicago that refers and accompanies clients to community and service providers.  Sister Kathy Brazda led the young women on a tour of this ministry and the neighborhood that is primarily Hispanic.  This gave them a sense of urban life in a city of millions. For a rural girl like Hannah, this was enlightening and broadening. She stated with a smile, “It was great to be a part of this huge city and see what that’s like, but I still prefer the quiet of the country.”

When asked what she would take away from this experience, Hannah replied, “I have a deeper realization that there are so many people in trouble needing help and there are others who are willing to help.  I agree that ‘No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.’ and I saw that during this experience.  I’m much readier to look for the needs that need to be met and do what I can to help.”