Experience Making a Difference

Experience Making a Difference

Reflections and Transformations

by | Jul 1, 2014

This is the second in a two-part reflection from Sue and Craig Schoenfelder, a married couple who are Ignatian Volunteers in St. Louis.  To read the first piece in this series, click here.

We began our service at Midtown Catholic Charities in St. Louis in October 2010. John introduced us around to his staff and invited us to get involved in any and all aspects of their service programs.

Immediately, we were lost in a sea of opportunity. Our careers were in corporate sales and marketing and a stay-at-home mom. Where were we going to fit in? (Still learning that “it’s not about me” thing!)

I shared this concern with my Spiritual Reflector and his comforting words were – “Just be there! The Holy Spirit will guide you.”

Turns out that “fitting in” had little to do with our backgrounds at all. We fit in everywhere, as long as we were open to it. We just needed to be there.

After spending time with various programs, we have been focusing our time on the job readiness class, in-home visits and helping with many aspects of the City Greens food market.

And as we open ourselves to it, we are now finding our journey involving many more people. As Fr. Greg Boyle would say, “In order to be a man for others, you must be a man with others.” What a beautiful revelation this has been for us!

Recently, I was making a follow up home visit with a Midtown social worker. We visited a client for whom Midtown had provided utility assistance. She is an RN, who had recently lost her job at a nursing home, due to take over by a new management company. And now, suddenly, she found herself in threat of being disconnected once again. The social worker calmly offered the client other avenues to get the help she needed. The concerned look on the client’s face had melted into calmness as well.  I think the Holy Spirit was guiding us to where we needed to be.

Early on in my service at Midtown, I visited a man whose only heat source was an open oven door in his kitchen. Boiling water was on the stovetop. Blankets covered each entry point to keep the heat in. I found myself asking why? How can our society allow our neighbor to live in these conditions? He said he was “getting along”.

I found myself at an impasse with one of our clients during a session of the job readiness program at Midtown. This was my first encounter with a paranoid schizophrenic. I wanted to be able to fix, to help, in every situation. But this was truly out of my league. In sharing my uneasiness and apparent total uselessness at my monthly meeting with my Spiritual Reflector, his compassionate words were: “It’s ok. Jesus will take care of her”. Of course, why didn’t I think of that! We need to ask for God’s help and put our trust in Him. Immediately, a weight was lifted from my shoulders. Although this lady decided to leave the class, she returned to Midtown recently, where we chatted. She is getting along and we have been able to refer her to a local program designed with her in mind.

On an in-home visit shortly after Christmas, I inquired of one client, “How was your Christmas?” Her answer left me humbled and so appreciative of our kinship.  She responded: “My Christmas was beautiful. I am truly blessed and in need of nothing. Besides, if I ever feel I need something, like say, some new clothes, I just go to my catalog and thumb through it. When I find a dress I like, I cut it out and put it here on the table. Then I will find a handbag, gloves, some shoes, a hat, a coat, maybe a necklace. I will cut them out too and place them here on my table. And that is what I will wear. When I get tired of wearing that, I will just brush it off into the wastebasket and find me another outfit.”

As an IVC volunteer, these are the priceless gifts we are bestowed by Him.

We are, simply, frail humans getting our spiritual growth hormones from God … along the journey that is all-inclusive. Can we share a little kinship with you?

Craig and Sue Schoenfelder are now completing their third year of service together as Ignatian Volunteers in St. Louis and they look forward to their fourth.  Craig grew up in Kansas City and Sue in O’Neill, Nebraska. They have moved 15 times domestically and internationally, because of Craig’s military service in the Air Force and his over thirty-year career with Chrysler.  Sue was a stay-at-home mom and later a part-time librarian at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy.  They will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary this month.  Their greatest treasure is being the proud parents or four terrific, Jesuit-educated sons. They have six grandchildren ranging in age from 16 years to 8 months.
Sue and Craig say, “Our IVC volunteer activity has been extremely rewarding for us – giving us courage to open the next door, a keener compassionate ear, growing us spiritually while strengthening our marriage”.