March 01

Nuns, warmth and the internet

Each month our family goes with a small group from Grace Lutheran, the church affiliated with our daughter’s school, to  Fraternite Notre Dame to make sandwiches.  It’s kind of a fascinating experience. Fraternite Notre Dame is a group of nuns and friars from France whose mission is to feed the homeless. They receive no salaries for their work and are not affiliated with the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. The nuns and friars wear traditional habits and vestments like the ones in the Sound of Music, to the floor black garb with the robe belt. The nuns have their heads covered but they are clearly working and have well-used aprons on over their voluminous clothing. While serious about their mission, they are warm and appreciative that we are there and smile if you greet them with “Bon Soir!” They operate a soup kitchen out of the church but also have a huge truck that they use to deliver bag lunches to homeless who for whatever reason can’t make it to the soup kitchen. They procure all of the donated food and our group assembles the lunches, typically 300 lunches in less than an hour.

Their church is in a rough part of Chicago in a huge, old building that clearly needs some work. Last time we were there, it was very cold and I kept my coat on most of the time we were making the sandwiches. Two days after we left I read in the news that their entire furnace system had died and that it was now 27 degrees inside the church. The holy water inside the church was frozen. I posted a link to donate for the massive $200,000 they needed to fix the furnace and associated repairs. Bill said, “Oh my goodness. How will they ever pay for that?” “Fish and loaves,” I responded. Little did I know that their story had reached the larger internet via a Chicago TV station that set up a Go Fund Me site on their behalf. As of Thursday over $230,000 had been raised for Fraternite Notre Dame. Say what you want about organized religion and the internet but it’s hard not to feel the warmth from this great story.