By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Four St. Ambrose University students took part in a spring break service trip to Well of Mercy in Chicago before the university closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The communal living program supports single mothers and their children as they heal from trauma, find peace in the present and prepare for a successful future.
Tammy Norcross-Reitzler, the university’s director of faith formation, accompanied the students who lived for a week in community with the mothers and children residing at Well of Mercy. “This is the fourth year I’ve taken students,” Norcross-Reitzler said. “We spent time getting to know the residents, sorting and organizing donations, preparing a room for one of the moms and her two children, deep cleaning, sharing meals, playing with the children in the daycare, and playing games in the evenings with their moms.”
“Being able to provide service to them and the gratitude they showed towards us brought me great joy,” said junior Anna Schmidt, a nursing student.
“Many of the women were very open with us and shared their stories, which really allowed us to create a deep connection with them. As a future health care worker, this was a wonderful experience that made me really reflect on my attitude towards others and my view of the world.”
Meghan Curran, a junior studying elementary education, said she “did not expect to fall so in love with the moms and kids in such a short amount of time. They welcomed us into their home and hearts as if we were old friends. They bravely shared their stories of hardships with us. Many of the women have been through more hardships before they turn 20 than we will have in our whole lives. The Well of Mercy is more than a long-term homeless shelter to them; it is a safe place to live, a family to have their backs, and a second (or third) chance at life. … Hearing their stories was a friendly reminder that we do not know the crosses that others carry, which is why we must show love to everyone with meet.”