Sister Mary Renee was clearly a no-nonsense kind of gal. She moved quickly through the serving area and kitchen as she gave us instructions, and we made sure that at least one of us stuck to her like glue so that we could get the instructions and then pass them on to the rest of the group. She clearly didn't have time to stop and spell it out for us.
Once the line got going, though, and in between phone calls, she was happy to talk to us. We found out that she is French and that she's been in East Harlem for 35 years. She thinks East Harlem is luxury compared to the neighborhood in Chicago where the Fraternite Notre Dame Mother House is located. She and the other nuns live upstairs, and they spend just about every waking moment in service to the poor.
We served 271 meals, all of which were prepared by Sister Mary Renee herself. We ran out of food and another tray would be in its place before we could turn around. She's trilingual--as at home speaking Spanish to a family and she is speaking English and French. Sister Renee is a force to be reckoned with.
Then there was Sister Mary Benedict. She poured the juice as the patrons went through the line. Half my size and wearing Converse All-Stars under her habit, we dubbed her "Pocket Nun" and decided that we really wanted to take her home with us. When she wasn't pouring apple juice, she was quietly moving her hands along the rosary, praying.
The girls and I talked about what it must be like to be a nun. To give up everything that society tells us is important. One of them mentioned that they would be bitter at having to give up everything. I wondered aloud if it made a difference that God had called Sister Mary Renee and Sister Mary Benedict to do the work that they do. And if bitterness comes from not doing what God has clearly given us the gifts and graces to do.
I think that of all the experiences here in NYC, my day with the Wonder Women of Fraternite Notre Dame might just have the greatest impact.
Here's a link to the website. In the picture of the kids planting flowers, Sister Mary Renee is on the left.