While many of their peers were catching up on their sleep, seven pre-teens from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in New Orleans spent a recent Saturday morning preparing and serving the noon lunch for more than 100 homeless men and women at St. Jude Community Center, located across North Rampart Street from their home church.
“This was my first time (helping here), but I would like to experience this again,” said Christian Brothers sixth grader Keion “Keke” Dorvilie, of the Oct. 1 effort, one of the monthly service projects completed by her Knights of St. Peter Claver Junior Daughters group from Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“It teaches me how to help people in need and to give to them when they need things the most,” said Keke, 11. “I want to be a part of whatever helps them. I want to be able to help people get back on their feet.”
Keke and her fellow Junior Daughters arrived early to help the adult Oblate Associates group from Our Lady of Guadalupe chop salad and butter bread for the day’s lunch of pasta with meat sauce, green peas and dessert. Keke was elated to learn from her adult leaders that if any guest requested seconds, he or she could be accommodated.
“This teaches me that I can make a difference, even outside of church. It doesn’t matter what age you are,” Keke said.
While physically separate from the church and shrine side of North Rampart, the community center is treated as an extension of church walls. Breakfast and lunch are served to the homeless every weekday (and lunch only on Saturdays) there. The center also is the site of GED classes and the food bank operated by the church’s conference of St. Vincent de Paul.
“It is really a center for the community – not only the church community but the community at large,” said parishioner Eleanora Bazile. “The community center helps us to live out the mission of what St. Jude Church is, and that is to provide service to those who are less fortunate, particularly the homeless.”
The Junior Daughters also know the center as the site of religious education classes held every Sunday.
“What is phenomenal about our program is that a lot of our kids attend Catholic schools and get their religious instruction there, but still attend our CCD classes,” Bazile said.
The Junior Daughters meet on second Sundays with their adult leader, Sandra Lott, to plan not only their next monthly service project, but also social ones, including an annual picnic, trip to Skate Country, special Masses and other events in which they get to build fellowship with other Junior Daughter and Junior Knight groups, the latter their all-male equivalent.
“We’re about them knowing God and being of service,” Bazile said. “It gives them a sense, as they’re growing up, to give something back.”
Ahmaya Lott, a fourth grader at Audubon Charter School, said she was proud to be a Junior Daughter serving the needy at St. Jude.
“I am here to help the poor – it’s important that we help people who are in need of food and homes and survival,” said Ahmaya, 9. “I think Jesus would say that it’s amazing that these girls are doing all of these things!”
For membership information, call Sandra Lott at 710-2189.