Mckenna Smith

Personal Reflections.

Had somebody told me a year ago that after a year in England my Spanish would be much improved, I would have laughed. It is true though. The Shrine in Kearsley attracts many visitors each year but it also brings volunteers like myself; from all over the world, especially during the summer months. For example, I am from the United States; we also have two brothers Julio and Ignacio who are from Mexico, we had Zdiska (Anna) from the Czech Republic, and Pedro who is from Spain.

The five of us spent the better part of summer living at the cottage and helping out around St. John Fisher and the Shrine. We made a lot of tea and coffee, prepared many flyers, and did our best to raise money for our youth adventures and Family Fun Day. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention all the “fregar” (“to scrub” or slang for doing dishes. Our goal, with any extra money we raised would go towards a dishwasher in the cottage). 

It was nice to have youth in the cottage this summer. It gave us the ability to continue our goal from Mission Manchester which was to get more young people and families to come to the shrine. Something that came from this was our Family Fun Day. For about a month we planned, prepped, sold, and told people about our plan and on 31 August we had our first ever Family Fun Day! We had glitter tattoos, music, games, and a lot of food. We brought several new families to the shrine and saw some old faces return.

We owe a huge deal of gratitude to Susan Spencer-Kuhanga, she spent countless hours helping us get materials and inviting community members and I think I can speak for all of us when I say that the day wouldn’t have nearly as successful without her. We would also like to thank Carmen, Juan, Jaime A, Jaime V, and Federico from Schoenstatt Madrid who joined us for the weekend to help us. As well as  all the parishioners who supported us!

In preparation for our Family Fun Day, we had an International Dinner. If I am being honest, this was my favorite thing we did. Each of the volunteers, as well as two parishioners (Leila and Janet) prepared a dish from their home country. We were able to raise some money to help out with the Fun Day as well as share our cultures with people we’ve grown to care so much about. Given that we didn’t have any leftovers I’d venture to say that it was a success! We had three continents (North America, Europe, and Africa) and six countries represented (Mexico, United States, Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, and Nigeria).

We followed up our dinner with a Full English Breakfast a couple of weeks later. That also went really well! We even made waffles (the volunteers thoroughly enjoyed them!) and Julio gave Daniel Kuhanga a guitar lesson too. It was a fun morning! Special thank you to Susan Reilly and Joe Walker who helped us cook and sell the breakfasts! When we weren’t helping out around the shrine or planning our Family Fun Day we were hanging out together. One of the things all of us wanted to do was to see the shrine in Scotland. So very early on Saturday morning we loaded up into a small rental car and drove North. We reached Campsie Glen by 10am. We had a quick breakfast and walked around the grounds and had praise and worship in the shrine. It was really cool because we had other people join us and tell us how much it to have us there. We also got to ring the noon angelus. Note- all the bells are different and take different levels of strength to pull them. During our time in Scotland, we also went for a hike, went to Stirling Castle, to the Wallace Memorial, Vigil Mass, camped out, and went to Edinburgh. It was a wonderful, jam packed  40 hours. 

As August drew to a close we said goodbye to Zdiska (Anna) and Pedro. They both had to go back to their respective countries to begin and continue University. We want to thank them for all of their help over the past two months and all the joy that they’ve brought to Kearsley.

Something we hope to carry on with is reaching out to new families and bring them to the Shrine and back to church. We are already planning on having another Fun Day next year and have started making plans for expanding Mission Manchester come next Easter. If you are interested in helping out please do not hesitate to reach out!

Adios! Te veo pronto!