It is impossible to overstate the impact of the Heart’s Home lay volunteers in the community they serve and easy to overlook the effect of a single volunteer on the community of origin. As the mother of a recent lay volunteer, I have a unique experience of having stayed with my daughter’s Heart’s Home community in Lima, Peru for several days in August of 2015. The lay volunteers are greatly loved by the homebound elderly whom they visit, by the neighbors they meet on the street, by the children who come to play after school, by the priest who lives somewhat apart from the neighborhood. They provide a place for a lonely widow to stop in for tea, for an abandoned wife to find a meal for her children, for an injured friend to find a companion for the bus ride to the doctor’s office. To the world, these might seem like trivial, insignificantly small acts. But the love resonating in the eyes of both volunteers and neighbors is infinitely valuable. Truly, God is at work in the interactions of the volunteers and the individuals they encounter.
The volunteer’s life touches innumerable individuals in the neighborhood and the apostolates. For me the most moving was the interaction with the youth. Most evenings, the kitchen was filled with the laughter and raucousness of young people coming together at the end of a long day of work or school. There was an intermingling of the volunteers who are far from home and the local youth who are searching for a way out of the poverty and social dangers. Laughter, friendship and encouragement ease the homesickness of some and inspire and fortify the dreams of others. No barriers exist in these moments and God is present, in a very real way.
Even though my daughter was living on a different continent and in a world entirely different from the one from which she came, her work touched many lives in our family and parish. It prompted my husband and me to travel with three of our other children, to “come and see.” People attending the send-off mass who did not even know her, were greatly moved by her generous spirit. Her bimonthly letters were published in our parish bulletin and they gave names and faces and stories to the anonymous poor. The stories inspired some individuals to send assistance to the parish in Lima. One young man was inspired to contact Heart’s Home about being a lay volunteer himself. A mother told me that one letter had greatly helped her son discern his own path in life. After mass, people regularly spoke to me about my daughter and about the friends she wrote about, referring to each one by name. The poorest people in Lima, Peru had become real to us and we were concerned for them. Hearts in suburban America were being turned toward the poor, and bonds of genuine interest and love were formed. Truly the Holy Spirit was at work in the hearts of the volunteers and the people they encountered directly and indirectly while living the charism of Heart’s Home.
The charism of Heart’s Home brings God’s abiding and generous love to the world’s poorest individuals, transforms the lives of its lay missionaries, and forms bonds between the poor and the materially wealthy. Heart’s Home fills significant needs in this world, and it truly has an important role in the world and in the church.