The Divine Word College ministry program is a win-win for students and the people they meet in surrounding communities. Besides their academic studies and religious formation—which fills most of their time— students share their time and talent with area residents in a variety of ways. In the process, they benefit from a rich cultural exchange and the knowledge they are indeed doing God’s work on earth.
Sr. Theresa Marie Tran
Sr. Theresa Marie Tran, SCC, coordinates the program, which sends out more than 60 students to assist in nursing homes, homes for those with disabilities, programs for the homeless, and religious education. They also take part in area Masses and spend time with religious sisters in area convents.
Students primarily do ministry in Dubuque, Dyersville and Cascade, but can go as far away as Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities, and as near as Epworth.
“Some families around here appreciate the students visiting them,” Sr. Theresa Marie said.
Ministry activities are quite varied. Students connect with residents at nursing homes by playing cards and other games such as bingo, board games and even bowling. Sometimes the activities are planned by nursing home staff, and sometimes the students do the planning.
Students travel to Hills and Dales in Dubuque to work with people with disabilities, who may not be able
to participate in the activities. So students play instruments or sing to them, creating a music ministry for the residents.
“Sometimes, the students play card games among themselves, but they partner with one of the residents,” Sr. Theresa Marie said. “So they play for that resident and hopefully win for that person.”
Other students help out at homeless shelters, serving meals or otherwise offering simple Christian kindness to those in need.
Students who are studying English through the ESL program also take part in ministry outreach. Two communities of religious sisters in Dubuque—The Sisters of St. Francis and the Presentation Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary—offer the students a chance to work on their language skills.
In the process, both the students and the sisters enjoy a cultural exchange as they share their life stories.
“Ministry is reciprocal, the students are not just there to give of themselves to these residents, the residents also minister back to them,” Sr. Theresa Marie said. “The students are grateful to be there, and to be attentive to these people, who they otherwise may never have met.