Featuring Our Little Flower: Hannah
Hi all! My name is Hannah Gillespie, and I’m an engineer at Boeing in Seattle. When people learn about the Lisieux House and the fact that I am from the Midwest, they often ask (after finding out that I’m not a nun-in-training) the question, “How did you even hear about that place?”
Here, finally documented, is the story of how I ended up at the Lisieux House. Each one of my roommates has a unique and beautiful story of how she came here. Through my story in particular, I would like to reaffirm the truth that God knows and loves our hearts better than we ourselves do, and God is pleased to fulfill even those little, seemingly trivial desires if they help bring us closer to Him. Don’t be afraid to ask!
In my senior year of college at the University of Notre Dame, I had the chance to fly to Brooklyn for a “Come and See” weekend with a missionary program called Heart’s Home. The missionaries at Heart’s Home practice sharing the gift of presence through visits with friends – the elderly, the poor, the sick – and seeing Christ in each person they encounter. During my weekend stay in Brooklyn, I was able to live life with the missionaries: to go out on visits, cook meals for the community, start each day with Mass, spend an hour in prayer in the chapel, and join the other missionaries for Liturgy of the Hours three times a day. Because my dad is a deacon, I was already familiar with the structure of Liturgy of the Hours; however, I was not used to the way the missionaries at Heart’s Home actually chanted the psalmodies (my dad was a drummer in an air band in college, to help give any indication of his singing ability). During my short time at Heart’s Home, I was particularly struck each day by this beauty of praying the Liturgy of the Hours in a sung form.
Throughout the days, the missionaries and I went on visits. We saw Rose, who had immigrated from the Dominican Republic and lived alone on the sixth floor of a housing project. We spent time with Ezra, who was staying in a nursing home and, though unable to speak verbally, shared her joy at our visit through her body language. During these interactions, I saw an incredible outpouring of self from the missionaries. I wondered to myself, “How do these missionaries have the energy for this? How do they sustain this life, day in and day out, to give of themselves with such humility and joy?”
I asked one of the missionaries these questions. She said in reply: “Through Him! Through my Holy Hour. With work, I get tired, but I come and He gives me His strength. When I go out, it is Him that I think of; I remember praying with Christ in the tabernacle when I see the face of another.” Before the weekend with Heart’s Home, the idea of praying (sitting in silence, not moving around!) for a whole hour, every day, felt like a heavy weight. I would rather serve God through action than contemplation. After seeing the lives of the missionaries, the strength of their self-gift, and the beauty of their witness, I began to desire more of what they had, a deep intimate prayer life with Christ, not just seeing faith as a series of activities to check off for the week.
I came away from this beautiful weekend back to the realities of Notre Dame. I knew I was moving to Seattle after graduation to work, but I was worried. Seattle is among the most unchurched cities in the United States; in my time here, I’ve heard it still referred to as a missionary diocese. In some ways, it can be a dark place – both through the stereotypical “Seattle rain” and by a striking sense of godlessness in some parts of the city. Yet, from my time at Heart’s Home in New York City, I saw the beauty, light, and life that an intentional community brought both to me and to the neighborhood in Brooklyn. I had a desire to be like those missionaries within another US city in my daily life, and also to do so in community with other Catholic women.
At Notre Dame, I was talking with a friend of mine and explaining this desire, “Wouldn’t it be really cool to live with Catholic women that we could be missionaries in a way to the city of Seattle? That we could have an intentional prayer life together?” And then, remembering what I had been particularly struck by in its beauty, I said to my friend, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could live with Catholic women in Seattle and we could all sing night prayer together?” We laughed and went about our days.
Later that week, I was sitting in class, checking my inbox, and I got The Scroll, a weekly email from the Archdiocese of Seattle advertising all the young adult activities going on that week around the city. I had subscribed to the email list serve that summer when I was interning in Seattle, but had only gone to a few events that summer. That week, however, there was a little blurb advertising a place called the “Lisieux House,” a Catholic intentional community of young women in Seattle. I checked out the website in the middle of class. The house had a chapel. Some girls liked hiking? Awesome! In the list of house commitments, my heart jumped when I read the first bullet point: night prayer. At that point, I did not even know if night prayer was sung or not (spoiler: it is!), but I understood, at that moment, in the middle of class on a Friday afternoon in South Bend, that I wanted to live in the Lisieux House and that Christ had been preparing my soul to receive this place as His gift.
God inspires our desires for goodness, truth, beauty, friendship, and community, and He loves to fulfill these desires. In my own small way, I am a missionary in Seattle – in my workplace, through my friendships, and with the support of the Lisieux House. The Lisieux House has a mission of prayer, healing, community; it is a place of hospitality for our guests, for priests, other missionaries, for friends, and a center of outreach to the greater Seattle community. Like Heart’s Home, I am surrounded by women that inspire me to grow in contemplation and a deep interior life with Christ. While working or visiting with my coworkers, my friends, and my family, even virtually, I try to see Christ in them in every moment. When I am tired from work and other commitments, I go to the chapel and remember what the Heart’s Home missionary witnessed: “I come, and He gives me His strength.”