Dec. 4, 2015: CSJ Volunteers lets individuals help others in numerous ways, by Kathleen Norman

December 4, 2015 by

Kathleen Norman

Kathleen Norman

“In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.” So says spiritual author and teacher Marianne Williamson.

Since the 1970s, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia have proven that statement true through a program called CSJ Volunteers. It gives individuals the opportunity to volunteer with the Sisters as they live and work together.

Today, CSJ Volunteers offers both short- and long-term opportunities that can be either full time or part time. Our program is very flexible and we try to tailor the experience to the individual, so he or she can volunteer in areas where he or she has a particular interest.

We currently have two full-time volunteers in Concordia who are halfway through a year of service. One is Connie Palacio, a retired teacher from Anaheim, Calif. This is her second time volunteering with us. In 2014, she volunteered with us for five months, splitting her time between Manna House of Prayer, the Cloud County Resource Center and Neighbor to Neighbor. This time she is working with our Sisters at the Motherhouse and Mount Joseph Senior Village.

Our other full-time volunteer is Vivian Leiker, a young woman from Hays, Kan.

Faced with budget cuts earlier this year, the Concordia School District contacted us to see if we could help fill the need for a librarian at the elementary school. So in the afternoons Monday through Friday, Vivian is the librarian. She spends her mornings helping at Neighbor to Neighbor and the National Orphan Train Complex.

We also rely on an assortment of volunteers at Neighbor to Neighbor, Manna House and the Motherhouse as well as for special events throughout the year like our annual spaghetti dinner. At Neighbor to Neighbor, there are many women who volunteer their time and talents: teaching baking, assisting with sewing projects and maintaining the facility. At Manna House, volunteers can help by welcoming visitors and answering the phone as well as other tasks like organizing the Helping Hands food pantry. At the Motherhouse, we rely on volunteers to welcome people at the front desk on the weekends, while others have been trained as docents to give tours. Some volunteers have even helped in the organic garden.

In addition to our individual volunteer opportunities, the Sisters of St. Joseph host an “alternative spring break” for college students. Usually, this takes place at our convent in El Paso, Texas. But in the spring of 2014, in addition to three spring break groups in El Paso, we had a group from Elms College in Chicopee, Mass., come to Concordia for a week of service. They spent the week painting Club 81 and helped deliver meals on wheels.

As the opening quote stated, “In every community, there is work to be done.” And Concordia is no exception. Together we can bring about healing in our wounded world.

If you’d like more information about the CSJ Volunteers, please call me at 785/243-2113, ext. 1215, or email me at


– Kathleen Norman is the director of Neighborhood Initiatives Inc. and coordinates the Sisters of St. Joseph’s volunteer program, CSJ Volunteers.


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