One book at a time: Mini grants continue to pay it forward

As submissions for 2017 NCSW mini-grants begin to roll in, the seeds planted from the 41 mini-grants granted last year continue to bear fruit.

“It came from the Lord!” one grant recipient proclaimed. “I never thought I was going to do this.”

For one grant recipient, the idea of creating a Little Free Library in honor of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange seemed like a natural fit. The take-a-book, leave-a-book pay-it-forward concept launched in 2010 captures the best of a community, as do the CSJs. So a small planning group used a NCSW mini-grant to make it happen, dedicating its own Little Free Library in March as part of National Catholic Sisters Week.

“We want to connect the CSJ mission to serve our dear neighbor without distinction and promote literacy and the love of reading,” said Mary Vagnone, a volunteer with the Joseph Worker Program-Orange.

Donated books keep popping up in the library, reports Mary, including a number of titles with spiritual themes. Among them, Mary shared: “Walking On Water: Reflections On Faith And Art” by Madeleine L’Engle; “Speaking In Parables” by Sallie McFague; “Chicken Soup For the Nurse’s Soul,” and “The Many Faces of Mary: A Love Story” by Bob Lord and Penny Lord.

“The sisters are happy to have a place to share their books with visitors,” Mary said. And, she added, they are delighted to see new additions crop up.

I asked Mary if the St. Joseph Worker Program is considering creating another library with a 2017 grant. Her answer: Yes!

This year they have four new women in the program plus one returning from their inaugural year, which was last year. They also have new drive to honor the CSJS, given that several in the area recently passed away. “Perhaps we would create a memorial for the sisters who have completed their mission here on earth and are now joined with the saints in heaven,” Mary said.

She’s considering locating a new free library on the grounds of an elementary school. It’s just an idea at this point, she stressed, but there is a vast CSJ Educational Network that could ultimately get involved.  

Mary encourages perspective mini-grant recipients to go ahead and apply for a grant and see what they can do with it. “Sisters in religious vocation have dedication their lives to serving the community with humility,” she said. “I call on the laity to honor the sisters in their local communities and thank them for their service! A small gesture of appreciation lifts the hearts of the dear sisters who may be weary from their unending mission of bringing Christ to the world. Let’s ignite a sparkled in their eyes! Just having a conversation with a sister about your ideas to celebration National Catholic Sisters Week will do it! Refine your ideas, write about them in your grant application, take a step forward and watch the blessings unfold!”

About Christina Capecchi

Christina Capecchi is an award-winning journalist from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She is the author of the nationally syndicated column “Twenty Something,” which appears in more than 50 Catholic newspapers across the country. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, America, The Chicago Tribune, The Star Tribune and The Pioneer Press. She also provides contracted editing and writing services. She holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a bachelor’s from Mount Mercy University.