Steward Stories: Aylice Toohey and Natalie Shilati

Our Steward Stories are shared by parishioners who have connected with Saint Clement and actively live a life of stewardship. Today we are focusing on our Parish Anchor "Serve" and hear from two parishioners sharing about their experiences of Encountering God in Service. Learn more about our monthly Encounter Series here and our Friday Sack Lunch & Hospitality programs here.

Steward Stories - March Encounter Series

Aylice Toohey

Arriving to Chicago in the mid-90s, I looked for a parish right away and fortunately found my way to Saint Clement. My decision to be a parishioner here was in part thanks to a partner I worked for who helpfully pointed out that it’s easier to raise children in our faith in an active parish where the pews are full on Sunday. In non-Covid times that is certainly true here at Saint Clement. And that partner was right about raising a family. My husband Eric and I have three boys, all of whom attended Catholic grade school and one of whom is at a Jesuit university. I share all this because, being Catholic is a given in my family. And yet, over time, I have come to recognize that being Catholic is a choice, a choice that I make over and over again. It’s not always been an easy choice but it is one I keep making very much because of how my choice to be Catholic is connected to my choice to serve others, and how that feeds my soul.
Here at Saint Clement, I’ve sought to engage together with my boys in service starting when they were preschoolers helping me to make Friday Sack lunches, a simple act that we still do together to this day and which reminds us to share our blessings with those who are hungry. 
Additionally, I’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude while working closely with an extraordinary group of women for around two decades each Advent season to bring the beautiful Saint Clement Jesse Tree Ministry to life. Witnessing the vast generosity of all of you in this parish community helps me stay focused on the true meaning of Christmas, that God sent Jesus to serve and sacrifice himself for us. And, most recently, during this difficult time of pandemic, when so many are struggling with isolation, depression, and great financial need, I believe God and the Church have offered me comfort by connecting me with a faith community driven to serve. 
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Natalie Shilati

Hello, my name is Natalie Shilati, and I feel very honored to share my experience of serving with you all. My journey to serving at Saint Clement started one week before my junior year of high school. My family was moving from Kansas City to Chicago, and I was thrilled. Not because I didn’t like Kansas City, but because I loved the adventure of meeting new people and experiencing new places.
On the weekends, my family would church-hop in an effort to find the church where we would become parishioners. I remember sitting in Saint Clement, and just knowing that this is where my family had to join. The priest had a relatable and inspiring homily, the church was beautiful, and the announcements at Mass actually sounded interesting.
Somewhere in the timeline of becoming parishioners, my mom had brought me and my brother to volunteer at Saint Clement’s Friday Morning Hospitality. This is where community members experiencing homelessness or food insecurity are invited to Saint Clement’s front lawn for a small breakfast and to-go lunches.
This service gave me the opportunity to share the love that God gave to me, with people who are facing serious daily challenges. I was immediately intrigued to get to know our guests and begin to understand the different obstacles they face in their lives.
I continued to periodically come back to Friday Morning Hospitality, even as I migrated 30 minutes north to attend college at Northwestern. Now, as a recent graduate, most Fridays you can still find me at Saint Clement’s front lawn, serving coffee and talking to our guests. My goal is to listen to our guests and to care for them the way that God works through my family and friends to care for me.
There is still so much work to be done to bring justice to the underserved, but this ministry allows us the space to provide hospitality to those in need and start to understand how we can best help them.
I invite you all to Friday Morning Hospitality, which starts at 8:30am every Friday -- rain or shine! You can come for as long or as little as your schedule permits. I hope to see you there!