MAYWOOD, Ill. – Following the example of Pope Francis and commemorating one of the most poignant acts of Jesus’s ministry, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine students washed the feet of the marginalized at the Sole Care Foot Clinic in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.
“In the Christian tradition, Lent is a time to be reminded of our commitment to God and His people, especially those who are pushed to the margins, or ‘the least of these,’” said Pauline Villapando, interim director of University Ministry at Stritch. “One of the main scriptural readings at the end of Lent is focused on the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, showing them by example what they must do for others. We had the opportunity participate in that type of service in a unique way.”
In a church with a community of believers called Just Embrace, the five Stritch students first learned about the history of Uptown and the circumstances that led to its diverse population. After prayer and reflection, they went to work.
Though the process was simple, soaking and washing each person’s feet and then clipping the toenails, the impact on the students was complex and inspiring.
“Many people are uncomfortable with someone touching their feet. This natural awkwardness forced us to be sensitive to the person’s needs and boundaries. In the future when talking or approaching patients, I will remember this experience. I feel it helped to prepare me to be understanding and considerate of my future patients,” said Robert Dunn, first-year medical student. “This really helped remind me of why I went to medical school: to serve others. It was amazing to see how sincere love, humility and little effort could translate into personal and spiritual growth for both of us.”
Every month, volunteers at the church clinic wash the feet of the homeless, the elderly and many others. For some, this is the only time they are able to have their feet washed or cared for. For others, it’s a rare opportunity to connect with another person.
“Throughout the day we heard many stories, some uplifting and some tragic. The experience was a reminder that everyone has a story and, regardless of where they are in life, they are sensitive, vulnerable and always appreciate and deserve someone to talk to, not to mention clean feet,” said Joe Weber, first-year medical student.
One of the best skills a physician can learn is how to listen. Participating in the Sole Care Clinic gave those students a wonderful opportunity to grow as doctors and as individuals.
“I hope they continue to wrestle with that encounter, that it deepens their compassion and ability to listen to a person’s story. Listening while washing people’s feet gave these students a chance to question the structures that keep people in poverty and the systems that work as barriers for accessing vital services such as mental health and affordable housing,” said Villapando.
With media inquiries, please contact Evie Polsley at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (708) 216-5313 or (708) 417-5100.