On Feb. 1, the Care for Creation committee, previously known as the Laudato Si’ planning committee, held a service project where 11 Newman members transformed plastic bags into “plarn,” or plastic yarn. Together, they crocheted part of a mat that will be donated to the Wichita located unit of Orphan Grain Train, a global nonprofit that shares personal and material resources with those in need.
Newman University’s Care for Creation committee is an answer to Pope Francis’ seven-year call to service. In addition to the group’s work to build environmental awareness of best practices on campus, the committee also identifies service projects for members of the Newman community.
While discussing the current problems of plastic pollution and Newman’s part to help the Wichita community, student Ashleigh Pamatmat was quick to remember a service project her home church organized. They took plastic bags and crocheted them into mats for the homeless. This project is the one the committee landed on because it helps both the environment and those in need.
There are seven goals to the Care for Creation group and this service project accomplished four: Respond to the cry of the poor, support local communities, respond to the cry of the earth and adopt a sustainable lifestyle.
Emelie Nickel, a junior biology major, saw the posters in the Bishop Gerber Science Center and thought that this would be a great service project to take part in because she loves to knit. She is not on a scholarship that requires service hours, she just wanted to share her talents and help others.
Nickel said, “it was a great way for people to come and talk to other people.”
She also loved hearing Nancy Diepenbrock’s stories about working with the homeless.
Volunteer shares her calling
Diepenbrock, wife of alumnus Bob ‘82, received a call from Sister Therese Wetta, an ASC sister, asking if she could show Newman community members how to crochet the mats.
Diepenbrock said, “Of course I said yes, because you don’t say no to Sister Therese!”
Diepenbrock took a job with Bishop Carroll Catholic High School after teaching at Valley Center High School for three years because she felt called to teach there. She had a student in her class named Bob who was “ornery and kind of a pain.”
Shortly after he graduated, she got a call from someone who said they had a bunch of coats to give away. While talking to some co-workers they suggested she talk to Bob. He worked at American Red Cross and had a homeless ministry called “Let’s Rock and Roll and Change the World.” He accepted the coats and this is ultimately where Diepenbrock got her start with ministry.
After her student, Bob, died of pancreatic cancer, Diepenbrock got involved with another organization. A man named W.D. Martin started a group called Family Friend, where Diepenbrock made meals and got to know the homeless she was working with. She retired in 2017 and dedicated her life to ministry full time.
One day, she talked with homeless individuals about one of the issues of sleeping on the grass in the summer. Because the grass gets dewey overnight, the homeless would often be wet when they woke up.
Shortly after hearing about this issue, Diepenbrock made 52 mats for the group of individuals.
Father Tom Welk, chaplain of the ASC Wichita Center and former chaplain and teacher at Newman, told Diepenbrock once, “The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you figure out why.”
“All my experiences with the homeless and with Newman told me why I was here,” Diepenbrock said, tearfully.
Join the Care for Creation committee at Newman
Students, faculty staff and alumni are invited to join the Care for Creation committee, which exists to educate and inspire Newman community members to be environmentally conscious of their impact on the Earth.