Nordhaus said she grew up with family of volunteers
OSHKOSH — Tori Nordhaus grew up seeing the effects of volunteering and giving back. Her family volunteered for numerous church and school sporting activities. So when the family joined St. Raphael the Archangel Parish when Tori was in eighth grade, it was a natural thing for her to join in.
She started with the Lifeteen program at the church and performed service activities and outreach projects throughout the community. Now Nordhaus, 21, who is a senior at St. Norbert College in De Pere, returns home each weekend to serve as the Sunday nursery facilitator at St. Raphael.
Nordhaus schedules volunteers for the nursery and is there by 8:15 a.m. each Sunday to get the nursery ready for the children and support the volunteers. About 15 to 20 children, ages 1 through 5, are cared for in the nursery during the 9 and 11 a.m. services.
Tori Nordhaus (Jeannette Merten | For The Compass)
"I'm there all morning long, seeing that the kids are well taken care of and learning the basic tools they need to share and be kind to one another," Nordhaus said. "We also have prayer in elementary-type ways — just little activities to make sure they're recognizing that they're at church and not just in the nursery for playing. They're getting the supplementary parts that their families are getting, even though they're not with their families."
Nursery service is an important ministry for the parish, Nordhaus said.
"I think a lot of parents come to church and they want to fully benefit from the Mass and what they can take out of the message of the Mass," she said. "Sometimes their kids might take away a little bit from that if they're with them. By having the nursery open with people they're comfortable with on a weekly basis to help their kids, they have that hour of time where they can give themselves to something.
"It's a renewing thing for them to go to Mass. They just need to have their own time. They can seriously take in the Mass and get out of it what they need. Having this nursery service is very beneficial," she said.
Her service has been just as beneficial to Nordhaus personally. She is majoring in elementary education at St. Norbert, and her work at St. Raphael has assisted her in many ways.
Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Tori Nordhaus
Parish: St. Raphael the Archangel, Oshkosh
Favorite saint: Adeline
Words to live by: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." (Serenity Prayer)
"Taking the job was a way to deepen my faith and my understanding of my faith, and to give me the ability to get more skills with kids," Nordhaus said. "It's definitely taught me patience."
Nordhaus, who will be certified to teach children from first through eighth grades, said volunteering at her parish has given her a better understanding of childhood development. "It's been neat for me to see the growth of everybody, not only the younger kids but also my volunteers as they grow in their relationships with the kids."
She also enjoys the spiritual time she spends with the children. As young as her charges are, she said they do understand that church is a special place.
"In the nursery, we have the sound of the Mass piped in to us," she said. "It's so interesting because there are some who pick up on it and can repeat what the priest or the lector is saying. They don't understand the whole thing, but they try to say the prayers with me."
Giving back has become an important part of Nordhaus' faith life, she said.
"It gives you a greater understanding of what people in your community really need rather than just living life for yourself," she said. "It gives me a sense of completeness that I wouldn't otherwise have.
"Volunteering and having that ability to give back helps who we are in our everyday life and to grow deeper into our faith and spiritual life," Nordhaus said. "It's a moment of your time to give something you have within yourself to someone else. It doesn't have to be hours on end or a monetary thing. It can be a fleeting moment and just making eye contact. You can really give someone a lot."