Monday, June 21, 2010

The Double Tall Nonfat Extra Hot Latte Ministry

by Trish Dick, OSB

Since March I have been working at Starbucks. I remember coming home at first thinking, “Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?” There was so much to learn and do: marking cups, calling cups, running a computerized cash register, working 8 hours with a headset, people constantly giving orders, getting up at 3:45 to go work at 5 am and working with a student culture. In my discouragement, Sister Katherine Kraft asked me about the grace of working at Starbucks. Here is what I’ve experienced.

Starbucks’ mission is to be third place in every person’s life. Family first, job second and Starbucks third. And for many homeless and Vietnam vets, Starbucks is a community where they belong. Every day at 5:30 am, two lonely men are at the door for their coffee and connection with those of us who are open. When they don’t come in, we check up on them. Every day the Vietnam vets come in for coffee and fellowship. It’s really not about the coffee; it’s about the connection and being seen and recognized. Sounds pretty Benedictine to me.

I punch in at work on a time clock and have two 10-minute breaks and a 30-minute lunch break. I work for minimum wage at an entry level job. I work with students/young adults who are trying to survive on this income, including a brilliant partner who is taking classes part time because he can’t afford to go full time. I admire my partners for their hard work and dedication to Starbucks and their customers.

Being out in the world and rubbing shoulders has given a new fresh look on being a “Sister.” The partners I work with are very curious and ask me a lot of questions about the monastery. Do you wear a habit when you go back to the monastery? Why do you give your paycheck to the monastery? Can we visit? What is the difference between a convent and monastery? I didn’t know nuns could work in the world.

Slowly my partners, mostly through my weaknesses, have come to realize I am not pious but human, make mistakes, get frustrated, have a sense of humor and struggle with transition and learning a new job, as well as a lack of confidence at learning this new barista skill as a middle-aged woman.

As a result of my work, a scholar-in-residence at the monastery and I met with two young barista women at the Local Blend in St. Joseph and talked about their spirituality and lives. They said, “We aren’t religious, but can we do this every month? There is no place or person with whom we can have these conversations.” I brought a young man to prayers who told me he prays the Liturgy of the Hours every morning and has a graduate degree from Notre Dame in Latin and Greek. He asked me, “Can you hook me up with a spiritual director?” One of the women has been having stomach problems and tests for the last two years. She asked me if I can teach her about mediation and prayer, because the doctors think her problems are stress related. Many ask, “When do when get to meet the Sisters?” One of the Vietnam vets told me after his cancer surgery he is going to go back to Church because his life works better with God.

No tracts, no Bibles, just serving coffee and engaging and caring about people.

The manager of the local Starbucks worked in the monastery’s food service, met his wife at the “convent” and knows many of the Sisters. He is sensitive to my need to be a part of community and get to prayers. Yet as a Sister, I have no special privileges or entitlement at Starbucks – I am one of the partners. I am grateful for our prioress, Sister Nancy, taking the risk of letting me work at Starbucks. As one my partners says: “Wow – I am so glad you are working at Starbucks, because I have a new view of being a nun.”


  1. Thanks to Sister Trish for this great glimpse into her work. I enjoyed reading it, and it reminds me that our work, whatever it is, is also our ministry.

  2. A friend and CSB alumni sent this article to me. It brought back many memories of my times at SJU and CSB. I am wishing you could be working here in San Francisco at Peets! I am glad your partners have a connetion.
    Don SJU '85

  3. What a great reflection Sister Trish! Thanks for sharing your experiences with coffee and ministry.

  4. Trish - what a pleasure to read this blog because its sooo YOU:)to take a difficult situation and bring glory to God through it. You bless me!

  5. Good for you! Talk about community outreach-what a terrific way to learn and teach at the same time.

  6. As one of Sister Trish's customers, I can attest to her ministry of each person who enters Starbucks. And even those who do not enter, can experience her grace through the flowers which she planted just outside the entry. It's good to read that just as she blesses us, she also receives blessings and grace.