Sunday, March 26, 2017

From Brokenness to Healing

By Molly Trainor, former Benedictine Volunteer

Fourth Sunday of Lent
John 9:1, 6-9, 34-38
"I am the light of the world, says the Lord
whoever follows me will have the light of life."

Today John tells of Jesus healing a man born blind. When others learn that the man can see, they ask themselves, “Isn’t this the beggar who used to sit on the side of the road?” Then when the man tries to testify to the merciful power of Jesus, they cast him out, saying that he is just a sinner, unqualified to teach them.

Too often, it’s easy to be discouraged from serving others because we feel like the blind man in today’s Gospel. During my time of service with Benedictine Volunteers, I struggled with this a lot. I asked myself why I thought I could help others, when I myself struggled with so much, as if I had to be perfect in order to give anything. 

The blind man shows us that this is far from the truth. The things that make us broken are those same things that Jesus uses to heal us, to make us instruments for others. The beggar’s blindness is the reason he finds Jesus and the reason he is so willing to preach about Jesus’ mercy. 

As I read this Gospel, I see that my blindness is not something that should hold me back from service. My imperfections are what make me realize the need for God in my life and give me the courage to address that need with gentle love in the lives of others. Instead of being ashamed of my brokenness, I should allow God to use it to help heal others. 


Lord, I believe. I believe that you have the power to heal. I believe that you desire to use me as an instrument, despite and because of my shortcomings. Do not let me remain blind to my shortcomings, but do not let my shortcomings stop me from accepting your plan for me. Give me the sight to see how you want me to grow in love with you. Give me the courage to testify to your mercy. Amen. 

Focus on: Spirituality: It’s difficult to beg, but it is only in begging that we truly realize our need. Ask yourself, in what ways am I avoiding healing in my spiritual life? Beg God for the sight to see what you might not want or be able to see on your own. Then beg for the help and encouragement to transform your weaknesses into strengths. Like the blind man, beg that your past struggles allow you a deeper faith in Jesus Christ. 

Service Inspiration: Someone who has allowed God to transform her wounds into a beautiful witness of faith is singer Audrey Assad. I had the privilege of hearing Assad’s testimony and she inspired me to allow God to use my brokenness. She helped me realize that in admitting our weakness, we allow others to see that all our strength comes from God. Her music gives me the strength to say that my weakness is a tool to serve others for the glory of God.

Forty Days with the Four Pillars of Faith-Based Service: This reflection is part of our annual Lenten Reflection Guide, a collection of reflections written by current and former volunteers. We are pleased to offer this resource through our partnership with the Catholic Apostolate Center

To download the Lenten Reflection Guide, please click here. 

About the Author: Molly was an English major at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Last March, she went on a Mission of Peace to Gallup, New Mexico with my her University. Formerly she served as a volunteer with Benedictine Volunteers, where she lived and served with the sisters of Mother of God Monastery in Watertown, South Dakota.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Grace Meets Us Where We Are

By Melissa Carnall, alumnus of Amate House

Third Sunday of Lent
John 4:5-15, 19B-26, 39A, 40-42
"One does not live on bread along, 
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God."

Writer Anne Lamott tells us, “Grace meets us where we are, but does not leave us where it found us.” Jesus demonstrates this truth about God’s grace in today’s Gospel reading.  Between the world and our own selves, we experience barriers to encountering God. Jews regarded the Samaritan woman as ritually impure, and she also would have been an outcast in her town, given her five failed marriages.  Those were some of her barriers. We too, experience the barriers that can block our experience of God’s living water; it could look like busyness, fear of the “other,” feelings of unworthiness, or unresolved hurts that close off our hearts to the fullness of love. But these barriers do not daunt Jesus, just like He was not daunted by the woman’s purity status, nor her shame. God is not daunted by our personal and societal barriers to encountering Him.  We can learn from the Samaritan woman as she allows Jesus to overcome barriers and break down her defenses. She lets God in, to meet her where she is. 

But Jesus also shows us something more in this encounter. God not only meets us wherever we are, but we are sent on mission to share the grace and freedom after our encounter. If we only read the abridged version of today’s Gospel, we miss that many of the Samaritans began to believe in Jesus “because of the word of the woman who testified.” She was met in the chaos of her life and transformed into a messenger of the Living Water. She was sent on mission to spread the good news. 


God of boundless life, You who quenched the true thirst of the Samaritan woman at the well, and offer us still the Living Water of Your Son, grant that we may be open to Your grace in the chaos of our lives and the world, undaunted by the barriers we experience. Encounter us in our messiness and send us forth to spread Your love, Your freedom, and Your peace to all those in need. We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Living Water of our lives. Amen.

Focus on: Simple Living: And her mission continues today as she teaches us we can find abundance in simplicity. The woman lacked everything by most standards (status, stable marriage, equality), yet in her lack, she had room for the abundance of life that is the Living Water Jesus offered her in Himself. We find this in our years of service. When we remove the distractions of excess, when we learn from those who have fewer resources and less privilege, we create space for true abundance based on grace and relationship with God, instead of false abundance based on acquisition and status. 

Service Inspiration: My friend and “big sister,” Sr. Christa Parra, IBVM, is a motivation and encouragement to me as I strive to live a life following Jesus, serving others as He did, especially those on the margins. Sr. Christa inspires me because she lives a life rooted in the Love of God that extends to everyone she meets. She lavishes love upon everyone she encounters, without distinction, without regard for supposed worthiness or potential reciprocity. Christa is filled with the Living Water of God and she lets that love flow from her into all her encounters and relationships. 

Forty Days with the Four Pillars of Faith-Based Service: This reflection is part of our annual Lenten Reflection Guide, a collection of reflections written by current and former volunteers. We are pleased to offer this resource through our partnership with the Catholic Apostolate Center

To download the Lenten Reflection Guide, please click here. 

About the Author: Originally from Gainesville, FL, Melissa graduated from Furman University in Greenville, SC with majors in Religion and Economics. She moved to Chicago for her year of service with Amate House, the young adult volunteer program for the Archdiocese of Chicago. Melissa fell in love with the Windy City and stayed for her Master of Divinity degree at Catholic Theological Union. Melissa now ministers as a Pastoral Associate at Old St. Mary’s in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Serving with Sisters: Emily Guilbert

Throughout National Catholic Sisters Week, Catholic Volunteer Network has shared interviews with volunteers currently serving alongside sisters. In each post you can learn a little more about how the volunteers found their program and what they’ve learned from the sisters they work with. Today we feature Emily Guilbert from Roswell, Georgia, a graduate of the University of Georgia, volunteering with Redeemer Ministry Corps in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  

How did you find your volunteer program? What appealed to you about it?

After reading an article in a national newspaper about members of a Catholic service organization in Washington, D.C., I quickly found myself on the Catholic Volunteer Network looking at different programs. I wanted to serve in the healthcare field, and, when I searched through the programs, the Redeemer Ministry Corps was the first one which caught my eye. The description of the program emphasized how volunteers would act as a “caring, comforting, and healing presence” to others as they experience vulnerable times in their lives. This statement of purpose spoke to me and my belief about caring for the whole person, not just their disease or issue they face. Knowing that this instruction is difficult to come by, I quickly applied to the Redeemer Ministry Corps and accepted a position in this program sponsored by the Sisters of the Holy Redeemer!

Where do you serve?

I currently serve as Patient Support in the Charles A. & Betty Bott Cancer Center and the Women’s Health Center, two specialized locations within Holy Redeemer Health System. In both of my placements,  I accompany those who have been affected by a diagnosis of cancer and serve as a comforting, friendly face to see as they go through this difficult time. I work in the medical oncology unit of the outpatient cancer center, where patients often spend an average of six hours receiving a blood transfusion or medication, to make them as comfortable as possible while there by spending time with them and providing personalized assistance and care. In my second placement, I work in the practice of three breast care surgeons to provide that same comforting presence to patients in their practice. My position is fondly referred to as “Professional Hand-holder” because I join people in their biopsies, consults, surgeries, and other steps along their journey with breast cancer. 

How has service strengthened your faith and your understanding of vocation?

Each day I spend in my ministry brings me closer to my faith and my call to serve others as my vocation. When I join patients in these vulnerable moments, I draw upon my faith to help me convey the moment of peace and comfort the person and their family need. . As a result of this year, I will be able to continue to grow in my vocation and share it in my personal and professional life.

What have you learned from living and working with the sisters?

The Sisters of the Holy Redeemer have taught me so much about community life and caring for others. My time in this program has shown me that community life is not an easy task; however, the relationships made as a result of dedicated community life are invaluable. Through their charism, they have shown me the importance of caring for each person they meet in their daily lives and ministries as much as they can for as long as the person needs. Life with the sisters may not be like Sister Act, but the joy, faith, and compassion they have for others has taught me (and will continue to teach me) lessons which I will take with me after this year of volunteer service.

What advice would you give to someone interested in full-time volunteer service?

My advice to someone considering a year of service is to trust in the process. Service as a long term volunteer and community life are not simple tasks. As obstacles in work or community arise, it is essential to trust in the staff and sponsors who support you, as well your own abilities, to solve them. The challenges you face as a volunteer will teach you something as long as you are open and willing to learn the lesson.

To learn more about CVN's From Service to Sisterhood initiative and discernment resources for volunteers, please click here.

For more information about National Catholic Sisters Week, including details about events taking place all over the U.S. please click here