Thursday, December 15, 2011

Community on the Move

What is community? More specifically, what is intentional community? Here at Catholic Volunteer Network, we think of intentional community as basing group decisions around common values. Furthermore, intentional community means sharing responsibilities equally and most importantly, being sources of mutual support for one another.
A group of recruiters from our programs being goofy at the
Assumption College fair. (Recruiters are from Cap Corps, Capuchin
Franciscan Volunteer Corp, Francis Corps, JVC,  JVC
Northwest, LVC, CAP and Franciscan Outreach Association.)

Over the past two weeks, I had the opportunity to experience community in several ways. The first of which, Matt talked about in his blog a few weeks ago. This is the community of recruiters that traveled to a grand total of six fairs in four days throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire. These schools included Merrimack College, Boston College, Stonehill College, Assumption College, College of the Holy Cross and St. Anselm College. If we didn’t already know each other from fairs in New York and Ohio, we certainly did by the end of the week. Sharing stories about our volunteer and recruitment experiences, we learned about each other and, for me, it felt a bit like I was back in Baltimore surrounded by the people who supported me throughout the year. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Prayer Life on the Road: Keepin' it Real

A few weeks ago when I was in North Carolina, my boy Andrew Lipetsky asked me, "So, how have you been with keeping up with prayer and all that?"  And honestly, at that point, it had been difficult.  I admitted to him that my best periods of prayer life have happened when I have good routine and schedule in my life. In Costa Rica, for example, when I got up and went to bed the same time every day, it was easy to fit in prayers for the day and night.  Right around 6:30 a.m. when eating my cereal I'd read something from the bible or a reflection and right around 10 p.m. that night I'd journal before going to bed.

But the routine and settled schedule is out the window when I'm on the road, and because of that, and this is no excuse, my personal prayer life had been taking a back seat.  I check in to hotels after a school visit and all I want to do is relax.  By the time I finish watching Harry Potter on HBO until 1:00 a.m. (great, but poor decision, Matt), I'm too tired to do anything else but go to bed.  I'm lucky enough to get up to brush my teeth, forget about praying.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Where the Boys Are

By Nikki Rohling, Associate Director

How many programs have communities with three times as many women as men? It’s a reality that many of our programs face each year. The volunteering sector has always been open to both men and women, however, women traditionally volunteer at higher rates than men. How can we encourage more men to participate in volunteer service opportunities?

The Statistics
According to the 2010 Economic News Release, “Volunteering in the United States,” from the Department of Labor, the volunteering rate for women actually decreased from 30.1 percent to 29.3 percent, while the volunteer rate for men was basically unchanged at 23.2 percent.

Some larger, more recognizable programs seem to have the luxury of accepting applicants from a large pool. So, in theory they would have a closer ratio. However, in 2009, Peace Corps reported 7,671 total volunteers with 4,624 female and 3,047 male (60 precent female and 40 percent male).

In the most recent Catholic Volunteer Network survey (full results to be published next month at our annual conference), programs reported 61.6 percent of their volunteers were female and 38.4 percent male. This is actually a slight increase in males over the previous year (64.8 percent female and 35.2 percent male in 2009-2010).

Friday, November 4, 2011

Simplicity: A Challenge

By: Caitlin Baummer , Recruitment Associate
Two weeks ago, I posted a poll on facebook asking friends and followers how I should challenge myself to simplify over the coming two weeks. The poll included the following options:
1. Don’t watch TV
2. Only drink water
3. Limit computer time to one hour per day
4. Only pack two pairs of shoes (I really like shoes)
5. Don’t wear make up
Voters overwhelmingly chose option number two- only drink
water. This is actually what I was hoping to be the winner. For a little while I’ve been conscious of the fact that I do not drink enough fluids, and I often choose juice or soda over the purest form of hydration. To go along with this change, I was sure to bring my reusable water bottle and made a concerted effort to fill and use it, only purchasing bottled water as a last resort. In addition, I wanted to challenge myself in some way technologically, so I decided that I would also refrain from watching television for those two weeks.

As I mentioned in my last post, each of the pillars presents its own set of challenges and joys. This was no exception. I was glad to take on a new commitment to H2O, but I had my moments. The most difficult time for me to drink water was at breakfast. For some reason, I especially enjoy a glass of orange or apple juice with breakfast. This was made more difficult when a friend told me about the delicious pumpkin spice hot chocolate that he had just ordered from Starbucks. The next morning, I found myself standing, staring at the Starbucks menu in the Columbus airport. I had to remind myself of the promise that I had made to my readers and myself. But overall, I noticed the difference in my own body. During my week in Ohio, I noticed that I had more energy and did not feel as weighed down. Then, after catching a cold over the weekend, I am sure that my increased water intake helped the cold to subside quicker.
Oddly enough, I didn’t actually have too many opportunities to watch television over the last two weeks. During my week in Ohio, I was only in a hotel for two nights (staying with friends the other nights). Furthermore, the hostel at which I stayed in New York City, did not have a television in the room. The hostel was a challenge in simplicity in itself. I had grown used to the comfort of hotel amenities. This room had a set of bunk beds, a mirror on the wall and a shared bathroom in the hallway. I also did not have the convenience of in house breakfast.
But I digress, those two nights that I spent in the hotel, I felt as though the TV was staring me down saying “turn me on, turn me on”, but I refrained and I’m so glad that I did. During that quiet time, I was able to collect my thoughts about the busy week that preceded, the relationships that I had built and rekindled, and the week ahead. I was far more productive in the office work that I conducted and even finished a book (Harry Potter 2). The more I focused on being present to these thoughts and actions, the less I noticed the TV.
Beyond just being a fun experiment in sacrifice, these practices made me think. Particularly when it came to water. Frequently, when I filled my water bottle, or took a sip, I thought about the individuals in the world who do not have access to clean drinking water. According to, approximately one in eight people lack access to safe water supplies and 2.5 billion people don’t have access to a toilet. ( This reminded me of a segment that I heard on NPR about “flying toilets” in Kenya, a practice where a person is forced to defecate into a plastic bag and then throw it as far as possible because he or she does not have access to a toilet. You can only imagine the embarrassment and sanitary affects for individuals living in these communities, but they have no other choice. (
As for refraining from watching television, I can’t say that it brought to mind any specific issues of social justice. (Although, I did save energy by leaving it off.) What was more obvious to me was the way that I was able to be present in the moment, to myself, my surroundings, phone interactions, prayer etc… This is an aspect of simple living that is often left out of conversations. So many times we think that to live more simply, we need to have fewer material possessions. This is certainly part of it, but it is also about simplifying our minds and hearts. Truthfully, they go hand in hand- if we have fewer “things” then there are fewer possessions to occupy our minds. And if we are fulfilled in the simplicity of our relationships and interactions, we feel less of a need for material possessions.
So where do we start? It is a bit of a “chicken and the egg” scenario, isn’t it? That’s where the other pillars can help us. If we continuously pray about our commitment to simplicity, God will give us strength in our moments of weakness. If we surround ourselves by a community of supportive people we can hold each other accountable and provide encouragement. Finally, by carrying out works of social justice, we are reminded of how simple living allows us to be in solidarity with the poor and marginalized.
I was listening to an interview with the author of Steve Jobs’ biography (again on NPR). He reported that Jobs said the following “Simplicity means understanding the depth of the complexity that you must overcome.” If we commit ourselves to understanding the depth of the complexity of social justice issues, relationships and faith, then can we achieve true simplicity.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

4:08 a.m.

The following took place Sunday morning, Oct. 17, 2011 on my way to Missouri:

My groggy eyes open.  I wonder what time it is.  Waking up on my own I feel surprisingly awake for the meager amount of hours I slept.  I pick up my phone.  It had turned off overnight.  Great.  I turn it on.  4:08 a.m.
                That’s not good.
                After three weeks on the road, I was back in my bed in D.C. The previous night around 10 p.m. I was too tired to do anything functional (like pack) that I decided to hit the hay, setting my alarm for 2:30 a.m. to give myself plenty of time to pack, shower, and get ready for Super Shuttle to arrive at 4:05 a.m.
                4:05 a.m., that’s right, I woke up PAST the time my ride was supposed to come.  There have been few situations in my life where there was no time to panic.  This was one of them.
                I plug in my phone. It rings and I pick it up. “Hello?” An automated voice message comes on, “This is a message from your driver telling you that he will arrive in five minutes.  For the courtesy of other customers, please be ready outside waiting for your driver.”
                “OK, thank you.”

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What is World Mission Sunday?

By Jim Lindsay, Executive Director

Annually, World Mission Sunday is observed on the next-to-last Sunday in October. As described by Pope John Paul II, World Mission Sunday is "an important day in the life of the Church because it teaches how to give: as an offering made to God, in the Eucharistic celebration and for all the missions of the world."

Every year the needs of the Catholic Church in the Missions grow - as new dioceses are formed, as new seminaries are opened because of the growing number of men in various parts of the world hearing Christ's call to the priesthood, as areas devastated by war or natural disaster are rebuilt, and as other areas, long suppressed, are opening up to hear the message of Christ and the Church. That is why the involvement and commitment of Catholics from around the world is so urgently needed. Offerings from Catholics in the United States, on World Mission Sunday and throughout the year, are combined with offerings to the Propagation of the Faith worldwide.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Challenge of Change

By: Caitlin Baummer, Recruitment Associate

Faith. Community. Social Justice. Simplicity. These are the values upon which Jesus tells us to live our lives. And since we’ve had two thousand years of practice, we should have them down by now, right? Hardly. We live in a culture that places value in consumerism, individualism and personal gain instead of the common good, solidarity and a belief in a higher power. The pillars are so difficult to integrate into our lives, because the world tells us not to. Each of these values presents its own unique set of challenges, but they also each gift us with their own set of joys. So Catholic Volunteer Network and its member programs adopt these pillars as their own, challenging volunteers to live them out in many different and beautiful ways.

Caitlin with CRA Megan and College of William and
Mary student, Rachel.

Before going to Nazareth Farm in spring of 2007, I practiced my Catholic faith, did volunteer work, tried to be mindful of my interactions with others and knew that I should turn off the lights behind me. However, I did not realize just how much more I could be doing to challenge myself in these areas and I certainly did not understand how these four core values were connected to each other. Over the years that followed, however, I learned that living simply helps us to be in solidarity with our local and global communities, that we find community with others when seeking social justice and that sustainable living has a direct connection with countless social justice issues around the world. However, what truly ties all four of these values together is faith. Our faith calls us to love, and it is love that compels us to be in community with others, to serve the poor and vulnerable, and to “live simply so that others may simply live.”

As former volunteers will tell you, these pillars are easiest to live out when you are surrounded and encouraged by like-minded people. However, I find that the more time I spend away from intentional community, the harder it becomes to hold myself accountable for living out the pillars. I know that I’ve thrown bottles in the trash that can be recycled, I’ve failed to put other’s needs before my own, I have neglected to educate myself on current social justice issues. As I talked with college students about how the pillars are lived out in each program, I began to question how well I’m living them out on my own.

So I decided that I would create mini-challenges for myself. Every two weeks I will choose a different pillar on which to reflect. I’ll make a commitment to a specific change in my day-to-day life and pay special attention to how I witness that pillar being lived out on the campuses and in the communities that I visit. Then, I’ll write about my experiences right here, on our blog.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Community and Recruiting at the Fairs

By: Matt Aujero, Recruitment Associate

When I took the position with Catholic Volunteer Network, I was looking forward to the solo jobs that I would be doing on the road.  Having just finished a week of volunteer fairs in Chicago, meeting and making friends with the recruiters of other programs, I find that I will be missing these people as I take on October basically on my own visiting schools in areas that other recruiters reach less frequently.

I was fascinated by what I learned about each program by getting to know the other recruiters and that made me and the work I do so much better. Catholic Volunteer Network's presence at these volunteer fairs is a little bit different---I'm not trying to recruit anyone to a specific program or placement, instead I hand out Response Directories and help direct students based on their interests.  And because I got to meet so many organizations at the fairs, I have a better idea on how to provide guidance to prospective volunteers.

For instance, if someone is interested in public health, from the top of my head I know that Bon Secours and Redeemer Ministry Corps offer positions in health care and I direct that student to their table (to the girls in the scrubs).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Planting the Seed of Service

By: Caitlin Baummer, Recruitment Associate

“Dear God, please keep me safe as I travel to my next destination. Please watch over the students that I speak with and bless my words so that I may communicate our mission clearly. Amen”

This is the prayer that I said silently to myself each time I climbed into my rental car to attend a campus event. This past week, I completed my first recruitment circuit in Tennessee and Kentucky, visiting the University of Tennessee, Eastern Kentucky University, Belmont University, Tennessee State University, Fisk University and Meharry Medical College. I got to talk to students of all backgrounds, interests, ages and future plans. To each student I asked, “What are your plans for after graduation?” Some had clearer ideas than others, but my hope is that after speaking with me, each student will now consider “service” as an answer to that question.
I worked with our Campus Recruitment Associates, Alex Roushdi and Scotty Biggs to table at a volunteer fair and host info sessions. Then, I met with campus ministers to inform them about our programs, so that they can spread the word to their students. Before going to each of these events, I was a little nervous that I would begin to feel like a broken record, giving the same “spiel” multiple times. While I did repeat similar sets of information to each person, (Catholic Volunteer Network is… this is our RESPONSE directory… you can create a profile on our website…) I felt more enlivened each time I did. I was thrilled to be able to plant the seed for one more person.

You see, that is what we are really about, planting the seeds of contemplation about faith-based service and giving prospective volunteers the tools to find the program that is right for them. Since I knew so many people who had pursued service with Catholic Volunteer Network, I sometimes assumed that all students were familiar with our programs. This week, I learned that this is not necessarily the case. It was such a gift to see the faces of individuals who had been searching for faith-based service opportunities, but simply didn’t know where to look. After receiving a RESPONSE book a couple of days before, one EKU student told me “I spent hours reading through it! I love it so much!”

Several seniors told me about their discernment processes and programs to which they were planning to apply. While freshman and sophomores told me that they had just started getting involved in service and were interested in learning more and many had questions to ask.

One of the most common questions that I heard was, “Do I have to be Catholic to participate?” The answer to that is “no”. All of our programs are faith-based, but not necessarily Catholic. While programs vary in level of expected religious or spiritual commitment, programs ask that volunteers express an openness to those varying levels. If you are curious about the prayer life of a particular program or community, give the program director a call and they will be happy to tell you more.

Another concern that many students have pertains to the financial end of volunteering and paying off student loans. My response to those questions is that 90 of our programs are AmeriCorps programs. As an AmeriCorps member, you have the ability to put your loans into forbearance and receive money at the end of your term to apply toward past loans or future education. If you are not an AmeriCorps member, you will most likely be able to defer your student loans. As you consider post-grad service, it is best to know what kinds of loans you have and what your options are. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to talk to your Financial Aid office.

Other students asked about application deadlines. While deadlines are different for various programs, most deadlines for domestic programs is around March 1st. International programs are typically a bit earlier. Some have rolling admissions. What I typically recommend to seniors applying for post grad service is to complete your applications over Christmas break. This gives your references time to send in their letters and it gives you time to enjoy your last semester of college.

A non-traditional question that one student asked was “What is the biggest pitfall that an applicant may encounter?” This one took me a second because program applications do not really have right or wrong answers. They are more of a tool for discernment than anything else. But, CRA Scotty Biggs helped me out in answering this student. We agreed that the biggest “pitfall” in the application process is not being open. Many times we get caught up in wanting to be in a certain location or do a certain type of work and forget to be open to God’s will for us. After all, sometimes God has a way of putting us in the place we least expected, but most needed to be.

I was reminded of this fact as I lie in my hotel room late one night and I prayed, “Thank you, God. Thank you so much for this opportunity. To grow from the energy and enthusiasm of those that I meet and to continue reflecting on the experiences that give me life. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Amen”

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Top 5 Things to Consider When Volunteering Internationally

The decision to serve internationally can be up in the air
By: Matt Aujero, Recruitment Associate

So you want to do serve internationally.  What does that mean?  What are some things you need to think about?  Oh it cost how much?  What about the language?

These are all things I had to think about when I decided I wanted to serve internationally.  And having done it, I decided to make the Top 5 List of Things to consider for graduating students who want to get their feet wet in international waters.

#1: Location, Location, Location
Specific vs. Anywhere
We have to ask the question, are we drawn to a certain area of the world?  Some people know they want to be in the Philippines (shout-out Motherland!) teaching Filipino children.  I know for me, I wanted to go to Latin America and speak Spanish.  For people like us, I recommend looking at programs that only have locations in your desired area.  FrancisCorps, the program I served with, for example, had one international site in Costa Rica.  Knowing that they placed in a specific country helped give me peace in the process.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Rainy Day with Bright Skies Ahead

By Caitlin Baummer, Recruitment Associate

So here I sit, on a very rainy day looking out of my eighth story office window onto the city of Washington D.C. It is my last day in the office before embarking on a journey to Tennessee, Kentucky and many other states to follow. I’m a little nervous about catching flights, getting stuck in traffic, remembering about a time change and finding my way around unfamiliar campuses, but I am completely confident in the message that I get to spread while I am on the road (and that Matt told me if I need information, to call him because he’ll be sitting at a computer anyway- Thanks Matt!).

Posing with a family that I served while at
Bethlehem Farm
If anyone had told me five years ago what I’d be doing now, I would have told them that they must have been mistaken. Five years ago, I was a college freshman at the University of New Hampshire, majoring in classical vocal performance and my plan was to become an opera singer. But something happened later that year that would change that plan and my life. That something was an alternative spring break trip to Nazareth Farm in West Virginia. I was hesitant to go at first. I thought I wanted to return home to Chelmsford, Massachusetts and see my high school friends, but my parents encouraged me to participate, knowing how much I enjoyed the volunteer work that I did with my church in high school.

Nazareth Farm is an intentional living community that provides home repair services to residents in the area who are struggling for financial resources. While there, I fell in love with the Appalachian people and region and wanted to find a way to spend more time there. My campus minister suggested that I look into Nazareth Farms’ sister farm, Bethlehem Farm. In the summer of 2008, I volunteered as a Summer Servant for two months at Bethlehem Farm and have returned every summer since. The communities at Nazareth Farm and Bethlehem Farm live by the four values of Faith, Community, Service and Simplicity. Living by these values challenged me to grow in understanding of myself, my world and my relationship with God.

Monday, September 19, 2011

OH! The Places You'll...Stay?

By: Kate Niemer, former Jesuit Volunteer Corps member
I started my JVC time with phrases  from the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the places you’ll go” popping frequently in my head. The sing-song rhyme had me think about the adventure that brought me to do a year of volunteer service through Jesuit Volunteer Corps. 
Oh! The Places You’ll Go!
You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.
And now I find myself thinking… “Oh the places I will STAY?” Who knew, certainly not me, that this girl from Milwaukee, WI would stay in a place that had only been home for a year… to continue the adventure at my agency… but this time as an employee!
So I find myself, in the same place that I started (a year and a month ago)… yet SO MANY things are different. I have moved away from living in a volunteer community. Yet I still feel the four values (simple living, community, social justice and spirituality) as strong as before.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


By Matt Aujero, Catholic Volunteer Network Recruiter

RESPONSE books.  Check.  Big banner and Catholic Volunteer Network table cloth.  Check.  Pens, brochures, candy, sign-up list.  Check.  Winning attitude.  Double check.  I look over at Caitlin and say, “It’s GameDay.  You got your game face on?”  “Game face!  Rawr!” she says, then laughs at how unintimidating her face must have looked.

Caitlin and I have been preparing, practicing for this day eight hours a day, five days a week.  It was still the pre-season, but this GameDay was real, it still counts, and it was the first one.  And we were on my home court, my alma mater, The Catholic University of America.
Back-to-School: Our first match was on my ol' stomping yards---CUA.

CUA was celebrating its 125th Anniversary by kicking off its 125,000 hours of service year, and we were invited to table among other service groups to the entire student body that had attended a campus-wide Mass at the Shrine.  The Mass let out, and it was off to the races.  But it started slow, only freshmen at first were coming to our table.  It’s the first week of school---these kids are more worried about making friends than what they might be doing after they graduate.  I looked around and saw a huge group of seniors eating their lunch on the grass.  Change of game plan:

“OK, Caitlin, here’s what we’re going to do.  See that big group over there?  I’m taking the books and to them.  Can you be the home base at the table?  K.  Cool.  Wish me luck!”

Monday, September 12, 2011

Why do you serve?

Tell us why you serve and win an Amazon Kindle and other prizes by entering our contest! Details are here

Here's some inspiration for your video:

Friday, September 2, 2011

On the Road with Matt and Caitlin

Matt Aujero and Caitlin Baummer recently joined the Catholic Volunteer Network team as our new Short-Term Recruiters. They have been hard at work preparing visits to over eighty colleges and universities across the U.S. We hope you will be able to connect with them while they are on the road this fall.

Matt Aujero brings with him a lot of energy gained from his time as a FrancisCorps volunteer in Costa Rica, where he served as a high school English teacher and Service Coordinator. Thankful for his rich volunteer experience, Matt says “I found out more about the person I am and the passions I have through the service I did. [FrancisCorps] gave me a sense of direction in the way I want to live my life.”

This fall, Matt will travel to schools in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, and his home state of North Carolina. Matt is looking forward to spreading the word about service and says, “Now a product of it, I want to reveal to as many people as possible what this type of service can do for people’s lives - shape it for the best, and allow us to become the better versions of the people we’re called to be.”

Recent Catholic Charities Project SERVE volunteer Caitlin Baummer also joins our team as a Short-Term Recruiter. She didn’t have far to travel to get to our office in Washington, D.C. having just completed her year of service in Baltimore. Caitlin served as a Caseworker and Family Literary Coordinator for Sarah’s House, a transitional facility for homeless families. When asked what she gained from her service experience, she said, “It was the opportunity to grow in understanding of my client’s lives and walk with them in a small part of their journey.”

Caitlin is currently preparing her travels to schools in Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Texas, Colorado, and Kentucky. Like Matt, Caitlin is also looking forward to connecting with potential volunteers. She says, “I look forward to the opportunity to continue to live out what I learned by sharing my experiences with interested students and encouraging them to take on similar opportunities to grow.”

You will be able to follow Caitlin and Matt’s adventures around the country by reading their weekly “On the Road” blog updates coming soon. Find out where they are headed by checking out our events calendar.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Alumni Talk: Finding Joy After Service

By Jill Rauh, Outreach Coordinator at the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development and Rostro de Cristo alum

A Lasallian Volunteer works with
students in the classroom.
It’s that time of the year when many volunteers are ending their time of service and asking, “What is God calling me to do next?”

If you find that question difficult, think of your vocation as the intersection between what you enjoy doing, what you have the skills to do, and what the world needs you to do. In the best case scenario, your time of service has helped you to discover all three.

In my own case, when I completed my year of service with Rostro de Cristo eight years ago, I knew that the time living and working among the poor in Ecuador had left an indelible mark.  The year of service and the friendships developed taught me to be instead of do, and to listen, encourage, and empower instead of to do for. It also awakened in me an overwhelming sense of the need for solidarity, not only between individual people but also between nations. I saw more clearly than ever the need to consider “impact on the poor and vulnerable” as an important criterion for foreign policy and, having become more in-tuned to international affairs, I realized that sadly, this was not often the case.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Spotlight on: Casa de Esperanza

By Alyssa Sickle, Executive Assistant and Events Coordinator

Do you watch the TODAY Show while you eat breakfast or get ready for work in the morning? If you were watching on June 15th, you might have caught a special segment highlighting Casa de Esperanza, a Catholic Volunteer Network member program in in Houston. They had the honor of being included in TODAY’s annual “Lend a Hand” program, which highlights five charities around the country. In addition to being visited by the morning news program, Casa de Esperanza received donations from corporate sponsors and received a special visit from former First Daughter Jenna Bush Hager.

Casa de Esperanza de los Niños, the House of Hope for Children, was selected to be on the “Lend a Hand” program by the TODAY Show staff, who asked their contacts in various places around the country to make recommendations on local charities. The TODAY Show researched Casa before contacting them and then continued to learn about their community work as they planned details for the big day and requested donations from corporate sponsors.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Learning to Trust

A reflection on this week's readings.

It’s been more than four years since I’ve returned home from my time as a Franciscan Mission Service missioner in Zambia. Many times since then I’ve been asked the same question “how did mission change you?” At first it was difficult to think of any part of me that mission didn’t change, but the more I reflect on it, the clearer my answer has become. More than anything else, mission taught me to trust God – and that trust has changed everything else about my life.

I probably would have told you that I believed God is trustworthy even before I packed my bags for Zambia, but now I can say that this truth has sunken into the deepest parts of me. I learned to trust in the same way Peter did. He did the impossible and stepped out on the water, but so soon after experiencing that miracle he began to doubt that out there on the rough waves was where God really wanted him to be.

For the first year of my mission, I lived and worked in an orphanage for children under the age of seven. Most of them lost their parents at this young age to AIDS. I was put in charge of twelve two and three-year olds. I can remember, very vividly, the first time I had the task of putting those twelve kids to bed all by myself.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Good Eats: André House of Hospitality

Submitted by: Elizabeth Diedrich, André House volunteer

I have always enjoyed cooking and entertaining for friends and family. I enjoy finding new recipes, setting the table, and welcoming friends into my home. The laughter and conversation that happens when friends gather around a table and break bread together is truly a moment of grace.

André House volunteers work hard to make spaghetti.
In that way my transition into the kitchen of André House was very natural. On the other hand, cooking for 600 is a little different than cooking for six. André House is a hospitality center in downtown Phoenix. At André House, we provide basic need services to the homeless population. This includes clothing, showers, laundry, hygiene products, blankets, phone calls, Bibles and rosaries, backpacks, and sleeping bags. Our largest service each day is dinner where we average 600 trays of food per day.

In many ways 600 trays of food is very impersonal; each person and each tray becomes a number. Yet, at André House we try work hard at creating a welcoming and personal atmosphere in the same way we would for a family dinner. The people we serve are truly our guests, our neighbors, and our friends.

We start each meal from scratch. Fresh vegetables picked up from the food bank, fresh bread donated from a bakery, and 40 pounds of frozen ground beef serves as the base for each meal. Each day we serve a fresh lettuce salad and many days we have a fruit salad as well. Anywhere from 20-40 volunteers come each day to chop 50 pounds of onions, slice 1200 slices of bread, wash lots of dishes, and stir the 30 gallon pots.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Do You Have Five Loaves and Two Fish to Spare?

A reflection on this week's readings.

The story of the Miraculous Feeding of the Five Thousand, like most stories in the Gospels, speaks to us today because many of us can identify very readily with the disciples. Like them we find that our care and compassion is often limited to prayer and good wishes. Like the disciples we wish people well but have no intention of taking positive action to help the situation. And, again like the disciple, what prevents us from taking positive action is often the realistic assessment that the little we are able to do is not really going to make any appreciable difference.

But in the gospel we see that when we translate our care and compassion into positive action, the little we are able to do is multiplied by God's grace in such a way that it becomes more than sufficient for the need. All that Jesus needs from us to feed the hungry crowds of the world is our “five loaves and two fish.” Why didn't Jesus just go on and produce bread from thin air to feed the crowd? Because God needs our “five loaves and two fish” in order to perform the amazing miracle of feeding the five thousand.

As individuals, as communities and as a world, we suffer all kinds of hunger – for food, for love, for peace. God is able and willing to satisfy all our hungers. But God is waiting for men and women who believe enough to give up their lunch pack, their “five loaves and two fish,” which God needs to make the miracle possible. What are your five loaves and two fish to share? Do you have 5 days for a short-term mission trip or perhaps 5 months for service? Maybe you can’t share your time and talent, but can you spare 5 minutes in prayer or even 5 dollars for our mission? Visit our website for information on how you can share your five loaves and two fish with the world!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Celebrating Through Service

 by: Molly MacMorris-Adix, Holy Family Volunteer
Catholic Volunteer Network's 2011 Volunteer Story Contest Winner

Molly MacMorris-Adix cuts the cake for the Annual Birthday Party !
Birthdays are incredibly significant cultural events all around the world from the first to the last, and the powerful memories associated with birthdays are immeasurable. Throughout life we delight in and value the celebration of growth that is most evident in childhood. To be excluded from this cultural expectation can leave anyone feeling unimportant, slighted, or insignificant.

Unfortunately, many of the patients at Holy Family Services do not have the resources to provide their children with annual birthday parties as they might wish. From the founding of Holy Family in 1983, poverty and lack of access to health care was identified as a major injustice facing large portions of the local population. In 2010, Hidalgo County had the highest poverty level in the entire United States, with 40 percent of all residents living below the federal poverty level.  In response, Holy Family works hard to provide affordable and supportive maternal care that is empowering for women and families with few to no resources. There is also a keen sense of the significance behind the celebration of birth and growth at Holy Family. For this reason, the founding Sisters decided to host an annual birthday party for all the children born at the birth center. The annual Holy Family Birthday Party has become a longstanding tradition as it continues today. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Alumni Talk: What your year of JVC will be like

By Jacqueline Devereaux Semmens, FJV with Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest

Jackie (on right in gray) with her first year housemates
(including her now husband in stripes)
I’ve seen a lot of searches coming to my blog lately with JVC questions like “what to wear” and “what to pack.” So to any future JVs leaving for orientation in two weeks that might be reading this blog, or anyone who is considering a year of service, I, as a former Jesuit Volunteer with 2 years of experience, can tell you (with 90% assuredness) what your year will be like.

Orientation will be the longest week of your life
You discerned, you prayed, you talked to your friends and family, you applied. You were interviewed, and interviewed again, and maybe even a third time. You have filled out countless forms and completed your physicals, graduated from college and for the 1000th time explained to someone what the Jesuit Volunteer Corps is (it’s kinda like a faith based Americorps type program where I will live in community, volunteer at an organization and make $80 a month) and can say it in one breath. You have waited during a painfully long summer, saying goodbye to everyone and everything you’ve known, you have packed in two impossibly small suitcases and have boarded your plane for this grand adventure.

And finally, finally you are here. And now you must wait another week before you go onto actually starting your JVC year. But relax. Listen. You will get there soon enough. You might come away scared out of your mind, convinced that your housemates are crazy, and sore from sitting in plastic folding chairs all week. But you will be home soon.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Spoonful of Fun Helps the Program's Mission Thrive

Ready, Set, Go! CCAO is ready for their scavenger hunt.
 Spotlight On: Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

 by: Kitty Robinson, Catholic Volunteer Network Intern

One of the great things about volunteers is that they can come from anywhere in the world. They give up their life at home to serve in an area that is probably unfamiliar to them. Many programs are located in places that have so many things volunteers can see and discover. How can you combine the mission of your program with exploration and fun? The Columban Center of Advocacy and Outreach has found a great way to mesh enjoyment and acts of service, both working together simultaneously.

The Columban Center of Advocacy and Outreach (CCAO) is based in the suburbs of Washington D.C., a perfect location to lobby for various concerns on Capitol Hill. Each season, a number of interns from around the world come to work for them, for about three months at a time, to help with their peace and advocacy ministry. They follow legislation, and communicate with various members of Congress and decision makers. This means they are becoming actively involved in issues such as climate change, migration, economic justice, and peace and conflict resolution. CCAO has interns during the fall and spring academic semesters, as well as over the summer.

In addition to this very important work, the supervisors at CCAO arrange fun, yet meaningful, activities for the interns and volunteers to complete before the end of their service. Julie Espina, the Outreach Associate at CCAO, has helped coordinate a scavenger hunt as an enjoyable way for their interns to advocate and explore the city of Washington D.C.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

2011 Catholic Volunteer Network Annual Conference: Top Ten

The Catholic Volunteer Network 2011 National Conference will be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 15th- 18th.  Famous for its rich history and culture, Philadelphia is home to many “firsts”: the first zoo, presidential mansion, American flag, daily newspaper, computer and more!  Whether it is your first time or your fiftieth, there are plenty of reasons to look forward to attending this year’s National Conference in Philly:
  1. Wiz Wit’or Wiz Wit’out, Pat’s or Geno’s – you decide where and how to get the best cheesesteak in town!
  2. Channel your inner Rocky Balboa and run the steps of the Art Museum.
  3. What better place to network with fellow program staff members than the City of Brotherly Love?
  4. Speaking of Brotherly Love, you’ll get to experience plenty of it as the famously-friendly fans of baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies welcome you to the home of the 2008 World Series Champions (and – we hope – the 2011 champions as well!).
  5. Walk down the same cobblestone streets that Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin once strode (and thank them for the fact that we don’t drive on the left side of the road).

Friday, July 1, 2011

Be the Tennisball

By Kevin Donohue, Fairfield University Campus Minister and Passionist Volunteers International Alum

Part of the challenge of a year of service is that it takes place within a very discreet and limited time span, but the impact on the volunteer is supposed to last much longer, conceivably for the rest of their life.  This is difficult because within the confines of that year, it’s hard to envision how the sometimes intense lifestyle of volunteering is ultimately going to matter over the course of one’s life.

Early in my year of service with Passionist Volunteers International in Jamaica, this was a concern I had often.  I spent a lot of free time at our neighbors who had internet access, looking at job listings back at home, and wondering how my experience in bringing elderly Jamaicans the Eucharist would make me eligible for any of the interesting positions I came across.  To quote Aventureland, a favorite movie of mine, “What am I supposed to do, I’m not even qualified for manual labor?”

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Good Eats in Bolivia

Submitted by: Clare Lassiter, Franciscan Mission Service missioner, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Bolivia is a unique country in that everyone here loves to eat. While walking the streets of Cochabamba, one can smell many delicious foods being cooked. The aroma of freshly baked bread wafts from pastry shops, inviting passers by to stop and purchase bread even if when they don't need it! In the early morning there is also the smell of Api and pastel. Api is a thick, hot drink made from fermented corn. As the api is cooking, cinnamon sticks and sugar are added. Pastel is fried dough with melted cheese in the middle, and powdered sugar sprinkled on top. Then there is the Saltena, which makes me hungry every time that I pass by. It is a pot pie in your hand! Saltena is a sweet corn crust made with a spicy juice, chicken, green peas, potatoes, egg, and an olive. If you take a huge bite of Saltena, the juice will start coming out and there is no way to stop it. However, if you take little nibbles and suck the juice out, then you savor the taste. All of these smells cause an incredible hunger that is hard to tame.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Too Blessed to be Stressed

By Jamarl D. Clark, AEAP Assistant Coordinator

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5 is a scripture that is familiar to many, one that expresses how we, as human-beings, should never be because we should put all our trust into a higher power. Unfortunately, when it comes to stress, many of us forget this useful scripture.

According to the Medical Review Board; stress is the body's reaction to a change that requires a physical, mental or emotional adjustment or response. Stress can come from any situation or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, nervous, or anxious.  One would imagine that “stress” brings discourse and conflict with one’s spirituality.

On the contrary, spirituality can be used as a stress reliever. How so? First, you must define your spirituality in order to combat stress. Spirituality has many definitions; it can be religious observance, prayer, meditation or a belief in a higher power. According to the Mayo Clinic, your spirituality is a connection with yourself and with others, the development of your personal value system, and your search for meaning in life. For others, it can be found in nature, music, art or a service community.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Alumni Talk: Staying Connected

By Catherine Drennan, former Christian Brothers Lay Volunteer Program volunteer and Catholic Volunteer Network Recruiter

Christian Appalachian Project
Throughout your year of service, it’s impossible not to have continual communication with your community members, especially when you’re living in the same place and serving and learning together. Now that you’ve spent months getting to know a group of people, you may find that you don’t know how to live without them! Once the service experience ends, how do you maintain that connection and stay in touch with each other?  Here are a few techniques I have found helpful in the recent months.

After college I served in the Christian Brothers Lay Volunteer Program in New Orleans, LA and worked for a rebuilding organization, Operation Helping Hands, a program of Catholic Charities. During that time I lived with three Christian Brothers and two other volunteers, while also working with many other volunteers my age. After my service year ended, I began working as the Recruitment Associate for Catholic Volunteer Network. This was a wonderful opportunity to travel the country and speak to others about my own service experience as well as all of the opportunities available with Catholic Volunteer Network programs. Speaking about my service experiences helped me remember the people I met and the friends I made while in New Orleans.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Eating Sustainably

As an end to our April Earth Day tribute, please enjoy an article about sustainable eating.

By Brooke Barcheski, Administrative Associate

My boyfriend’s mother is a seasoned camper and hiker, and a lover of all things outdoors. She taught her son well, instilling in him as a child, the mantra ‘leave no trace’ when spending time in nature. If you head up a mountain with a banana, you better come back down with the peel! If each hiker that visited a national forest left behind a piece of trash, imagine what the trail would come to look like.

St. Joseph Worker Volunteers
In the same way, volunteers can think of themselves as bearing that important motto to leave no trace. When volunteers enter into a new community, it is with an excitement and enthusiasm to ‘be the change’. Volunteers are ready to put to use their knowledge and life experiences to serve others. In general, volunteers are placed in communities, cities, and countries new to them. Just as a hiker should leave behind a mountain with no remnants of their experience there, so too should volunteers aim to minimize their carbon footprint in the communities in which they serve. On a deeper level, we are also called to be mindful of the choices we make, and how they affect our own minds and souls.

In an article entitled “Taking Personal Action, The Good Life from a Catholic Perspective: The Challenge of Consumption,” Msgr. Charles Murphy writes “Consumer choices and consumer demands are moral and cultural expressions of how we conceive of life.”

Msgr. Murphy goes on to discuss the dangers of having too much, particularly in a world where so many have so little. In that light, it makes you wonder if you really do need that new something you want to buy, or if that money might better be spent on paying that bit extra to purchase organic produce. One great way to help your volunteers to reduce their carbon footprint is to encourage them to explore the idea of eating sustainably.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Catholic Charities Project SERVE Volunteer

Caitlin Baummer is originally from Chelmsford, Mass. She attended the University of New Hampshire for music performance. She is currently working with Catholic Charities Project SERVE at Sarah's House in Fort Meade, Md.  
When asked what the best part about volunteering has been, Caitlin says hands down- having the support of her community. She could not imagine going through this year without them. It is so comforting to know that there will be a listening ear when she gets home and that although their work may be different, they can learn from each other's experiences and offer each other grace and compassion. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Good Eats: Christ House

Submitted by Ashley Coates, current Christ House Volunteer.

Ashley serves as the Administrative Assistant for Christ House where she is a Jane of all trades. Ashley loves being plugged into different areas and being a part of so many life stories. Like many volunteers, the Americorps members at Christ House live in community. Sister Marcella of Christ House says "we live in community so that we do not give up". The Emmanuel House residents have community night on Wednesdays, where they spend time doing a devotional, an activity, and eating dinner together.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Simple Lifestyles, Sustainable Service

From earth to table, from farm community to intentional community, the St. Joseph Worker (SJW) Program considers ways that their volunteers can live and serve sustainably and holistically. SJW ministers in five cities around the country. Their Minnesota branch offers placement sites on farms and in agricultural settings. The volunteers participate in the growing and food-processing operations on the farm, as well as serve alongside and minister to the local people.

Andrea Pearson Tande, the Program Director at the St. Paul/Minneapolis office, describes the reasons behind the SJW choice of environmental placement sites:

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Jesuit Volunteer Corps Volunteer

Emma Fabian is originally from the "great" city of Buffalo, N.Y. and she received her bachelor’s degree from Canisius College.  She was highly involved in co-curricular and academic activities. Now, she lives and works in Philadelphia, Pa. As a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (, she serves as a Program Assistant at an organization called Witness to Innocence. They are the nation’s only organization composed of, by and for exonerated death row survivors and their loved ones. Through this work, she has met some of the most inspiring individuals in the world. For more about Witness to Innocence, check out their website at
Emma says she was driven to pursue a year of full-time service work after college because she wanted to dedicate her skills and abilities to a meaningful cause while also having time to examine her own identity.
Her favorite part of the experience so far has been getting to know her community members, the people of Philadelphia and the members of Witness to Innocence. Emma considers herself lucky to be a part of JVC in Philadelphia because she has had the chance to interact with so many different people every day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Good Eats: Catholic Charities Project SERVE

Submitted by Faith Savill, current Project SERVE volunteer

Catholic Charities Project SERVE (Service and Education through Residential Volunteer Experience) volunteers live in community with one another like many Catholic Volunteer Network programs. One of the members in the community eats a vegan diet, so the entire community has shared in creating meals that all of them can enjoy together. Here is their version of Gold Rush Chili - enjoy!

Gold Rush Chili
(edited from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen)

1 medium pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon mild chili powder
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1/8-1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (or to taste)
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 15-ounce cans beans (drained or 4 c of black or kidney beans soaked and cooked - feel free to combine them)
4 T fresh cilantro

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Alumni Talk: Top 5 Adjustments

By Carrie Daut, Friends of the Orphans alumna

You don't need to be an Einstein to know that coming back to the States after a year in Guatemala was certainly an adjustment. Ignoring the much more complicated emotional-mental-heart side of it, let's just skip right to the nitty gritty part.

What were the five strangest things to adjust back to?

5. Snow. I came back in January, right in the worst of winter. Snow, ice, sleet. Ew.

4. Being outside and not seeing mountains and volcanoes. This place feels so flat.

3. Basically having a house and a room to myself. Without seven housemates, my life is a lot quieter and a lot less exciting. I often find myself thinking back to our house with the cozy "living room" and the communal kitchen table. And I miss it.

2. Toilet paper goes in the toilet here.

And weird adjustment #1?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Is “Going Green” the Christian Thing to Do?

This month, we will be exploring some themes of sustainability and the environment leading us up to Earth Day celebrations. This is the first installment of our Earth Day tribute.

By Jim Lindsay, Catholic Volunteer Network Executive Director

When most Christians hear the word “stewardship,” they probably think of how they handle their time, talent or treasure. But what about being good stewards of the earth? We should seek to be good stewards of all that God has created, safeguarding it until God’s return when all creation will be restored. When we mindlessly consume and live without any regard for what effects our actions have on creation and its inhabitants, what are we really saying about that creation?

The Scriptures gives us direction as to what we are supposed to do with God's creation. But it is often the truth of what's happening around the world that helps us break open the Scriptures.