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.