Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dwight, Darlene, and the Importance of Whimsy

By Catherine Scallen, CVN Recruiter

Everybody needs a road buddy, particularly of the easy-going, chill variety. I couldn’t have asked for better companions than Dwight and Darlene, my fearless road warrior rubber ducks. I have been a fervent supporter and enthusiastic collector of rubber ducks for quite some time now. This began one Christmas when my Aunt Leenie (who specializes in whimsical gag gifts) gave me and my siblings a rubber duck version of the classic Nativity scene. Yes, you read that correctly. I quickly took ownership of the set, and each year I lovingly place them out on top of the piano, next to our more traditional, hand-carved Nativity scene. My mom was initially resistant to this, but has since come around, and now embraces the ducks with all the love they deserve.

I’ve since sought out and been gifted various ducks, ranging from the entire cast of characters of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol (again, kudos to Aunt Leenie), to a firefighter, a chef, and many more professions in between. So it was with nothing less than sheer glee that I spotted a giveaway of rubber ducks at University of Maryland’s First Look Fair, the very first recruitment fair Erica and I attended on our whirlwind tour of the USA this fall. Erica graciously offered to remain at the booth by herself while I ran over to the other booth, explaining my love for rubber ducks to all there, and asking what exactly I had to do to win one. The perplexed woman working the booth (turns out it was the student health center stand) explained that I needed to take a survey about healthy eating habits on college campuses in order to win a rubber duck. Done and done! By the end of the day, Dwight joined the ranks of my small duck army.

Tragedy struck at the end of my Chicago circuit (yes, directly related to my frazzled state post-driver’s license-losing incident), and Dwight was accidentally left behind at my friend’s apartment. Enter, Darlene. Darlene and I traveled solo while my friend mailed Dwight to my next destination: Columbus, Ohio. Much to my delight, my friend Denise had included a small pack of almonds and a handwritten letter explaining she didn’t want to send Dwight off without some snacks for the road. After that, Dwight and Darlene traveled together with me all over the U.S., making friends everywhere they went, and if we’re being honest, really gathering quite the loyal crew of followers. Darlene was even kidnapped and held for ransom at the University of Dayton’s fair, and the JVC recruiters gallantly rose to the challenge of hunting down the culprit (I’m looking at YOU, Fr. Rick…) and returning her safely to my booth.

Dwight and Darlene, though goofy and whimsical, bring people together. As any recruiter will tell you, it can get real lonely out there on the road. Who would have thought a pair of rubber ducks could teach you the importance of companionship, starting conversations with strangers, and above all, the crucial life lesson of adding a dose of humor to everything we do? I personally would like to take this moment to thank Dwight, Darlene, and all the people we met along the way for appreciating all the goodness a touch of whimsy can bring to our lives!

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Franciscan Mission Service Lay Missioner: Kitzi Hendricks

Kitzi Hendricks is a writer, musician, and photographer from Northern California. She is passionate about social justice and the Franciscan ministry of presence.  Currently serving at the Madre de Dios center in Cochabamba, Bolivia through Franciscan Mission Service, Kitzi works with teenage girls who have been abandoned, abused, or neglected by their families.

Almost a year and a half ago, I remember going to the Catholic Volunteer Network blog page and reading “A Day in the Life of a Franciscan Lay Missioner—Nora Pfieffer”.  I never would have guessed that I would be asked the following year to write my own “A Day in the Life” as a representative of Franciscan Mission Service and how different my typical day in Cochabamba, Bolivia would look compared to one of the other missioners in my community! As other missioners across the world have previously stated, not one day in mission is the same.  However, I will do my best to provide insight into a more typical Wednesday.

Every morning, I wake up at around 7:40 to boil my water on the stove.  Our stoves are powered by natural gas and require a match or a lighter to ignite the burner.  During the 10-15 minutes it takes to boil, I hop in the shower to get ready for the day. 


After I get out of the shower, drink my coffee, and eat my oatmeal, I take 15-20 minutes to meditate and do yoga in my living room.  This is a very important part of my day because it helps me to center myself and prepare myself for another busy day at the short-term shelter for adolescent girls.  

Up until June, I would take a “micro” to and from the shelter every morning and evening.  Because traffic is so heavy downtown, I would leave no later than 8:10 to get to my service site by 9am.  Most days, I would bring a book or a notebook to pass the time (a very important thing to remember when living in Cochabamba, Bolivia!)

Now that I live in the city, I walk each day to the shelter.  On my way to service, I always say hello to a few of the local business ladies who I walk past each day and the zapatero (the shoe-repairman) who is a great help to the shelter.  I may not know their names and they may not know mine, but our presence and our remembrance of one another makes all the difference each day :)

Each morning when I enter the doors of Madre de Dios, I am brightly greeted by these beautiful faces and the most wonderful voices saying “Señorita Kipsy. Señorita Kipsy! ¡Mi besito! ¡Mi besito!” How blessed am I to receive this grand welcoming each and every day?

After receiving hugs and kisses from each of the kids downstairs, I walk up the stairs to my sala—the classroom where I help to teach, mentor, and spend time with the adolescent girls who are  more stable and will be staying at the shelter for a longer period of time. We split the girls into two groups in the morning.  We start with reading each morning for half an hour and then work on homework.  I am responsible for creating lesson plans for each of the girls, as each of them are at a different level, and fulfilling these lesson plans while the girls are at the shelter.   

At Noon, I walk back to my apartment to cook and enjoy a short break.  Here in Bolivia, we typically have a two hour lunch period between the hours of 12 & 2.  I am thankful for this time because it allows me to recuperate from the morning with the girls, cook, clean the apartment, and take a little nap before heading back to the shelter for the second part of the day.

In the afternoon on Wednesdays, my supervisor Hermana Teresa teaches religion to the girls.  On this specific day, they were acting out the story of the washing of the feet.  While Hermana is teaching religion, I prepare the room for the next activity—Meditation. 

This past month, I started introducing the girls to the beauty of meditation each Wednesday afternoon.  This is the room that I was given to use during the afternoon.  After setting up the room and putting a big carpet on the wood floor, I prepare the music so that the girls can enter. I always have the girls line up quietly outside of the door before coming into the room.  I have been teaching them that this room is a sacred space in which we are quiet and respectful.  Some days with adolescent girls, it can be difficult to silence the giggles, but they are getting better each week.  I try to focus on important issues in each meditation, such as body image, open hearts, and good relationships. 

When I get home from the shelter at about 5:30, I turn on music and start working on projects that I can use with the girls.  I like to try out every art project so that the process is much smoother when I present it to the girls.  This was an etching project I did at home before taking the idea to the shelter.  I used materials that we already had in the room, including recycled cardboard! I also spend time preparing various worksheets for the girls using my love for creativity and my love for psychology.  The above worksheet is one that I created based upon a series of “feelings” books that we have in our bookcase.  This one was specifically made for the book on courage and helps the girls to comprehend what they read and to also apply these feelings to situations in their own lives. 

 After a long day (and if I’m not too tired!) I may be lucky enough to spend a little time with my good Bolivian friends.  We usually spend time talking and relaxing after our long days! After that, I return home and fall right asleep.  It is important for me to get 7-8 hours so that I’m fresh in the morning :)

To read more about Kitzi's experience, check out her blog.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Relishing Silence

By Erica Stewart, CVN Recruiter

A few months ago, as I prepared for my interview to become a recruitment associate, I read recruiter Caitlin’s blog post about living simply on the road. Besides the excitement of what the position could bring me in the few months following my year of service, her commitment to simple living while traveling left an impression on me. Once I was accepted for the position, I always kept that blog post in the back of my mind.

During my travels, I was able to visit both my high school and college alma maters, Northwest Catholic (NWC) and Stonehill. During my visit to NWC, I spoke with senior students about service opportunities and the four common themes of faith-based volunteer service (which are similar to the Dominican pillars). We discussed the meaning of these pillars in our lives and I explained how they were redefined for me personally during my year of service. Of the four pillars, I had the most difficulty adjusting to simple living at the start of my year, about which I was perfectly honest with the students with whom I spoke. Especially after finishing college, where the common mentality is “these are the best years of your life so you have to take advantage of everything now,” learning to live only on what you need was a challenge, to say the least. A student from NWC made a brilliant comment when I discussed the manifestation of simple living and the slow growth of the contentment it would bring to my life: it’s not a year-long commitment, these are values that stay with you forever. My commitment to live simply did not end when I boarded my plane home on July 14th. In fact, it started a new chapter. It would still be there, but obviously it would be different depending on what I chose to do next in my career, relationships, and those I served.

During my time on the road, I have frequently thought about how I can live simply. Sometimes it’s by taking a walk, only drinking tap water from my reusable water bottle, or taking the afternoon to be technology-free with a book outside. My newest goal came to me when driving to Boston for my most recent fair circuit. I am from the Northeast, which, especially in comparison to other parts of the country and the world, is…fast-paced. We talk fast, walk fast, and work fast. This certainly has its advantages: we get tasks done quicker, we’re commonly early, and we are very driven to our own personal successes. On the downside, to others outside, we’re mean drivers, we bump into you as we sprint down the sidewalk, and when we ask “how are you” we typically don’t wait to hear your answer.

Forgive the stereotyping, because I am very aware that everyone from the Northeast does not act like this. However, take it from someone who has driven a lot in the last few weeks around the country, people in Massachusetts do not drive like people in Texas. Unfortunately, I frequently succumb to a weakness while driving some like to call “road rage.” When you cut me off, I’m mad. Thankfully I have enough self-control to not throw around vulgar hand gestures to you, but I will mutter (or yell, depending on the day) some not-so-nice words about your behavior.

But of course, we all have our weaknesses, and one of mine happens to be reacting quickly in moments of stress without thinking. So I have decided to try something new. Instead of flipping through the stations that only play the music stylings of Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars, I will either listen to the news or drive in silence. When was the last time you truly sat in silence? No music, no television…just silence. Especially in such a transient job as the one I have, I need that time to recharge. In a time of constant movement as well as transition from my year of service to this position to whatever comes next, silence allows me to slow down for a moment and remember why I am doing this and to truly listen to what God is calling me to do (which honestly seems to change with every passing day, oh the woes of a 20-something).

I challenge you to give yourself some moments of silence in your day. Turn off your television, silence the cell phone, and relish in the sound of silence.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cardinal Wuerl returns from synod in Rome, reflects on the experience

By: Kate Flannery, Communications Department

I walked out the door and I felt evangelized. There was something in the air. Even though it was thirty-something degrees outside and I’m a wimp from Texas, I was feeling refreshed.

I listened for the third time as Cardinal Donald Wuerl spoke last night on the New Evangelization, thinking myself a peppered veteran. I did, after all, know about some of his airplane jokes. I did, after all, have a picture with the guy. I did, after all, attend the Red Mass Brunch sponsored by the John Carroll Society which he spoke at. 

 So there I was, in the second row in a small chapel fitting about 90 in the Catholic Information Center, listening to His Eminence explain his recent synod trip to Rome to discuss the New Evangelization and what exactly that meant for us, for the Church. As smug as I might have felt, I could not be cocky. Cardinal Wuerl was speaking on some major issues regarding the future path of the Catholic Church.

Before I continue, let’s backtrack a bit and tackle the word synod. For those of you who don't know what a synod is (hey, I didn't until recently), it refers to a gathering of bishops from around the world every several years to discuss a specific theme. They figured reconvening thousands like at the Second Vatican Council every year might be a bit excessive. The synod is the way around that.

This year’s theme was the New Evangelization, which basically means we are the generation that gets to parallel the early church in spreading God’s message. Much of the environment is the same, only this time, people aren’t being told the truth the first time over. They’re being reminded, retold. And this time, we’ve got some pesky competition from the ism family: secularism, materialism and individualism.

Cardinal Wuerl seemed optimistic though. When asked how he would describe the almost month-long meeting, he used the adjectives "positive, united and pastoral." He also said it was practical. What the talk focused on, he explained, was getting back to the basics. The timeless story: God so loved the world that He sent the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ, who died, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. God then sent the spirit that is still with us today. For a quick refresher, please visit the Creed.

The three tips for the New Evangelization?
1.      Personal Renewal (you can’t share what you don’t know)
2.      Confidence (you can’t explain if you’re unsure)
3.      Willingness to Share (you can’t share if you don’t share!)

Who’s involved? Everyone. Though our religious leaders need to be working hard on their part to spread God’s message of love and mercy, it’s up to us to do ours. We have to get over blaming the institution, snoozing through the sacraments, not having answers to questions, being shy or simply not caring. We need to start doing something about our faith.

“It’s our moment. It’s our moment now,” Cardinal Wuerl said in his conclusion.

“You will be my witnesses.” Acts 1:8