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. 


Prayer:

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. 

Prayer:

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

Monday, March 13, 2017

Serving with Sisters: Adanna Adaka

Throughout National Catholic Sisters Week, Catholic Volunteer Network will share interviews with volunteers currently serving alongside sisters. In each post you will hear a little more about how the volunteers found their program and what they’ve learned from the sisters they work with. Today we feature Adanna Adaka from Port-Harcourt, Nigeria, a graduate of Canisius College, volunteering with St. Joseph Worker Program in Orange, Ca.



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

I like to say that this program found me, rather than the other way around! Through the Catholic Volunteer Network I was able to connect with the program director and formed a relationship that led me here. Not only was I drawn to its mission of service in under-represented areas, but I also discovered that they have a campus focused on mental and behavioral health – something I am very passionate about – and this discovery basically sealed my decision. I realized that volunteering with the SJWP would mean I would grow in spirituality, leadership, justice awareness, and communal understanding and so here I am!


Where do you serve?

I serve in the Mission Integration department at Mission Hospital. I create and implement education and formation experiences for physicians, employees, and volunteers at both Mission Viejo and Laguna Beach campuses. I also work with the Interpreter Services team to provide resources for our non-English speaking patients. In my ministry, I aim to improve patient satisfaction and increase cultural intelligence within the hospital community by making sure every encounter is a sacred encounter. 


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

This program has certainly been a blessing to me. Not only do I wake up each morning knowing that I am about to positively touch someone’s life, I have also come to understand how big a role ‘community’ plays in service and vocation. I am in an environment where the women who surround me every single day share the same goals and values as I do. This means that I have the opportunity to develop friendships that reinforce my spirituality and faith while eliminating the bad qualities. I know that I am where God wants me to be. 

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

One thing I have learned from the sisters is the spirit of letting go and embracing trust. It is so easy to worry about everything – what will I do after this year? Where is my life heading? Will this ministry be enough for me? However, the sisters have taught me through their actions and in their words that God is always with me and He has a plan for my life if I just let go and put my faith in him. According to Sr. Joanna, my program director, “It is amazing how much young women can learn when they are led by the Holy Spirit” and I couldn’t have said it better myself!


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

Small changes make a huge impact and being adaptable makes the experience so much more enriching. No matter where you are placed, you ARE making a difference and being open-minded will certainly make for a fulfilling experience! You got this!


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

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Savoring the Graces by the Light of the Moon

By Celina Roybal, alumnus of the St. Joseph Worker Program of Orange, California


Second Sunday of Lent
Matthew 17:1-9
“From the shining cloud the Father’s voice is heard:
This is my beloved Son, hear Him.”

In today’s Gospel, the mountain is a place of prayer outside of the everyday world where a luminescent encounter with God takes place.  It is high up on this mountain where the face of Jesus “shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” Savoring the grace of this experience, Peter says, “It is good that we are here.” Then the disciples became fearful at the sound of a voice saying “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” Jesus tells the disciples not to be afraid and they come down from the mountain. 

I have always admired the night sky and the moon. I have often found myself in awe as I gaze at the light of the moon, especially a full moon. The moon lights up because its surface reflects the light from the sun like a mirror. In our quest to follow Jesus more closely, we must be like the moon by serving as a mirror reflecting the light onto the Earth…Christ’s light. 

Working as an Education Assistant, I was often challenged with motivating disadvantaged young adults to study and perform well academically. I sometimes questioned if I was serving as a reflection of Christ’s light when working with specific young adults who exhibited more struggles than others. Sometimes it felt as if my efforts were not making a difference, but observing the light in their eyes as they became excited about learning spoke otherwise. The light in the faces of those around me was a reminder that Christ’s light was indeed shining brightly through my service. In prayer and service I was often invited to have my own transfiguration. As we show love for God and our neighbor, personal transfigurations occur when we mirror God in our daily lives in good works and faith. Like the moon, be a reflection of Christ’s face shining on us like the sun this Transfiguration Sunday!

Prayer: 

God of Light, As we continue our Lenten journey together, we thank You for the gifts of encounter on the mountaintop with You. Thank You for inviting us to our own transfigurations with the divine light of Your face. Help us to be aware of the radiance You bring into our daily lives so that we may be a reflection like the moon.  Let our faith and good works light a new light in the hearts of our community and those we serve. Amen.

Focus on: Community: One of the highlights of living in community is praying together. This is a time when the community has the opportunity to journey up the mountain together just like the disciples did in today’s Gospel. As a community, find your mountaintop to pray, listen deeply, and savor the graces you have received together. Your mountaintop may be a special place in your home or a beautiful place out in nature. Wherever your place of encounter may be, remind each other daily of the beautiful encounters with God you all have experienced on your mountaintop. Come down from your mountaintop poised to change the world! What’s your mountain? What’s your place of encounter with God? 

Service Inspiration: Sr. Mary Rogers is a Sister of St. Joseph of Orange and is a beautiful example of what it means to reflect the light of Christ on the world with faith and good works. She motivates me to serve others because her dream has always been to serve in communities and schools of great need. She is an educator who has always taught with energy and enthusiasm while showing great compassion and love for students. I currently find myself teaching in a community of great need and I often reflect daily by asking myself this question: Did I show students love and compassion today like Sr. Mary would?  

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: Celina Roybal grew up in the rural community of Medanales, New Mexico just north of Santa Fe. In 2015-2016, she served as a St. Joseph Worker of Orange as an Education Assistant at Taller San Jose Hope Builders in California. She currently teaches Physical Education at Abiquiu Elementary School and Hernandez Elementary School in New Mexico. Her favorite books are My Sisters the Saints by Colleen Campbell and Sum It Up by Pat Summitt.Celina enjoys the outdoors, playing and coaching sports, and cheering on the Denver Broncos.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Serving with Sisters: Aubrey Kimble


Throughout National Catholic Sisters Week, Catholic Volunteer Network will share interviews with volunteers currently serving alongside sisters. In each post you will hear a little more about how the volunteers found their program and what they’ve learned from the sisters they work with. Today we feature Aubrey Kimble from Zebulon, North Carolina, a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, volunteering with the Franciscan Mission Service in Carmen Pampa, Bolivia. 


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

I knew that I wanted to do mission work after I graduated from college, so I started researching different international programs on the Catholic Volunteer Network site. Franciscan Mission Service (FMS) particularly stuck out to me because of their emphasis on ministry of presence and accompaniment, their 2-year international commitment, and because they offered a 3-month formation program that sounded extremely well thought out (it was!).


Where do you serve? 

I am currently serving in Carmen Pampa, Bolivia, which is in the department of La Paz. I am volunteering at the Catholic University of Bolivia at their Carmen Pampa site. I am currently the director of the English department of the university. I’m responsible for coordinating English classes, exams, and activities. I teach 2 English classes – an English I class for agronomy and education students, and an English II class for tourism students. I also open the children’s library on campus. There is a primary school in the area, and the kids come to the library after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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

Although I am “serving” here in Carmen Pampa as a lay missioner and volunteer, when I talk about my time here I prefer to use the word “presence.” In fact, this is what I believe makes missioners different from regular volunteers who come to serve. I specifically chose a 2-year program because I wanted to live in solidarity with my community and accompany them. Everything I do on a daily basis is based on being present to my students, the kids who come to the children’s library, and my community members. This ministry of presence has strengthened my faith because it helps me to reflect on what love really is, and how my actions and words reflect the love that I have to give – which comes from God. The ministry of presence that I intentionally try to live out has also changed my understanding of vocation. I’ve realized that we all have a vocation to love others and to show them God’s love. I believe that our individual vocations must all start there – we must find where our specific gifts and abilities lay and where they intersect with the love we have to give.


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

The sisters here at the university have taught me so much, both implicitly and explicitly. First, even though I never personally met Sister Damon or Sister Jean, their spirits are very much alive on campus and in this community. Sister Damon founded the university in Carmen Pampa with a vision that rural, impoverished students would have the ability to receive higher education and take back the skills they learned to their communities. Sister Jean ran the Pastoral group on campus, which is a religious youth group. Both of these Sisters were beloved – everybody in the community still talks about their love and generosity. This has taught me the importance of caring for others and fighting to make opportunities possible for those people who are marginalized in society.
I have, however, had the privilege of meeting and working with Sister Chris in Carmen Pampa. She has taught me the true meaning of presence and accompaniment. She dedicated her life to serving God, and lived in Bolivia for more than 50 years. She was a steady, strong presence in Carmen Pampa that everyone looked up to and admired. She worked hard for the benefit not only of the university, but also for the community of Carmen Pampa.

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


I would absolutely encourage them to do it. There is no doubt that this is hard work – it is incredibly challenging, and there are times when you will want to give up. However, being present to others and sharing God’s love is always worth it. Your volunteer experience will also stretch you and force you to grow in ways you never could have imagined – and that is an amazing gift to receive!


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

Friday, March 10, 2017

Serving with Sisters: Ashley Guanzon

Throughout National Catholic Sisters Week, Catholic Volunteer Network will share interviews with volunteers currently serving alongside sisters. In each post you will hear a little more about how the volunteers found their program and what they’ve learned from the sisters they work with. Today we feature Ashley Guanzon from San Diego, California, a graduate of Creighton University, volunteering with St. Joseph Worker Program in Los Angeles.


How did you find your volunteer program? What appealed to you about it?
               
I told myself that my last service and justice trip at Creighton would be fall semester of my senior year. On that trip, the St. Joseph Worker (SJW) Program in St. Paul, MN hosted our service trip group. We stayed at one of their community houses, Rita House, for the week while we learned about the policy side of implementing justice. There I found out about the SJW Program, that it was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJs), and that they had a program Los Angeles. My high school was actually founded by the CSJs as well. I really wanted to go back to CA after graduating and I loved reconnecting with the CSJ ideals that really transformed me in high school. Everything just fell into place and I knew God was telling me to do this year of service. That service trip was not my last service adventure after all!

Where do you serve? 

I currently serve at an elementary/middle school in Downtown Los Angeles. Immaculate Conception School (ICS) is a private, Catholic school that has been providing children from predominantly lower income, immigrant families excellent education for over 90 years. I serve as a teacher’s aide for all grades, PE teacher for middle school girls, and pianist for the school choir. A significant part of my duties as a member of ICS faculty is providing one-on-one tutoring for students who are struggling academically. It is extremely rewarding service to watch these kids grow academically and socially.

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

Service has made me more aware of “the call”. I truly believe that God called me into this year of service. I am so happy I listened. I think connecting my service with my faith gives my service so much more meaning. Throughout this year of service I am constantly trying to keep my mind and heart open to God’s call as I discern what I am meant to contribute to this world.

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

I have learned the true meaning of who the “dear neighbor” really is, of what “intentional community” means, and of how to “achieve all that women is capable of”. The sisters have been so supportive and inspiring throughout my year of service. They have challenged my old view of who the “dear neighbor” is by making me more accepting and tolerant of people that have views drastically different than my own. No matter how much I disagree with a person, that person is still my neighbor. They have showed me what it truly means to be a member of an intentional community. They have taught me how to be a present and supportive member of a community through compromise and by simply being an active participant in the house, whether it’s through cooking and cleaning or by being there for conversation. The sisters inspire me to “achieve all that women is capable of” through their leadership. They are amazing and inspiring role models. Being in the SJW Program has improved my leadership skills significantly by teaching me to take initiative and really make this year of service my own.

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


Don’t be afraid to say yes. Even if it is something you have never done before, say yes to the opportunity and try it out. God could be calling you to a vocation that you have never given much thought before. By saying yes you open yourself up to a whole new realm of possibilities for the future. I said yes to a year of service with the SJW Program and I have not regretted a single moment, no matter how challenging.



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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Serving with Sisters: Cheryl Rozinski

Throughout National Catholic Sisters Week, Catholic Volunteer Network will share interviews with volunteers currently serving alongside sisters. In each post you will hear a little more about how the volunteers found their program and what they’ve learned from the sisters they work with. Today we feature Cheryl Rozinski from Lansdale, Pennsylvania, a graduate from St. Joseph's University, volunteering with Good Shepherd Volunteers.

Cheryl, with fellow foster care advocates, staff, and former foster care youth
 meet with New York State Senator Marisol Alcantara, on advocacy day 
for funding for foster youth to go to college.  

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

While attending the year of service fair hosted by Campus Ministry, one of my college mentors pointed out the Good Shepherd Volunteer staff and suggested that I ask about their public policy volunteer position. As I listened to the recruiter share about the government relations position in New York City, and the advocacy work that the current volunteer was involved in, I felt the Holy Spirit tug on my heart. She went on to share about the four tenets of the program—community, spirituality, simplicity, and social justice—and the tagline “just love.” I connected with everything she described and inwardly I could feel the excitement well up as I thought “yes, this is it,” while outwardly I calmly thanked the recruiter for her time, shared that I anticipated applying, and looked forward to getting to know the program further.

Cheryl and a facilitator stand in front of the answers that a group of youth 
generated, when asked “why a job is important?” These sessions were 
held to prepare young people to speak with legislators on Youth Action Day. 
Where do you serve? 

My office is located in mid-Manhattan, which makes the simplicity tenet a unique challenge. My title is “Public Policy Fellow,” and I serve in the Government and Community Relations department, which is a small but mighty team of three, committed to changing the city and state political landscape to benefit our participants. Day-to-day I represent the agency at coalition meetings, plan and attend advocacy meetings with elected officials and their staff, and update my colleagues on key policy or government developments. My greatest accomplishment thus far was planning Youth Action Day, an advocacy day in Albany attended by 300 youth and staff, to ask for more funded slots for the Summer Youth Employment Program. Because I serve in the home office, and the 6 other New York City volunteers serve in our programs, I view it as my personal mission to share information, events, and resources with my counterparts so that we all can be engaged in the agency’s advocacy mission.

Cheryl hard at work coordinating meeting logistics for 300 youth and 
chaperons participating in Youth Action Day in Albany, NY. 

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

Before beginning this year of service journey, I knew whose I was, and for whom I work—God. This year, I have been given the space to pray as I walk by men and women experiencing homelessness or hunger, to practice Lectio Divina with my spiritual director, and to foster deep connections in my church community. I have found a field that I love, and want to commit my career to, and I have gained a vocabulary to define my dreams. For the first time, I have found my identity in both work and faith, and discerned my calling to use my God-given talents to advocate for justice in our society.

Cheryl and her coworkers at a press conference to support 
raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York City. 
Currently, New York is one of two states automatically 
adjudicating 16 and 17 year olds in adult court and sentencing
them to adult prisons. They work to raise the age to 18.
What have you learned from living and working with the sisters?

Sr. Paulette, the Executive Director of the nonprofit that I serve, is incredibly patient and disciplined. She attends church every morning before coming to a busy and full day at work, and always takes time to say good morning and check in with individuals. Despite the many demands of her role, she maintains a person-centered approach, which is a practice that I try to emulate. From her and the other Sisters that I have had the pleasure of meeting, I have witnessed intense devotion to God, beautiful commitment to community, and incredible love for all people. The sisters lead by example, and have shared and shown great wisdom, which has offered me countless life lessons applicable now and as I go forth to continue serving.

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


As a Myers-Briggs affirmed thinker, I was naturally hesitant about living with less. However, I’ve found that by giving up my conventional desires, I am actually living with more. I see, smell, hear, taste, and feel more deeply, which subsequently, gives me more to think about. This year, I am developing intentional practices that will guide me throughout my life, while having the opportunity to impact the community that I am placed. I would advise you to enter your experience with an open-mind and an open-heart, expecting that unexpected changes and growth will occur.



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