Matthew is a Loretto Volunteer serving as a classroom aide (among other duties!) at Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School in East St. Louis, Illinois.
What have you been doing at your placement?
After a twist of fate, I have begun working at Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School in East Saint Louis. I've recently completed my first few weeks of work there and have found myself taking on many roles as I'm settling into the job. Although each classroom is equipped with terrific teachers, and although every staff position is filled, there always seems to be something for me to do. Whether it's learning the names of the students as they come through the lunch line, watching the Kindergartners as they navigate the playground, or helping the first graders sound out their spelling words, there never seems to be a dull moment at this K-8 school.
What is one thing you love about community living?
This year I have learned to truly value the experience of living in community. Each time I walk into our kitchen, a small sign hangs over the doorway that reads, "We are so lucky to have one another." I've taken that saying to heart, and am reminded of how blessed I am to be living where I do. Each day when I come home, whether it's been a good day or a more trying one, I know that my housemates are happy to lend an ear and hear about my day. I also enjoy the fact that there is always someone around if you need a little company on the walk to the library or the drive to the store. Companionship is such an important piece of this whole experience.
What has been one surprise, challenge or learning this year?
The biggest surprise for me so far this year has been not working at the job I was originally hired to do! Although initially I was a little worried about what the year would entail after switching out of the job, I've found myself pleasantly surprised with the unexpected situation I am now in. The only challenge that came with this switching of jobs was the four days it took to find a new position and then make the move. It was surprisingly easy to slide into a new work environment.
What do you value about your relationship with the Loretto Community?
I'm not sure there is something about the Loretto Community that I don't value. Having started this volunteer year at the Loretto motherhouse, and then living next to a center full of sisters in St. Louis, I've heard such a variety of stories about recent Loretto history and learned so much from each sister I come into contact with. When applying for the program, each applicant is asked to be open to inter-generational friendships. I could have only imagined what this phrase actually meant. My favorite piece of being part of the Loretto family so far has been being granted the opportunity to form wonderful, meaningful friendships with members of different generations. This whole experience constantly has me reevaluating different aspects of my life and learning more about myself through my relationship with the sisters.
What advice do you have for someone considering doing a year of service?
The only advice I have for someone looking to do a year of service is to have an open mind. If you dive into this experience fully prepared for whatever a year can throw at you, then you won't be disappointed. And you will, of course, being given the invaluable opportunity to grow.
The Loretto Volunteer Program pairs young adults with social justice organizations for a formative year of service. Through meaningful work and communal living, volunteers live out the Loretto Community's mission to work for justice and act for peace - guided by the core values of social justice, community, simplicity and spirituality. Winner of the 2013 Call To Action Leadership Award, the Loretto Volunteer Program proudly prepares young adults to begin lives of public service.
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