"What Woman Here is so Enamored of her Own Oppression That She Cannot See Her Heelprint Upon Another Woman's Face?" -Audre Lorde
BY SAWYER HILL
I was angry for much of March. At school systems and penal systems. At the US government for its stew of negligent inaction and callous overreaction. Mostly I was angry about sexual assault. Its existence. How it is handled. The hoops that must be jumped through and the ways survivors must prove their trauma. Prove their worthiness for justice. Prove that they did not deserve the violence committed against them at the hands of someone who sought to strip them of their power, their voice. My journal is filled with these frustrations, spilling from one page to the next. The anger has been both intoxicating and exhausting.
I’ve spent most of my time thus far in Loretto learning how to be a bit quieter. I have little trouble speaking for myself and even less discomfort when anger begins to fill me. This clear comfort was no better exemplified than when, earlier this week while at a coffee shop, my housemate Amelie and I were approached by a news team interviewing El Paso residents on their feelings toward an armed militia coming to “help defend the border” in Sunland Park, NM. They asked us both our opinions.
“Oh I’m not good on the spot,” said Amelie “she’ll be better at answering the question,” pointing a finger across the table.
I answered their questions, riling myself up more and more as I continued. Armed militias at the border fall pretty easily into the category of things that make me angry.
The speaking up part is not what I struggle with. But the being quiet bit is more of a challenge.
When I felt frustration and confusion early on, Sister Elisa gave me some of the most sound and well-suited-to-me advice I’ve received. She told me that when she started at the Loretto-run nursing home here, Nazareth, she did not make any changes in structure for six months. Instead she listened. She learned. She remained
BY MELISSA CEDILLO
In the workplace Slack channel, in my community’s group chat, and even in small talk at awkward networking events; the news cycle finds a way to come up. It is part of what makes living DC so dang exciting. You feel close to the action. The State of the Union address is happening and you are literally blocks away. A committee is about to have a hearing and you could attend if you would like. Participating in democracy seems more accessible than usual. Your phone lights up with a notification that another person is running for President in 2020 and so do the phones of the 20 other people on the metro.
There is also the feeling of having an obligation to stay up-to-date so as to not become apathetic to what's going in the world around you. Yet, If you are not careful, checking Twitter for the next big headline can become all consuming. Figuring who has read which article and who saw it first can become competitive. This process can bring out ugly traits. I myself am guilty of obsessively checking for new headlines and updates. How does one find a balance?
BY AMELIE RODE
Recently, the other LoVos and myself made a trip back to the Motherhouse for our mid-year retreat. And though “mid-year retreat” might imply it, I was still baffled when I arrived and realized that this year of service is more than halfway over.
This realization has me reflecting back on these past six months. What has come to mind most often is my community in the Praxedes House, where all five of us El Paso volunteers live. Even now, a week and some days after retreat, I still get excited about living with them just by looking at their cute little faces.
BY MELISSA FEITO
Back in August, we received a good bit of advice during opening retreat at the Loretto Motherhouse. I’m no note-taker by nature, but it was something to the effect of: “seek communities outside of your home community.” It might sound a little pessimistic at first, aren’t our Loretto communities supposed to be a place where after all we feel welcome, supported, loved?
But as a second year volunteer, I completely understood. Esther Perel, famed therapist and beautiful accent-haver, says that when you put all of your hopes and dreams and needs into one person, your spouse, your marriage is put under incredible stress, because no single human can ever check all of those boxes. I see community life in a similar way.
BY AMY MALTZ
For someone who actively describes herself as non-religious, one of, if not the most, essential and grounded parts of myself is absolutely my religious identity. I was raised in a Reconstructionist Jewish household. For those unfamiliar with this terminology, just as there are different denominations of Christianity (Presbyterian, Baptist, Episcopalian, etc.), there are also different denominations of Judaism; The most traditional being Orthodox, followed by Conservative and Reform. Reconstructionism sits somewhere in between Conservative and Reform Judaism. I grew up with services spoken primarily in Hebrew and traditional Jewish rituals actively being observed. However, men and women mingled together in our synagogue, and as a young girl, I was encouraged to become a Bat Mitzvah (a coming of age ritual that in Orthodox circles is reserved solely for boys).
Even without the ritualistic practice of attending Friday night and Saturday morning synagogue services, my upbringing would have remained quintessentially Jewish. Mezzuzahs are carefully nailed to each main doorway in my childhood home and there are kitschy plaques with punny Jewish sayings adorning our kitchen “Shalom Y’all”. My mother never failed to nag me about my homework or my driving, or my friends stating: “I can’t help it! I’m a Jewish mother”, and we never missed a community Passover seder. One of my clearer childhood memories is a Kindergarten class around Christmas time. Santa had come to our class and when it was my turn to sit on his knee, I proudly proclaimed “Santa doesn’t come to MY house.”
BY BRIANNA NIELSON
I began my Freshman year of college afraid to step foot on BART (the Bay Area’s form of public transportation) by myself. Stereotypes of Oakland, feelings of discomfort with mental illness, and thoughts of self-doubt around my ability to confidently navigate unfamiliar territories initially prevented me from exploring a place I now consider to be part of my home. But as I unlearn my implicit biases and grow in my own self-confidence, my comfortability in navigating a city also increases. I ended my Junior year of college flying to Rome by myself, navigating cities and airports I had never been to before, purchasing coffee and train tickets in a language that was foreign to me, and learning to discern whether my feelings of discomfort were due to actual danger or simply a result of my sheltered and privileged upbringing. Apart from the two-minute breakdown I allowed myself to have inside a bathroom stall in Rome’s largest airport terminal, I handled a flight cancellation, missed connection, and overnight stay in a random airport hotel with a sense of calmness and grace my Freshman-year self would have never imagined I could possess. Over the course the last few years, I sought out opportunities to further this personal growth, seeking experiences that would challenge me to notice what conditions I feel unsafe in and question why that might be and building relationships with individuals who would encourage me to continue leaning into that discomfort.
BY ADELE MCKIERNAN
Well before I knew them as the guiding principles of Loretto Volunteers, I found simple living, social justice, intentional community, and spirituality compelling. They each held large parts of my attention but I found them difficult to tend to when I was in distress or crisis. It’s a cruel fact of life that what we most need is often most difficult to access for the very reasons we long for it.
Shortly before moving to Tobin House to start my Loretto service year, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) following the most extended and severe period of psychological pain I have ever witnessed in myself. Clinically speaking, BPD is a mental illness marked by instability that tends to appear in in four major areas: cognition, impulse control, interpersonal relationships, and affect. It’s a condition as all-encompassing as it sounds, the implications of which have affected my life in profound ways. Though BPD has long been one of the most stigmatized and misunderstood mental illnesses, after years of mis-diagnoses, an exasperating trial and error of medications, and a handful of hospitalizations, being able to reframe these experiences in terms of an accurate diagnosis has brought me great peace of mind. This helped me identify with what I was newly able to see as treatable symptoms not permanent personal flaws, in a way that helped me work through and begin to move past them. Properly defining something can make us less at the whim of matters previously gone unknown or misunderstood.
BY ISABEL NGO
I’ve always considered myself a little weak. I don’t exercise very often. I get cold easily. My back and limbs cramp up way more than they should after I sleep in a weird position, or even after a night of dancing. But what I lack in physical strength among the volunteers I live with, I make up for with my attention to detail, particular tech and gadget know-how—from using Twitter to handling our old fashioned can opener, and of course, by disposing the house’s occasional roaches. Not to mention what I’ve been learning at Villa María (my volunteer placement), it’s been a period of small personal victories since moving to El Paso, TX from my home in California.
BY LINDSEY FAUST
While the Loretto Volunteers read through our handbook on opening retreat, exploring our four core values - social justice, simple living, spirituality, and community - one term stuck out to me immediately.
In I Am The Way, Loretto’s guiding document, members of the Loretto community commit to simple living by promising “to hold all things lightly.”
When we spoke about the phrase, we spoke in terms of material goods - detaching ourselves from lives of extravagance to instead focus on our own inner growth and commitment to our communities and justice work.
But as the first half of my time as a LoVo has stretched behind me, this phrase has come back to me over and over in relation to a different core value: spirituality. I have often found myself wondering what it might mean to hold God lightly.
BY MARI NUÑEZ
Prior to leaving El Paso for college, I vowed to myself that I would permanently relocate. The desert sunsets were already far behind me, and my eyes were on a different horizon. I was going to be a New Yorker, through and through. It took some adjusting, but I was able to transplant myself with ease. I often got asked which borough I came from, chuckling internally at the success of my ruse. With plans of attending law school straight out of college, this ruse would have become my reality.
In Their Own Words
We invite you to get to know Loretto Volunteers and the program here. Volunteers introduce themselves and reflect on their experiences.