BY REILLY REBHAHN
"Without community, there is no liberation."
Audre Lorde’s words stare at me from my felt-rainbow-letter-board hanging on the wall. It’s been almost three months since I chose that quote from a random post I’d seen online. “If I surround myself with positive messages in my office, everyone I meet with will feel better,” I thought back in August. My first few weeks at Empowerment, I decided to invest time and energy into creating that “good vibes” space. I started printing out any inspirational image I’d see online. “Oh,” I’d think with a tear in my eye, “a kitten on a branch and it says ‘Hang in there,’ this is perfect.” I felt myself forcing it. I wanted my office to be a lighthearted space-- and not to mention, my high-functioning anxieties over whether I was qualified enough to do my job were somewhat soothed with retail therapy. Volunteer life had been out to a rocky start, and I couldn’t remember why exactly I got this job.
By Gabriele Eissner
Ubuntu. I am because you are.
I came across this word in my high school history class. I was fascinated by it. Despite having roots in ancient Africa, the concept of ubuntu is most well known for being a guiding philosophy of post-apartheid South Africa. There is no word in the English language quite like it. In fact, living in an individualistic society, there isn’t even a concept quite like it. After a brief period of wanting the word tattooed on my arm, I forgot about it.
BY CELINE REINOSO
Since arriving in El Paso, my community has been on an intense search for (free) events and activities to attend, in an effort to make the most of our year and explore our new home. Unfortunately for us, a lot of the events in El Paso are advertised by word of mouth, so it was a slow first couple of weeks, attending Facebook-advertised events that had an average of 10 people—including us—show up.
BY AMY MALTZ
Recently I’ve been marveling at my life. One month ago I was in El Paso, as a Loretto Volunteer, working at a homeless shelter. A year before that, I was a college student in San Diego. Five years ago, I was still in Oregon, going to high school and fantasizing about one day majoring in Marketing (that dream lasted about a semester into college). Now I live in New York City and go to work at the United Nations everyday. New York is sticky and crowded and bustling; and despite having wonderful housemates, a welcoming supervisor and a slew of caring Loretto Community members close by, I feel quite overwhelmed by it.
BY CATHERINE ROBERTS
Okay, perhaps I exaggerate to use the word "prodigal."
Still, until the Labor Day homecoming retreat for friends and former volunteers, prodigal is how I felt.
It had been three years since I had any substantial contact with Loretto; I'd missed the last two homecoming retreats. I almost didn't go to this one. It's been too long, I told myself. No one will remember you. Loretto is a part of your past.
Yet relegating Loretto to my past, like a fondly remembered dream, felt too painful. I swallowed my apprehensions and bought a plane ticket.
BY LAUREN HUNTER
Since starting my year as a LoVo a month ago, I’ve had a lot of time for self-reflection. Through the opening retreat at the Motherhouse, community-building conversations at my house, or moments of silence in my daily life, I have had a lot of time devoted to examining my beliefs and values that I hold. Something I’ve been ruminating over recently is how I can turn my spiritual practice into one that feels like it belongs to me.
Growing up, I attended church with my family, but as I entered my teens, I realized how little of myself I could see in the church I attended. There were very few people my age, and the language the church gave me to pray or to connect with God was very patriarchal, masculine, and rooted in heterosexual imagery. As a result, the way religion was introduced to me didn’t make much space for me as a young queer woman. I was left yearning for a spiritual practice that felt right for me.
BY EMMY WATKINS
Anyone who knows me knows that I like the familiar, even in minutia. I reread the same books, watch the same shows, and listen to the same songs for years on end. I like knowing where things are going and how they will end. I like to know how things will make me feel.
As a result, transitions are hard for me. Ironically, I’ve moved six times in the last four years, sometimes for a short stint and sometimes with no idea how long I’d stay. I’ve lived in the Deep South and far north; I’ve lived through blistering Texas summers, muggy Florida autumns, and snow-covered New York winters. I’ve grown comfortable, to some extent, with the rhythm of transition, of always preparing for the next move, of packing up the car and driving away, of answering the question “Where are you from?” with a lighthearted “It’s complicated.”
BY KIARA QUINTANAR
The initial feelings on a reflection with less than three weeks since my flight to opening retreat and not even a full week into my placement, were that it is just the beginning. What can I possibly have to share at this point? I laugh at myself as I meta-reflect on how reflective of a person I am. That I have been thinking things through and turning them in my head since I stepped onto the airplane.
My thoughts are everywhere but I’ve decided that that is okay. Normal, even for such a big transition.To start, I am a San Francisco Bay Area girl at heart. It is where I grew up and went to school. It is such a hard place to leave, and I have been getting the question, why would someone leave such a place? Somewhere where everyone hopes to go to?
BY AMELIE RODE
A couple of weeks ago, my second year as a Loretto Volunteer commenced. We began again at the Motherhouse for retreat, and then I moved back to St. Louis, Missouri and into the wee, blue cottage that is the Tobin House. In this loopy bout of change, I’ve felt a lot of feelings. I’ve felt nervous, excited, apprehensive, anxious, and joyful. Like plenty of others, I struggle during times of transition. This time, so far, has been no different. During transitions like this one, I tend to be aware of a lingering feeling of instability and a desire for comfort from my loved ones who aren’t there. I also tend to doubt myself more and sometimes be more critical of myself than I might be normally.
Those who meet or know me know that I’m an introvert. I’m comfortable in silence (alone and with others). I can be quiet in certain settings and especially when I’m still getting to know folks. In new and change-filled situations as the one I just described, this aspect of myself is one of the things I tend to hone in on or get especially anxious about. I notice the outgoing folks around me and become hypersensitive to my own outward silence and my thudding heartbeat whenever I do force myself to speak.
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.