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.
BY MELISSA FEITO
This March, I had possibly my most meaningful experience with the Loretto Community yet. I was one of two volunteers who attended the 2019 Border Encounter in Tucson, Arizona. Our small group also included teachers from St. Mary’s Academy in Denver (a Loretto high school) and several Loretto co-members. On this encounter, we visited both the Mexican and American side of the U.S.-Mexico Border to bear witness to the struggles of the thousands of migrants who seek refuge in this country. It was as enlightening as it was heartbreaking.
After our trip wrapped up, I stayed behind for several days as a reporter for Interfaith Voices, my placement of two years. This reporting is my capstone of sorts, a culmination of all the skills I have learned over my two years. Producing this story also has a special meaning to me. I am a first generation American, my parents are latinx immigrants from Cuba and Uruguay. Though they crossed by air, not by land, they too knew the challenges of poverty, alienation, and family separation when they came to the U.S. as youths. Being able to tell the stories I do in this episode of Interfaith Voices was incredibly meaningful to me and reminded me why I do what I do. But instead of going on and on here, why don’t I just let you listen to the show yourself?
"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.”
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.