by Katie Hughes
Katie is a Loretto Volunteer serving as an AmeriCorps Wellness Coordinator at Family Care Health Centers in St. Louis. The St. Louis volunteers road-tripped to Denver for their spring break. This is Katie's dispatch.
Driving across the entire states of Missouri and Kansas during the beginning of a snowstorm might not be the first image that pops into your head when you hear “spring break.” But when Kathleen had days off from school, Jill and I just HAD to rearrange our work schedules so we could take a trip. Since the Lorettos have a center in Denver, we knew it would be a great opportunity.
by Caroline Riebeling
Caroline is serving as an Instructor at Academy of Hope in Washington, DC.
Together we can accomplish what we could never do singly. We hope that corporately and individually we can put the gifts and energies we possess at the service of one another and of that part of the human family with whom we are in contact. We are emboldened by one another’s courage, strengthened by one another’s commitment to justice, heartened by others’ good humor.
- Loretto Life
Community is about giving and receiving support!
Yesterday I joined with billions of people around the world in celebrating the start of the liturgical season of Easter, a time of fulfilled hope and new life. As I reflect on the meaning of this season in my personal life, I cannot help but consider my own position as part of a community. I have found many communities in my time as a Loretto volunteer this year. I have formed deep relationships with my co-workers and learners, and I have developed as part of the Loretto volunteer community, as well as part of the DC volunteer community. Finally, I have grown into a more profound understanding of my place in the Loretto religious community as a whole. The above quote from Loretto Life struck me as a reminder of the responsibilities I have to these particular communities as well as to the world I live in. As a result of my Lenten observance, I have had ample time to consider my personal relationship to sacrifice and responsibility, but this year I have been able to view these concepts in a way entirely different from what I have been used to. The members of my communities have pushed me to think much more critically about what these values actually look like in my daily life.
by Jillian Severinski
Jill [left] with her housemate Kathleen.
Jill is a Loretto Volunteer at Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America in St. Louis.
The other night the Loretto Volunteers in St Louis invited Elizabeth Ann, aka E.A. Compton to join us for dinner. We knew she was an avid storyteller and were excited to host her in our home. For dinner I practiced a few Ecuadorian recipes for an upcoming Latino Dinner, and we ate llapingachos (a cheese stuffed potato patty), fried plantains, and a red onion salad. The dinner was relaxed and the conversation naturally flowed as we shared different stories, thoughts, and reflections.
by Molly Butler
Molly is serving at Community of Hope in Washington, DC, in a family shelter where she runs an after-school program for the shelter's children and manages in-kind donations, among other things!
The following is a letter that I would give to myself if I were to go back in time to August 2012, just pre-Loretto. I offer this advice not only to provide reflection on my work experience over the past six months, but also to conceptualize my goals as I begin the latter half of my volunteer year at Community of Hope.
Congratulations on the beginnings of what will be a very formative experience at Community of Hope; you have a lot to look forward to! As someone who has done this work for a bit of time now, I want to offer a few pieces of advice for this journey. These tips are ones conceptualized in retrospect, and will maximize you growth and happiness in this position.
by Nick Derda
Nick is serving as a legal coordinator at Bread for the City, a social services agency in Washington, DC.
“When we get there we'll discover
All of the gifts we've been given to share
Have been with us since life's beginning
And we never noticed they were there”
--Emma’s Revolution, “Swimming to the Other Side”
Volunteering, a year of service, a break, the gap year. Call it what you will, taking a year off between undergrad and grad or professional school is now a staple buzzword among recent college grads. It’s most frequent victims are the overly motivated resume builders, the social justice kids unapologetically obsessed with systemic inequalities, and the just plain confused. I entered the Loretto Volunteer Program as a combination of all of these misfits. I expected to see some poverty, to finally figure out what a vegan was, and to have late night conversations peppered with the jargon of power, privilege, and oppression now ubiquitous among humanities majors and aspiring hipster radicals. This year was supposed to be another bullet point on my resume, a stepping stone, free time to write personal statements and to study for the GRE. But here’s a shocker: It hasn’t been any of those things. Insert any sappy simile here about life being like a road, a path, a highway. This year has been about growth: personal, spiritual, and social. Now midway through Loretto, I’m not the Nick that I was when I entered.
by Kathleen Fox
Kathleen is serving as a teaching assistant at Marian Middle School, a girls' school in St. Louis. Last week, the volunteers got back from a long weekend winter retreat in Delaware -- and Kathleen offers us this reflection on the experience.
The St. Louis volunteers discussing community life!
It is incredibly difficult to find a moment of solitude and silence in a middle school. And while the bustle of Marian is exciting and fun, it can occasionally be overwhelming. When it came time to take a four-day weekend and head to Rehoboth Beach for winter retreat, I couldn’t hop on the plane fast enough.
I was looking forward to walking along the beach and writing in my journal, a past time that I have let slip away during the busy school year. Although I was excited for our “Saturday of Silence,” it is the conversations I had with my fellow volunteers that made the retreat worthwhile.
By Wendy Mallette
Wendy is a Loretto Volunteer serving as Staff Associate at the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) - a community of justice-seeking people who promote the use of feminist religious values to make social change.
Going into WATER for the first time, I had a very vague picture of what my work was to be. Not for lack of trying. I had spent a great deal of time on WATER’s website, and I had talked to a few former and current WATER interns to ask them what their work was like. Since arriving at WATER, I now understand their challenge, having been asked the question, “What do you do?” by friends, family, and prospective interns. Part of the challenge stems from the variety of WATER’s programs and work: teleconferences, rituals, a contemplation group, articles, courses, conferences, counseling, and a library. The medium of this work is also highly varied. We offer some programs in person, others by phone, and some in both forms. Some of our work is in classrooms or at conferences, while some of our work is online or in books. And then you have to throw Facebook and Twitter into the mix. It’s sometimes hard for me to keep up with it all, but listing these programs is simple enough.
This November, six of our ten Loretto Volunteers road-tripped from DC and St. Louis to attend the annual School of the Americas Watch Vigil in Ft. Benning, GA. At this annual gathering, people vigil to protest the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or WHINSEC (formerly the School of the Americas) - a military training academy that uses U.S. dollars to train Latin American military leaders. Graduates have gone on to perpetrate some of the worst human rights abuses in the world, including counterinsurgency against people's movements, torture and disappearing of labor activists. Below are reflections from our volunteers who attended.
by Caroline Riebling
Caroline is serving as an Instructor at Academy of Hope - an adult education organization in Washington, DC.
When I began working at Academy of Hope two months ago I had no idea what to expect. I knew that as an intern instructor at an adult education facility I would be leading classes, advising learners, and doing other office tasks like scheduling. What I did not know was that I was walking into a wonderfully vibrant community that exuded caring, creativity, and love. My short time so far at AoH has brought to light and subsequently dispelled many stereotypes about adult education that I was not even aware I had. At first I was terrified at the thought of trying to teach adults in a classroom setting, but after having finished a full term, I can honestly say I have never had a richer or enlightening teaching experience. As the first cycle of classes has come to an end, I am realizing how excited I am to begin a new one, refreshed and energized. I go to work every day with a smile on my face and an eagerness to see the people I work with. The community that has been built in this space is inspirational to say the least, and it all has to do with the one word we find most important in our work – hope.
by Katie Hughes
Katie is serving as the Wellness Coordinator at Family Care Health Centers in St. Louis. The St. Louis volunteer community currently consists of two women - but we are excited to welcome a third Loretto Volunteer into the community this week.
The St Louis Volunteers, Katie and Kathleen
As we sat in the Loretto Motherhouse and discussed community, one of the four pillars of our volunteer program, I wondered how I would fare in a two person “community.” I felt a little jealous that the DC house would have 5 members (plus one at the satellite campus!). I knew that myself and my roommate Kathleen in St. Louis and also our fellow member Shawna in New York City would definitely have a different experience with community in our daily lives. I knew that community meant support, and collaboration, but I was still unsure about how it would play out for me in my new surroundings.