By Caitlyn Haggarty
I have never been a fan of uncertainty. Nobody likes big changes, but I find a way to take it to the next level. This has been a theme throughout my young adulthood. From choosing to put together a 1500-piece puzzle instead of packing for my first year of college to hesitating to actively look for and apply to jobs in the semester before graduation, my preferred method of dealing with change has been to ignore that it was happening. In fact, I had a really hard time completing this reflection, as it marks the end of my time as a volunteer.
When I found out I was going to be volunteering in St. Louis at Family Care Health Centers after I graduated college, I felt substantial relief. I was no longer uncertain of my (near) future. As a veteran of many Catholic summer camps, mission trips, youth groups, and volunteering, I thought I knew what lay in store for the year ahead and I couldn’t wait to get started.
Little did I know, there was a lot of transition in store for me once I got to St. Louis. Learning to intentionally live in community, getting accustomed to a new job in a new city, learning about the history of St. Louis and learning about the Sisters of Loretto were all crucial shifts in perspective for me. Then came the biggest transition of all: the Loretto Center in St. Louis closing in May. All the sisters I had gotten to know this year moved to other places in St. Louis or to the Motherhouse. And we moved from Lockwood house to a new house in Maplewood. I was torn apart by the end of this era. I know now that this feeling was just an echo of the loss and grief many sisters were feeling about the end of this chapter.
But along with this painful transition came beauty and love from all directions. We had the gift of creating our own space in the new house for volunteers in years to come. We received housewarming gifts and furniture that have historical significance to Loretto. We have gotten to hear so many stories about Loretto in St. Louis through the years. This move allowed us to reconnect with each other and with the St. Louis Loretto community in a whole new way.
As I close in on my last days as a volunteer, my sights are set on what’s next for me. I am thrilled that I will be continuing my work at Family Care Health Centers. I have been hired on full-time as a Practice Analyst. This job is the perfect opportunity for me to continue using my technical expertise as an Industrial Engineer to help improve patient experience, staff satisfaction, and quality outcomes. I can’t wait to get started. Yet, a familiar immobilization has been creeping into the back of my mind. I realize that the end of my volunteer year and the beginning of this job is the end of an era for me. I’m trading in years of unstructured time for an adult routine. I’m beginning to switch my focus from self-development to applying what I’ve learned to help others develop. I got my first apartment and will be experiencing living alone for the first time. I will be completely financially independent from my parents. This adult thing finally feels real. And it’s still scary.
This feels like the biggest transition I’ve encountered yet. I don’t want to let go of the transformative, wonderful experience I’ve had this year. I’ve been in denial about the end for a month! As I write this, I am wondering to myself how I’ll handle moving forward. But I’ve recently had a comforting realization: I won’t lose the relationships I’ve made this year. I’ll hold on to the memories and the hilarious pictures and delicious food and new experiences we shared. I learned so much from my housemates and I’d like to share some of that with the world.
To Nikki: Thank you for being so warm. Throughout this year, you have never ceased to impress me with how easily you connect with others and pour out love to them. I love our carpool rides together where we made fun of huge trucks with lift kits, vented about our lives, jammed out to music, laughed, and cried. You taught me how important it is to show myself compassion and how to extend unlimited compassion to other people. You’re going to be a great doctor. Thank you.
To Mary Louise: Thank you for your energy. You have been a constant source of nurturing for our community this year, while you worked the hardest hours of any of us. I love that you’re always down to belt out some Hamilton with me, even if my voice can’t hold a candle to your beautiful singing. You’ve taught me what true servant leadership looks like. You have been an agent for change this year, making a real impact on the lives of those you serve. Thank you.
To Natalie: Thank you for being unapologetic. Your bravery, flexibility, and perseverance this year has been an anchor to help get me through tumultuous, uncertain times. I can always count on you for witty banter and witchy spiritual talks about the Universe. I love our early morning yoga sessions and our failed attempt to start running. You’ve taught me how important it is to continually check my privilege and how to soften my approach with those who may be intimidated by me. I am excited to see the ways you will continue to connect with and impact your community. Thank you.
To us: I love the energy we created in our house this year. Thank you for the rituals, the food, the tarot card readings, the vulnerability, and the growth. This community has a permanent place in my heart. I can’t wait to take on the world with you all. You make me feel like I can conquer this transition like a pro. Let’s do it.
Caitlyn Hagarty is from Colfax, Iowa and graduated from the University of Iowa in 2016 with a degree in Industrial Engineering. Caitlyn is particularly interested in using her engineering skills to improve the quality of patient health care. She has been hired on full-time at her placement, Family Care Health Centers in St. Louis!
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.