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.
In college, I was in the Interfaith club at my school, which focused on bringing different religious groups on campus into dialogue with each other. One of my favorite parts of Interfaith was our Alternative Spring Break retreat. We would spend four days going to different houses of worship--from a Sikh gurdwara, to a Reform Judaism synagogue, to a Unitarian Universalist church, and more-- as we worshipped with the various congregations and learned about their religious practices and traditions. Often, we would get to talk to some members of the congregation after the service. One of the themes that came up, over and over again, in those small conversations, was that many of the adults I spoke with grew up in a different faith than the one they currently identified with. As I felt lost and confused in the form of Christianity I had been taught in my youth, I was learning about other faiths and simultaneously realizing that I was at a point in my life where I could explore what felt most important to me spiritually.
At our retreat at the Motherhouse, I decided to attend Sunday Mass on a bit of a whim. Initially, I felt a bit uncomfortable. It had been a long time since I’d been to a church service, and I had never attended a Catholic Mass before. However, by the end of the Mass, my feelings had changed. I listened as Susan Classen, CoL, gave the homily and spoke so insightfully about the themes of darkness and vulnerability. The language of the prayers that we spoke didn’t feel alienating, either. Experiencing the Mass was beautiful because I could see how the Loretto community had worked to make it a service that reflected their community values and openness.
As I moved to Junia House in Washington, D.C., and as my community members and I have had conversations about what we want our house community to look like during our service year, I have felt more and more empowered to create what I want for myself and my community. As a house, we have decided to say grace before every meal we eat together. This is one of my favorite moments of the day because the graces have been different every night. Sometimes we sing a song, sometimes we say something silly, and sometimes we pray. But we always end our graces with the words “Awomen” instead of “Amen.” It’s a small change and saying it makes me smile and laugh a little, but for me, it makes my spiritual practice feel more rooted in my identity. I love that my Junia House community is willing to experiment with spiritual practices together and find what works for us as a group.
This year, I want to seek out what I value in religion, in order to keep my spiritual practices evolving into something that truly reflects my identity. After seeing the Loretto community create a powerful worship service that embodies who they are, I know that when I can’t find a faith practice that I resonate with, I have the power to create one for myself.
Lauren Hunter (she/her) grew up in small town Michigan, but left after graduating high school to attend Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia. She graduated with a history degree last year and has spent time working in education since. Lauren loves to hike, bake just about anything, and read her favorite books over and over again. She is excited to be at Briya Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. for her service year!
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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.