BY JACKIE SCHMITZ
Since our closing retreat at the Loretto Motherhouse, I’ve been contemplating my feelings about Loretto and my year as a volunteer. I’ve also found myself contemplating why it is that people cry when they feel love.
This happens to me a lot, actually, and I’m hoping some of you can relate. When I reflect on people in my life who I love very dearly, and I think about how much I love them, I often spiral into a puddle of tears. It’s a feeling of being overwhelmed at how much they’ve touched me and how much I cherish them. It’s a feeling of undeservedness in which I don’t understand why they’ve shown me such pure kindness and love, yet I’m incredibly grateful that they have. And it’s a feeling of being accepted.
Loretto has made me feel all of these things. And while there are so many people in the Loretto community that are very special to me, I’d like to share a story about a particular Loretto, Barb Mecker.
During one of the coldest weeks of winter in St. Louis, the heat in Tobin House broke. Claudia, our St. Louis Program Coordinator, was out of town visiting her sister in Connecticut, but quickly jumped into action reaching out to Loretto community members in hopes we could stay in a warm house until our heat was fixed. Barb Mecker came to the rescue and let us stay in her home. She entrusted us each with a set of keys, allowed us to take over her kitchen one night when we wanted to make tacos, and was at ease letting us come and go as we pleased. We spent the first night listening to all the wild stories Barb had from her time being the Loretto Volunteer Program Coordinator. That was the thing about Barb. She never pretended to have it all together. She was open, honest, and warm. Barb made me feel comfortable in her home and within myself- something that Loretto does often.
I remember one night I was sitting with Barb on the couch just talking about life while her sweet dog, Bella, was lounging on the couch next to us. Barb said, “You know whenever I look back at my journals from when I was in my 20s, I realize that I’m still dealing with the same problems now that I was struggling with then.” And I thought, wow, what a profound and interesting idea. It gave me a strange comfort to know that some of the things I’m grappling with now like finding my place in the world or accepting myself as I am are things that I will continue to work on throughout my entire life. But it gives me hope that my values of justice, peacemaking, and community building will also continue to be lifelong pursuits.
I truly hope in 40 years I’m still a work in progress. I hope that I’m still grappling with my inner struggles. I hope that I am still pursuing justice work. I hope that I’m a lot like all of you, able to call Loretto home and have a community that time and time again accepts and welcomes me as I am.
Jackie Schmitz is from Des Moines, IA and graduated from Saint Louis University in 2017 with a degree in Neuroscience and Public Health. She loves camping, hiking, and traveling. Jackie served at Missouri Health Care For All in St. Louis as a community organizer and advocate for healthcare accessibility during her time as a Loretto Volunteer.
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.