By: Arielle Zionts
Arielle is from the suburbs of Chicago and graduated in 2014 from Pitzer College in Claremont, CA. A skilled radio enthusiast, Arielle is placed at Interfaith Voices, a public radio show run by Loretto sister, Maureen Fiedler.
As a secular–perhaps even atheist–Jew, I would have never imagined signing up for, and ending up loving, a year-long Catholic volunteer program. So how did I end up here?
The truth is, I wasn’t even looking to join a volunteer corps. I responded to an e-mail on a public radio list-serv with the subject line, “entry-level radio producer opening.” I was looking for my first job in public radio so this sounded perfect. Plus, I was familiar with the radio show, Interfaith Voices, and have always been interested in religion from a cultural, political, and historical point-of-view. I saw that the e-mail mentioned that the position was not salaried and was connected with something called the Loretto Volunteer program. I didn’t really look into those details and just asked for the application.
It turned out to be the longest job application I’ve ever seen–it was actually more similar to my college applications! Because of the time it would take to fill out the application, I almost didn’t go through with it. But as I started reading through the application, the more intrigued I became. The thoughtful questions illustrated what kind of values Loretto has. They wondered how I deal with interpersonal conflicts, asked about my weaknesses and how I wanted to grow, and had me reflect on how I perpetuate racial and economic inequality. I learned that the program cares about community, spirituality, social justice, and simple living–all values I am passionate about or interested in.
The further along I got in the interview process–eventually speaking to Molly, Claudia, Maureen, and Laura–the more I became excited about this opportunity. I accepted the position and knew I made the right choice after the first day of orientation in Kentucky. Now, every day, I am excited to come home to my house where I have four new best friends to greet me. I know I always have someone to vent to about a stressful day at work, to talk to about a social injustice I’ve been thinking about, and to visit a museum or attend a lecture with.
Part of the reason why I never thought I’d end up doing a year of service through a religious group is because I was unfamiliar with these kinds of programs. I knew they existed in the back of my head and knew some people who did AVODAH, the Jewish service corps. But my college never talked about or encouraged us to look into these opportunities. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved Pitzer College, but I think it, and all other colleges, make a big mistake by not pushing religious service years.
Colleges are so concerned with students either getting hired right away, enrolling in graduate school, or accepting an elite fellowship or volunteer opportunity with groups like Fulbright, Teach for America, and the Peace Corp. But most students don’t know what they want to do right out of school and taking the time to reflect on that is important.
Religious service years ensure that you secure a job and housing right out of college, have a social network and friends in a new city, and grow as a person and a community. Sure you won’t make a profit, but you also won’t go into debt. In fact, the simple (read: cheap) living requirement will help us in the future with budgeting and valuing small luxuries like attending a concert or going out to brunch. In other words, volunteer years are the perfect transition into the “real world” with all of its new work and financial responsibilities and without the security and social-life of the “college bubble”
Liberal arts colleges, many of which are indeed politically liberal, may assume their students aren’t interested in religious volunteer years due to stereotypes about religious organizations and people being conservative and reserved. But as anyone who knows the Sisters of Loretto knows, this stereotype does not reflect all religious groups.
I encourage any young person with an open mind who is interested in improving and learning about themselves and the world to look into religious volunteer corps. I of course personally recommend the Loretto Volunteers : D
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.