Cecilie Kern is a second year Loretto Volunteer living in New York City and working with Loretto's NGO at the United Nations.
Looking back on my two years of service, first in Washington DC and more recently in New York City, I have a lot to be grateful for. My experience as a volunteer has made me a more compassionate, critical and self-aware person. I suppose this could have happened had I spent the past two years working or studying outside of the Loretto community, but I believe the discipline of simple and intentional living, combined with the support I have received from fellow volunteers and Loretto members, has made all the difference.
The summer that I started as a Loretto Volunteer, Pope Francis addressed young people, saying, "I ask you to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love." Loretto is important in today’s world because it embodies this spirit. I have seen Loretto’s mission to work for justice and act for peace lived out through small acts of kindness and global efforts for equity. A program like the Loretto Volunteers doesn’t just happen. It requires an intentional decision, an ongoing commitment of support and a faith in the future. From a worldly point of view, the whole notion of the Loretto Volunteer program makes no sense at all. Those who support the program take the risk that untested young people will be able to grow into stewardship and contribute to healing to a broken world. For those who serve, it means renouncing worldly things and a self-centric attitude at the very time in life when their peers are pushing to get ahead. But the Loretto Volunteer program is about something more than meeting the world’s expectations. At their founding over two hundred years ago, the Sisters of Loretto dedicated themselves to educating the poor children of rural Kentucky—the least of us. Since then, through the Community’s outspoken advocacy, Loretto has continued to champion causes that to the world may seem hopeless.
Even with the best intentions, an individual cannot continue the difficult work of social justice alone. It is hard to express just how much I appreciate the support, optimism and love the Loretto Community and my fellow volunteers have generously shared with me. As a Spanish literature major in college, I spent countless hours reading and analyzing poetry. I dissected the imagery and symbolism, attempting to discover and understand the wisdom and the emotions underneath. I loved soaking in the rhythms, sounds and feelings that poems express. That said, I’m a terrible poet. So as much as I would love to write a moving ode or eloquent sonnet to the volunteers, co-members and sisters that have made my Loretto experience so memorable, I will have resort to something much simpler: that rudimentary poetic form beloved by second-graders everywhere — the acrostic.
Loving - The Loretto Community is like a family. We may not agree on everything, but we always want the best for one another. Everything comes from a place of love.
Outspoken - Lorettos are unafraid to speak out about issues of justice and peace. We strive to be true to our values, standing in support of the marginalized and vulnerable.
Reflecting - The Loretto Community encourages reflection and values intentionality—two attributes that tend to get lost in today’s hurried culture.
Encouraging - Lorettos value the unique gifts and talents each person contributes. We inspire one another to grow into the best people we can be.
Tenacious - The Loretto Community is full of passionate people who work hard, think critically and seek peaceful and just solutions to the unrest in the world.
Thoughtful - Lorettos are wise, generous, kind, intelligent, and think consistently about the needs of others.
Open – While unwavering from its values, Loretto is inclusive and forward-thinking. We welcome all people, are open to change, and look to the future with optimism and determination.
As my wise friend and former housemate, Cathy Jaskey, is fond of saying, “Words are powerful and inadequate.” To the Loretto Community members and Loretto Volunteers who have been a part of my volunteer experience, my words of appreciation pale in comparison to the gifts you have shared and the support you have shown me over the past two years.
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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.