Learning in the Office
by Anne Lacher
Anne is volunteering as staff associate at the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), and she is finishing her term of service next week. She wrote this reflection in late May.
I’ve worked at Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (with Mary Hunt and Diann Neu) for nine months now. My placement began in September, which makes this, the month of May, a very peculiar one for me. It is my first year living outside of the education system. For approximately 17 years, I have lived my life according to the educational year, beginning in September and coming to an end with the start of May. The fact that my Loretto year started in September makes it even stranger that I am now on the cusp of June and not moving on. Both ends of an educational year are marked by a new place, a change, travel.
As May officially began, I think I subconsciously expected the change of scenery to which I’m accustomed. For many people including myself, travel is addicting; it easily becomes a huge part of one’s life. However when one is denied the opportunity, the finances, or the ability to travel, it becomes imperative that substitutes be found lest the wonder, satisfaction, adrenaline, or sense of adventure is somehow forgotten. Luckily, WATER provides me with the next best thing: mingling with natives of the places that I so badly wish to visit.
WATER‘s programing and functions are many and varied. From women’s rituals to meditation groups, spiritual counseling to academic teleconferences, we definitely have a lot going on for such a small non-profit. WATER is an international community, a partner in Volunteers for Global Service, and a valuable resource to Visiting Scholars. Our network of like-minded individuals and organizations span the globe, with particularly notable collaboration from sister organizations in South America. This is very good news for me and my travel bug. I can’t travel to a foreign country at the moment, but at least I can converse with the people of that country as I go about my daily duties at the office.
As part of the program called Volunteers in Global Service, I’ve had the privilege of sharing my office for a good length of time with the quick-witted Rev. Dr. Ann-Catrin Jarl. Hailing from Uppsala, Sweden, Ann-Catrin was the Chaplain to the Archbishop of the Church of Sweden before her retirement last year. As Mary so often told me before her arrival, “You haven’t lived until you’ve met Ann-Catrin.” She certainly brought new meaning to our unofficial motto, “Never a dull day in the WATER office!” Over the course of my conversations with Ann-Catrin, I learned a bit of Sweden’s history, quite a lot about Sweden’s current social issues, a fair amount of the country’s environmental issues and practices, bits and pieces of proper Swedish pronunciation, and a good deal of general Swedish culture, humor, and temperament. For example, the odd nuances of the Swedish language combined with their signature dry, ironic, deadpan humor translates a heartfelt English “I love you” into the heartfelt Swedish equivalent “I’ve met worse people than you.”
Ann-Catrin Jarl was not the only foreigner appeasing my urge for far-off places. We also had a visit from the charming Mary Condren of Ireland, the world’s leading expert on Ireland’s Brigid of Kildare; she spoke at length of traditional Irish rituals and the current religious climate in both Ireland and Northern Ireland. Additionally, two delightful visiting scholars hailed from South Korea. They generously left the office a nice supply of South Korean teas and treats.
I am not sure how long it will be until I have the time and the money to travel as I would like. But in the meantime, I am happy to be living vicariously through the travels of WATER’s diverse friends and associates. It is just one of the many perks of working with WATER and Loretto.
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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.