BY MADELINE HERRIES
I am incredibly blessed to be writing this from the Loretto Motherhouse. When I found out that Nerinx’s Peace and Justice club was sending a group of students here, I immediately asked if I could tag along. The eight students I am with blow me away with their wise ideas and powerful insights. I am blessed to share in their joy, sorrow, exploration, and contemplation.
Somebody recently asked me what it is like to work with high schoolers. I have trouble explaining that these young women are not just high schoolers, they are Nerinx girls. They seek more than an education. They seek knowledge, self-awareness, community, self-expression, and true understanding of each other. They speak their minds and try to find creative solutions.
As a Nerinx graduate (Class of 2014), I have been thinking deeply about my experiences as a young Nerinx Marker. I do not think I was truly able to appreciate my time at Nerinx. During that time, I was in a dark battle with myself. I was struggling to understand who I am and what my place is in this world. I was struggling to keep my head above water as I simply tried to find meaning in anything. I was spiritually desolate and completely lost in the darkness that clouded my spirit.
Friends, family, and therapy helped me find my way out of that darkness, but I was still searching for a path. I was searching for soil to nourish my roots. I found that nourishment in Loretto when a former teacher asked me to work at the 2015 assembly in St. Louis. I witnessed a loving community engage in dialogue and discern about a variety of topics and challenges in their community. I kept that nourishment of Loretto in my life through an online circle and eventually a trip to the Denver Center. I actively sought out this community and sunk my roots deeper into this love.
I have cried after (and sometimes during) each discussion and activity I have participated in at the Motherhouse these past few days. I cry because I found a place that encompasses all of my passions. I found a place that shares my values in a deeper way than I could ever imagine. I found a place that intertwines ecology and sustainability with unique spirituality. I found a place where I can use my studies of religious theory to explain how religiosity is not disappearing, it is merely being transformed into something new. I found a place where I can learn about other cultures through discussion, rather than lectures. I found a place that fosters dialogue and understanding. I found a place where I do not need to conform or worry about the opinions of others. I found a place where I can retreat when I am feeling down and explore when I am feeling a rush of energy. I have found a home in Loretto.
Whenever I tell my students about this, I get the chills and tears form in my eyes. I am so moved and loved by this community. I know the students who have been touched by Loretto feel this love as well. My question is, how do I ensure that all students are able to feel this love? How do I foster the growth of Loretto spirit at Nerinx? The answer is simple, I must listen to my students. I must listen to their yearnings and search for spirituality and integrate that into their Nerinx experience. I must find creative ways to ensure my students feel this love.
I know I am going to cry when I leave this amazing space on Sunday. These tears come from sorrow and joy. They are rooted in despair from our world and the hope I see in this community and my students. I welcome these tears and know they are seeping into my roots, encouraging growth and providing me with strength.
Madeline Herries is from St. Louis, MO and just graduated from the University of Missouri, Columbia with a degree in Religious Studies. She will be working at Nerinx Hall High School (where she graduated from in 2014) as an Assistant Campus Minister. She is incredibly passionate about sustainability, self-love, and personal reflection. She spends most of her free time talking with friends about how we are going to change the world or cuddling with her cat, Mona Lisa.
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.