BY SAWYER HILL
When at the Motherhouse for opening retreat a good 9 weeks ago I gave Sister Kathleen my oft used half joking line about being “religious, but not spiritual” and she didn’t laugh.
A woman with a soft face, short gray hair with micro-bangs cut in a straight edge, a shared alma mater and an ability to listen. She’d responded with warmth during our prior conversations—particularly regarding the trans-erasure at that same not aforementioned shared alma mater—so I was hoping for at the very least a polite chuckle at my statement.
Instead, she told me she didn’t think what I’d said was true.
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.
BY JES STEVENS
It’s been four years since I was a Loretto Volunteer. Four years! Some days it feels like my time working in D.C. as a Lovo was so long ago. And other days, it seems like it was just yesterday that I was living in intentional community in Junia House. Over these four years I’ve had some major life changes. I moved back to St. Louis, worked a job that I knew wasn’t going to be a career, started and completed grad school, and am now working full time job that I love. All these developments have been transformational shifts from what came before. And as you can imagine, outside of these career moves a lot of other things have happened in my personal life over the past four years, too.
BY MELISSA CEDILLO
Every August, the Loretto Community hosts a week long retreat at the ‘Motherhouse’. The Motherhouse is located in rural Kentucky, among tall stalks of corn. The bright green leaves and stillness of the creek give the farmland a sense of peace. This year I was there, marking the beginning of my year of service as a Loretto Volunteer.
But halfway through the retreat, the "real" world interrupted. My phone lit up. From the headline “Sexual Abuse” and “Catholic Church” jumped out at me.
BY LEORA MOSMAN
My ENTIRE LIFE has been spent trying to avoid assault. This is true for nearly every womxn I know. Avoidance tactics are a complete toss-up. Some of us have been lucky thus far, and others have not (I’m using the word “lucky” intentionally, because there is nothing a woman can DO to ensure her body is kept safe and untouched). Living amidst male aggression is a reality that neither myself nor any other woman I know can escape. Every decision I make is made within a context of strategy and safety - a deeply intuitional understanding that one “mistake” or “oversight” (put in quotation marks because of the self-blame that is equally ingrained in me) could result in aggression, assault, or worse. And yes, while the women who are hurt are your sisters, mothers, daughters, and wives - the men who are hurting them are also your brothers, fathers, husbands, and sons. One can’t be recognized without the other.
BY AMELIE RODE
The morning of my first full day in the Praxedes volunteer house in El Paso, I charged out into the backyard to see what face Mother Nature puts on the desert. I nearly ran outside barefoot like I’ve grown up doing in midwestern fields and grasses, but thought better of it at the last moment. And wow, was I happy I did that when minutes later, smothered by the sun’s rays and walking about the sparse plot of dirt, Sawyer hollered, “Owww! Spikies!” I walked over to where she stood, near a dying cactus (a dying cactus!) and gave her a shoulder for support as she plucked spikies off her sandals and skin. We treaded carefully after that as we walked around our desert willow and around the clothes lines, scraping off the bottom of our shoes before going back inside to the safety of fans, swamp coolers and treacherous-less terrain for bare feet. From inside, I took another look out of living room window at the backyard, already confused and in awe from my very brief encounter with the desert.
Just for starters: Before I joined the rest of my fellow Loretto volunteers in the Tobin House this summer, I had been living on my own for about six years. I went from six years in a gracious one-bedroom apartment to, now, one year in a modest three-bedroom with four other women that I had never met before. These young women have their own beliefs, ideas, personalities, voices, and styles. (The different styles make great for sharing clothes!) I’ve always considered myself to be an independent person and this first month with these many new women have challenged what I thought I knew about myself. In the best way possible.
BY LEORA MOSMAN
We are only a month in, and so quickly a new life has unfolded in front of me. I wake up at seven (or did, for the first week), and start coffee. I go upstairs to wash my face and walk back to the coffee’s smell rising. I eat breakfast, get dressed in whatever mashup of business casual feels least oppressive, and check my phone for bus times. When it is three minutes away, I grab my bags and run down the street (I walked, the first week, when I used to wake up on time). At this point most of the bus drivers look familiar and I recognize people on my commute. At P Street and 11th I get off and walk twenty-five minutes to my building – a walk that is exactly what I need to dress myself in psychological armor to get through the day, and to take it off on my way home.
BY AMY MALTZ
As of today on September 8, 2018 at 1:25 PM I have been a resident of Praxedes house for 3 weeks, 1 day, 16 hours and 25 minutes. In this relatively short amount of time, I can easily say that I am happier and healthier than I have been in well over a year; something that I truly could not have anticipated. Last August, myself as well as the other El Paso volunteers left a wonderful week of orientation at the Motherhouse to move into our new space and build community in a new place. Despite having such an incredible experience encompassed by love, compassion and welcoming at the Motherhouse, I left that week with a feeling of overwhelming dread. I was incredibly excited to explore a new city and continue to connect with my sweet housemates, but every time I thought of beginning my new job at The Opportunity Center for the Homeless, I felt as though my stomach was physically turning itself into knots.
By Melissa Feito
"Loretto gave me the chance to try. To experiment. To learn. And to really give it my all. And that professional and creative direction they’ve afforded me – it’s something I’ve never really had before in my life."
Melissa is back with her final installment for the Catholic Volunteer Network's Serving with Sisters Ambassador Series. You don't want to miss this one. Seriously.
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.