By Ari Alvarez
While scouring through Strand Bookstores in Union Square, I came across a book that caught my attention. Title: Goodbye to All That; Writers on Loving and Leaving New York. Immediately, I felt a connection to the title and all the personal essays tucked into it. Living in New York is an experience that can be difficult to sum up into words- but here was a fair attempt. This book, decorated with a brownstone on the cover, introduced me to the work of Joan Didion and her 1967 essay, Goodbye to All That, dedicated to her coming and going from New York. Didion’s 1967 essay has inspired many to write and reflect on their time living in New York, including myself. Here is my personal ode to this trash filled, magical city in the form of a packing list as I prepare for my upcoming “New York farewell."
By Merette Khalil
Over this past year, I have spent my days at the Family Health and Birth Center working as the Patient Advocate. While this position is a catch-all, entailing lots of “as assigned or as needed” support and liaising between our patients and providers, I spend many hours every day troubleshooting issues, related to insurance and medication coverage, to ensure that patients receive their medications. While there is a certain thrill when these small battles are won, this type of advocacy work is exhausting: Spending hours on the phone each day between pharmacies and insurance companies, listening to patients describe endless ways a simple transaction (picking up medications) failed, trying to come up with creative solutions and engaging all parties in the process to ensure success. Every day I am at work, I am reminded and confronted by the extent to which the US Health Care System is broken, prioritizing profits over people, and disregarding the higher-risk, low-income, complicated-case and multi-barriers-to-wellness families. However, I am also encouraged and inspired, daily, by the work my colleagues do to justly, patiently, and compassionately serve and support our patients in the face of such stark and ubiquitous opposition.
By Hannah Dorfman
Before I started my Loretto service, I could not wait to explore community, simple living, and social justice. Spirituality, however, was intimidating. I didn’t know how to define it or how to express it in my life, community, or work. It was the core value that was much less familiar to me, much less tangible. A part of me was nervous to dive into spiritual reflection and cultivate my own spirituality.
Perhaps because of my initial trepidation, spirituality has become the area in which I have experienced the most growth. It sustains me to live simply, relate to others, and do the work for justice. I have come to view my daily routine, my relationships, and my activism through the lens of spirituality. In short, I have learned to find spirituality in the small things.
By Glen Bradley
It has been just short of a month since this year’s Loretto Volunteer cohort went to the United Nations’ 2017 Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York City. Our two and a half days of the Commission was packed with opportunity, with over 150 sessions (both by member states and NGOs) to choose from. Many of us had scouted out the sessions beforehand using their app and had a full schedule.
With the weekend beforehand to explore the city and reconnect with the volunteers in the other cities, we began our week balancing personal interest with strategically going to sessions together.
While the snow shut down and canceled all session for the Tuesday of our visit, we kept our spirits high and looked forward to making the most of our time in the city and the sessions we’d go to on Wednesday.
I came to the CSW with two objectives: learn something that would inform my work in queer activism/advocacy and learn about an issue I had very little knowledge of. As the type to over-commit, I had filled each available time slot with a session on my calendar. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to go to each, I made a goal to attend at least one session a day that connected to queer issues somehow and another that didn’t but sounded like something I wouldn’t find outside of the CSW.
The session that stood out the most was “Challenges and Achievements of LBT Women in the Workplace” because it covered the complex and intersectional realities of LB* women in each country. In this session, four panelists from around the world (Mexico, Fiji, China, and Lebanon) spoke on what types of workplaces were available to women in their countries and how cultural factors impacted LB women’s economic freedom.
By Mary Louise Pabello
We come from different walks of life, yet our paths cross here.
By: Nikki Munsayac
I just came back from the Loretto Mid-Year Retreat and had a lot of time to reflect since starting this service year six months ago (and wow time definitely flies quickly). We spent Sunday and Monday at Rockhaven Ecozoic center in House Springs, Missouri and I have to say- it’s one of my favorite places to disconnect here in the Midwest.
Here’s what I came to realize:
I have done a pretty good job balancing work and fun. Work wise- it’s been amazing! Every day is a different day, some are slower than others and it has taught me to appreciate my down time. Other days I’m jumping from meeting to meeting or sporadically being paged by a staff member. I’m definitely utilizing my degree in Health Science and all the skills I learned from my previous non-academic commitments in college as a facilitator and a mentor. As for fun, I spend my time binge watching TV shows (of course) like How To Get Away With Murder and Grey’s Anatomy, exploring local bookstores, coffee shops, museums (which are free!!), brunch diners, going to concerts, and traveling! I’ve visited/driven through about six states and in a few weeks I’ll be flying to New York for the first time!
By: Natalie Gaviria
I’m at a loss for words lately. Maybe it’s because I can’t quite sum up everything I’ve been feeling for the last few months since the election. While I could ramble on about my frustrations I think I’d rather make a gratitude list as a reminder of how much there is to be conscious of and thankful for. This is a practice I’m currently trying to deepen. If you’d like to practice or gain more insight check out happify or the global appreciation project!
I am so grateful for..
What a Sukkah Can Teach Us About the Refugee Crisis...Or Why Jews Must Welcome the Stranger, the Muslim Immigrant
By: Abby Holtzman
Abby is from West Newton, MA and graduated from Swarthmore College in PA in 2016 with a degree in psychology and English. This year Abby is working as an Associate Producer at Interfaith Voices, a public radio show about religion run by Loretto Sister Maureen Fiedler in Washington, DC. She is a member of IfNotNow, a movement grounded in the values of the Jewish tradition and dedicated to ending American Jewish support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
In 1939, Ruth Kurschner and her mother came to the United States on one of the last boats of Jewish refugees allowed into the country. She was four. Because of the United States’ quotas on immigrants from certain countries, her Polish father had to stay behind, and her mother couldn’t take care of her alone. Ruth ended up living at the Shield of David Home for Orphans, a Jewish charity, in New York City. Fifty years later, Ruth’s daughter married my uncle Jim.
A few Passover seders later, Ruth was telling her story and said she couldn’t remember - was the orphanage in Brooklyn or the Bronx? My great aunt piped up.
“It was in the Bronx,” she said.
How did she know that? Because it turns out that my great-grandmother had worked there. And my grandfather had grown up going to the birthday parties of all of the young girls. So Ruth’s daughter had ended up marrying into the family that had helped save her mother’s life.
By: Lizette Guevara
Lizette is from Merced, CA and graduated from St. Mary’s college of California in 2016 with a degree in Anthropology and Ethnic Studies. This year she is working on the legal team at Bread for the City, a large social service non-profit in Washington, DC.
After much thought and consideration, I have decided to use my reflection to write about a topic that I’m sure we’re all so tired of reading about: the election. Although I know this subject has been the center of most discourse throughout the country, I want to share my personal connection to it and how it has affected my service year in ways I could have never fathomed were possible.
When I accepted my placement earlier in the year I knew that the election was going to play a role in my service year, especially living in D.C., but to be completely honest I thought it would mean celebratory post inauguration parties with punny themes that mock white feminism and endless memes roasting Donald Trump/ his supporters.
By: Hannah Dorfman
Hannah Dorfman is from Columbus, OH and graduated in 2015 from Tufts University where she double majored in religious studies and American studies. This year Hannah is working at the Women’s Alliance for Theology Ethics and Ritual (WATER) in Silver Spring, MD with Mary Hunt and Diann Neu, two dear friends of Loretto.
It feels like yesterday, the first night my housemates and I sat down to dine in our new home. After what seemed like a lifetime in a crowded van, we arrived to a home-cooked meal provided by former Loretto Volunteers. We were restless from our journey, but there was an air of anticipation for what was to come--the relief of knowing we had reached our destination, the place we would soon make our own. Before we began, we took hands and each shared a simple gratitude. Mine was, and still is: community.
At orientation, we discussed what community meant to us in the abstract. We set goals, reflected on our communication styles, made grocery lists, etc. Seeing how these ideas have been put into practice has been uniquely gratifying. With intention, we have built a home of laughter, support, discernment, challenge, and understanding. We have become part of a larger Loretto Community that has accepted us with open arms. I have entered the WATER community with colleagues who mentor and nourish me every day. I want to take this time to thank them all.
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.