BY MADELINE BEAULIEU
Taking a step back to see what I know, why I know what I know, and how I know what I know is relatively new to me. I think this reflection is overlooked a lot in younger generations, including myself. Before I committed to my year of service within the Loretto community, I knew that I was a smart, driven individual, capable of critical thinking. That being said, within the last month of my service in Denver for the Loretto Volunteer Program, I have come to realize how all of those things can be elevated and enhanced when you are inwardly reflective of why and how you think the way you do.
A month is a long time and also a short time, depending on the perspective taken. Is a month long enough to change a mindset or re-train the thoughts that come to the surface of our consciousness? In my opinion, at least partially.
Amber Summers was a Loretto Volunteer for six months in 2005. She served in the Community Service and Campus Ministry departments at St. Mary's Academy (SMA) in Denver, while living in community with another volunteer and three Sisters of Loretto: Cathy Mueller, Joan Sperro, and Mary Ellen McElroy. The room she stayed in belonged to Marie Ego, who was then working in Ghana. Amber has worked at SMA ever since, and every year she returns with a group of students to the Loretto Motherhouse in June. She's pictured with her daughter, Nora. Read on for our Q&A with Amber!
BY EMMY WATKINS
As I near the halfway mark of my service in Denver, above all, I am tired.
I get frustrated with myself for it. Why am I so tired? In college my days were longer, my commitments more taxing, and my schedule more hectic. Why is it that here it is so much harder to stay energized?
BY LAUREN HUNTER
Small talk is usually one of my favorite things. I truly enjoy having conversations that stem from the basic get-to-know-you questions (Where did you grow up? What do you do? Wait, you ALSO love Dolly Parton?!), because I usually have a ready answer. However, during the opening retreat at the Motherhouse, I found people asking me questions that I had no set answers to. Mainly, these questions were about my work placement.
I remember eating meals in the dining room at the Motherhouse, sitting with different Loretto Community members, as we chatted and tried to find what we had in common. One of the things that we could easily connect over was volunteer work, as they had dedicated their entire lives to service. The Sisters usually asked me about the work I would be doing at my placement, Briya Public Charter School. And despite all the research I did for my interviews with Loretto and Briya, and all the email communication I had with my supervisor over the summer, I found that I had a hard time answering their questions about what my placement would be like. Of course, I knew what my job description was. But I felt like I wouldn’t know what to expect from my placement until I started my job. In fact, I was nervous. What would my students be like? What about my coworkers? Were my teaching skills actually good enough for this job? I had no idea.
BY ANA AVENDANO
The mountains here were formed much in the same way everything is—from lava.
Scalding hot anger determined to run its course.
But the lava here they keep contained. Trapped between cinder block walls, in chains, unable to rage then cool on its intended path.
In here, they like to keep it cold. To kill germs, prevent disease, they say. But everything here is already sick.
BY ADELE MCKIERNAN
Last month, I decided it would be essential for me to wed myself. Not in theory, in practice. This wouldn’t be a thought experiment; it would be a marriage. And there would be a ring, flowers, an outfit, vows.
I’m acutely aware that I’ve been known to make grand declarations for best-laid plans every now and then. My mom likes to tell the story about how I declared resolutely that I was moving away to join the circus—the first she’d heard of this—to my pediatrician during a routine physical. My college friends (used to be able to) recount the number of times I’d vehemently sworn off dating to “prioritize personal growth”. Then there were the many times I was sure I’d be married by spring. I’d convert to Judaism. Move to Israel. Move to Ireland. Become a nun.
So, being adamant about my self-marriage scheme wasn’t off-brand— it was dramatic, and sensational, and romantic—it had all the markings of a classic decision inspired by familiar surges of equal parts fear and hope. Both absurd and logical and somehow a very good and not particularly great idea. But the whole thing was atypical in one critical way.
It’s good news when you reject things as they are
BY BECCA KRASKY
Our fall retreat day opened with listening to Good News by Sweet Honey in the Rock, and an invitation by our facilitator, Rev. Anne Dunlap (UCC) to embrace the good news: good news that we were about to spend the day, together with about forty volunteers and staff from several other Christian service-year programs, reflecting on how white supremacy and institutionalized racism surround us in Denver.
What are you up to these days?
"I’m currently the Pathology Clerk for a law firm in beautiful Athens, GA. I live with my partner, Dean, and our (fur) baby boy, Ringo. In my spare time I play Dungeons & Dragons, listen to podcasts, and dance Baile Folklorico."
How does your year as a Loretto Volunteer impact your life today?
"My year with Loretto has taught me that even when I feel insignificant when fighting for a greater cause, my presence and my energy still makes an impact. My attendance at a community vigil or volunteering for a few hours at a local nonprofit may seem unimportant in the moment, but I know that solidarity in any form has a strong ripple effect."
What is a favorite memory or highlight from your volunteer year?
"I think my favorite memory from my year was when a client farted in my face as she was getting up and reaching for her walker. It sounds completely absurd and it’s a bit of a long story, but in that moment I completely froze and thought to myself, “I have absolutely no training for this.” Haha! I realized that moment summed up a lot of my year, there were many difficult/strange/hilarious moments that no amount of training in the world could have prepared me for. In those times all you can do is be genuine and do your best. The client apologized, of course, but she said she wasn’t ashamed. '$&!@ happens!' she explained. All I could do was shrug and laugh because she was totally right, $&!@ DOES happen. 😅😅"
What's one resource or recipe you'd recommend to our current volunteers?
I recently found a recipe that shows you how to make box brownies taste homemade. I think this would be a godsend for current LoVos who are trying to treat themselves while still ballin’ on a budget!
BY REILLY REBHAHN
"Without community, there is no liberation."
Audre Lorde’s words stare at me from my felt-rainbow-letter-board hanging on the wall. It’s been almost three months since I chose that quote from a random post I’d seen online. “If I surround myself with positive messages in my office, everyone I meet with will feel better,” I thought back in August. My first few weeks at Empowerment, I decided to invest time and energy into creating that “good vibes” space. I started printing out any inspirational image I’d see online. “Oh,” I’d think with a tear in my eye, “a kitten on a branch and it says ‘Hang in there,’ this is perfect.” I felt myself forcing it. I wanted my office to be a lighthearted space-- and not to mention, my high-functioning anxieties over whether I was qualified enough to do my job were somewhat soothed with retail therapy. Volunteer life had been out to a rocky start, and I couldn’t remember why exactly I got this job.
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.