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.
BY JACKIE SCHMITZ
Since our closing retreat at the Loretto Motherhouse, I’ve been contemplating my feelings about Loretto and my year as a volunteer. I’ve also found myself contemplating why it is that people cry when they feel love.
This happens to me a lot, actually, and I’m hoping some of you can relate. When I reflect on people in my life who I love very dearly, and I think about how much I love them, I often spiral into a puddle of tears. It’s a feeling of being overwhelmed at how much they’ve touched me and how much I cherish them. It’s a feeling of undeservedness in which I don’t understand why they’ve shown me such pure kindness and love, yet I’m incredibly grateful that they have. And it’s a feeling of being accepted.
Loretto has made me feel all of these things. And while there are so many people in the Loretto community that are very special to me, I’d like to share a story about a particular Loretto, Barb Mecker.
BY SUSAN NICHOLS
I came into this volunteer year with a mix of excitement and timidness--in love with so many things, yet exceptionally afraid of who I might become. Who am I to believe I am important, I thought, or to believe I have something to say.
My time spent with Loretto has gently invited me to shift my perspective to see myself as worthy. I remember my first time on these grounds, meeting upstairs with the many other volunteers who I did not yet know. Mallory welcomed us by saying, “You can treat this as one of your homes. You can always return, even if you are away for a long time.” The ease of this statement-that the motherhouse as a physical place and Loretto as a spirit was big enough to hold all who needed or wanted to join, left an immediate impact on me. There was such trust that I had a place in this community, even if I myself did not yet trust that I was a part of it.
BY MELISSA FEITO
If there's anything I’ve learned this year, it’s that God is hilarious! She’s so freaking funny. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, just when you’ve let go of the rudder and have let the wind start carrying the sails, she says “Oh honey. Do I have something in the works for you…”
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.