BY MARI NUÑEZ
Prior to leaving El Paso for college, I vowed to myself that I would permanently relocate. The desert sunsets were already far behind me, and my eyes were on a different horizon. I was going to be a New Yorker, through and through. It took some adjusting, but I was able to transplant myself with ease. I often got asked which borough I came from, chuckling internally at the success of my ruse. With plans of attending law school straight out of college, this ruse would have become my reality.
Try as I did to keep up the pace of New York City life, there was always something to be said about the renewal I felt upon returning home. The familiarity I once ran away from now called to me. And, as they tend to do, my plans for post-college life changed. I was scrolling through Facebook one December evening after a long day at work, and I stumbled across a post from my alma mater, Loretto Academy. It was advertising a volunteer program focusing on four values: social justice, community, simple living, and spirituality.
Ah, spirituality. Something I hadn’t thought about in years. With a few clicks and a bit of skimming, I was hooked on the idea of applying. 11 months later, and I am now serving as a legal assistant at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center through this program. I deeply believe it was the right decision. This wasn’t just a homecoming in terms of location. This program has brought me home to my values. It has grounded, recentered, and refocused my goals on the things that matter to me most, with spirituality being at the forefront.
It’s a value I’d let fall to the wayside, thinking it wasn’t of importance. I no longer practiced Catholicism, the religion I was raised with, so of what good would spirituality be to me? It truly was not until I reached the Motherhouse in early August of this year that I realized it’s a core piece of what I’d been missing the past four years. Not necessarily in the practice of religion, but in the sheer acknowledgement of the gift of life. The acknowledgement that, despite any hardships I may face, I’m alive here, I’m alive now, and I am able to use my life for good.
It’s 11 months since I first thought of applying to the Loretto volunteers, and two months since we’ve begun, and the all-encompassing thing I have to say so far is it sure is good to be home.
Marissa (Mari) Nuñez, an El Paso native, recently graduated from St. John's University in Queens, New York with a degree in Enterprise Regulation and a minor in Dramatic Arts. Throughout college, she was heavily involved in theater and dance, serving as a director, producer, choreographer, and dancer for various productions. Mari deeply enjoys listening to music, dancing, and the occasional Netflix binge. She's excited to be serving through the Loretto Volunteer Program in her placement at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center.
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.