by Jillian Severinski
Jill [left] with her housemate Kathleen.
Jill is a Loretto Volunteer at Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America in St. Louis.
The other night the Loretto Volunteers in St Louis invited Elizabeth Ann, aka E.A. Compton to join us for dinner. We knew she was an avid storyteller and were excited to host her in our home. For dinner I practiced a few Ecuadorian recipes for an upcoming Latino Dinner, and we ate llapingachos (a cheese stuffed potato patty), fried plantains, and a red onion salad. The dinner was relaxed and the conversation naturally flowed as we shared different stories, thoughts, and reflections.
One of the questions I asked E.A. was why she joined the convent. She graduated from Nerinx High School in 1947 and many of her classmates went straight to the convent but E.A. decided to wait. She was not yet sure if that’s what she wanted and instead decided to go to Webster University to study music. Then one day during her second year she had the call, the specific yearning that determines the course of an individual’s life. As E.A. told us, she woke up one morning and knew in her gut that she wanted to be Loretto, and she did just that. After many years as a Sister, she has no regrets and her decision led to many blessed opportunities.
After dinner as I reflected on E.A.’s story and the stories of my friends, family, and even strangers who told me of their “callings,” I couldn’t help being impatient and wondering when I was going to receive mine. I always knew I wanted to help people, and as long as I was helping others I would be happy, but I had not yet received my life’s purpose. The more I thought about it, the more I worried that I would never obtain my call until I realized that life is a series of decisions that we are called to.
If you told me a year ago I’d be a Loretto volunteer, I would have no idea what you were talking about. I never heard of the Lorettos until this past October and I was a semi-reluctant and definitely unconventional volunteer. I graduated in August, as the rest of the volunteers started their year of service, and began looking for work opportunities in September. Interested in immigration and extractive industries, I contacted Marilyn Lorenz from the Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America about a job and she responded. I applied for many jobs this past fall but IFCLA was the first that made me feel truly excited and energized. I even jumped up and down and danced across my friend’s living room after speaking with Marilyn on the phone but there was a catch- Marilyn wanted me to work with her but did not have the funds to pay me. That’s when the question was asked: have you ever heard of the Lorettos? My response was a resounding no but I was curious to hear more.
After a quick visit to St Louis that included meetings with Marilyn, Sister Claudia Calzetta, and the two St Louis volunteers, Katie Hughes and Kathleen Fox, I was very impressed by the opportunity but also fearful to make such a large life change. Things became muddier after I received a job offer in Chicago a day later. Called to make a decision, I could not shake off the feeling telling me to join the Loretto community.
Two weeks later I packed up my things and moved to St Louis, and I am so thankful that I did. Since becoming a Loretto volunteer I have had so many opportunities to enhance and learn new skills with my job, I have become so close to my roommates, and I’ve been able to learn so much from the gals next door. While I am not sure what the future holds for me, I know that I will soon be called to make a decision and I am excited to see where I am led.
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.