Life in Sunny San Diego

by Admin / 13. October 2010 05:01

Hello everyone! It is the middle of October and I am about a month and half into volunteering. It has been a whirlwind of challenges and growth, along with a lot of good times.

I’m sitting down to write this blog at eight thirty at night- after a day of working at the orphanage, having community meeting, and praying with my community. To be honest, I didn’t know what I was going to write about until our prayer time. In our prayer tonight, we focused on our service sites- praying intentions for the people we work with, praying in thankfulness for the good that we see happening, and praying about where we have seen God and where God is leading us.

So…where do I see God here?

I see God in so many moments of my day- in all of the joyful, stressful, rewarding, and challenging moments. I see God in my co-workers, the kids that I’m with, my community members, prayer time, and time that I spend enjoying San Diego.

One of my service sites is at an orphanage in Tijuana. Here I spend my days helping with caring for the babies, I give a pre-school class, I eat lunch with the kids, I help with homework, and then I get to just play with the kids. Sometimes it is a long day and it wears me out, but seeing the love that is there is always worth it. Everyone at the orphanage- from the workers, to the women that cook, to the kids- shares the love of a family. What strikes me the most about this love is that it is most precious in the simple moments of everyday tasks-eating lunch, doing projects, reading, etc.. It is when I am at the orphanage that I am reminded that God has given us one another as a gift- to lean on one another and to bring joy to each other.

My other service site is working at a grade school as a P.E. teacher. When I started working at St. Pat’s I was immediately struck by the community there. The teachers were all extremely welcoming, helpful, and generous. The kids at St. Pat’s absolutely amazed me. Sure, they fight like kids do, but I have never seen a group of kids care for one another like these kids. Also, I like teaching a lot more than I thought I would! I’m inspired by the kids and it always makes me want to do better. Being at St. Pat’s has taught me how to trust God more. I have learned to trust that God will lead me to opportunities to use the gifts that he has given me. I hope that I continue to learn to let God guide me.

Last, but not least- my community. I live with five other people that work at various service sites. They are the ones that have helped me grow the most in my faith. One of the most important things I’ve learned is this year is that community is one of the biggest parts of the Augustinian spirituality- and I can see why. They show me God simply by loving me. I see God in my community when we make each other laugh, go out for frozen yogurt, ask about each other’s day, pray for one another, and support one another.

Speaking of my community members…Emily is making dinner, so I have to go!
Peace!


Anne Mollner
San Diego, CA 2009-2010

 

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Domestics 2009-2010

Seeing God’s Love in Others

by Admin / 16. June 2010 04:29

I have had the opportunity this year to serve in two sites: the Saint Vincent de Paul Village in San Diego and Hogar Infantil la Gloria in Tijuana. The Saint Vincent de Paul Village is a center for formerly homeless families and individuals that provides services ranging from health care and education to legal help. The Hogar Infantil la Gloria is an orphanage that provides a home about forty-five children. At the Village, I work in a preschool and do after-school tutoring. In the orphanage, I have done various jobs, but I would say my focus there has also been on tutoring and homework help. The service I do usually makes me reflect on the inadequacy of my actions and can leave me questioning the value of my service and wondering how I can truly help the people I serve. Yet I have seen God in the work that those around me have been doing in their service. Even little things that my co-workers do can make such a huge difference in the lives of the children we work with. The love they show every day reminds me of God’s love and helps me to remember my call to show that love to others.


At the Village, I see God in the love and devotion my boss Jayne shows to the children we tutor. She has an incredible ability to help children enjoy learning and to want to come to tutoring. I am often amazed by the way she can calm a child who is overwhelmed by his homework or refusing to read and coax them into staying on task. In the preschool class I work in, I see God in the way that the teachers calmly deal with the behavioral problems that come up every day and lovingly teach the children.


At the orphanage, my housemate Anne has been giving guitar lessons to the older kids that teaches them a skill they can be proud of builds up strong relationships with them. The visits my other housemates make to the orphanage, sacrificing their Saturdays off and effectively giving themselves a six day work week, have given the children more friends and role models. I see God in the way Brother Fernando, the Augustinian at the site, works with the children, teaching them everything from letters and numbers to religion, and giving them projects that help with their development. Most of all, I think of my bosses, Dan and Jesse, and the way they have become fathers to the children, and shown them the kind of love that God calls us all to give. When I look back at my year, I think of the incredible changes in behavior I have seen in many of the children. Children who once physically attacked the adults who work here now don’t stop hugging us. I know this is because of the home provided by the employees and volunteers here, and I am truly blessed to have been a part of it.

Christopher Schettini
San Diego 2009-2010

 

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Domestics 2009-2010

Inspired by Perseverance

by Admin / 9. June 2010 04:32

Upon arriving in Lawrence in August I had no idea what to expect. I was both anxious and weary about starting my volunteer year at Bellesini Academy, but I never could have anticipated then how much I would end up loving this place. After spending nine months here, I’ve grown exponentially. I’ve been challenged on a daily basis: by the spontaneity of the students, by needing to be responsible for people other than myself, by coaching soccer/basketball etc… The list goes on and on; however, one lesson that I’ve learned prevails above the rest. My work with the students has made me change the way that I approach my everyday life.

Witnessing the hardships that they have to endure, and seeing their drive to overcome them has influenced me greatly. Each and every one of the students has shown me resilience in some way, and despite it all they continue to pursue a better future for themselves. They radiate joy, and shock me everyday with their jokes as well as their wisdom. To call these students determined would fail to do them real justice, for their long days of study are truly unbelievable. I am perpetually reminded that working hard can make all of the difference in life. They study hard, play hard, work hard, and take advantage of the education that they are able to obtain here. All of the eighth graders this year have been accepted into private Catholic high schools with full scholarships, which just goes to show that there are plenty of benefits for their years of effort.

Humor has been a constant element of my work life, and the optimism that exudes from the students is strong enough to reevaluate any bad mood. I’ve been blessed to be able to observe their strengths, perseverance, and dedication to their studies. By getting to know the students, I have also been privileged enough to learn about Lawrence and the traditions that occur here. They embrace their communities, their families, and their opportunities with open hearts and sharp young minds.

I didn’t learn this all at once, of course, and there were definitely days that were more difficult than others; yet, I have no regrets. I’m not sure how much of an impact I’ve had on the students here, but I can honestly say that they’ve had a major influence on my life. Many of my priorities have been shifted, and I have been able to reevaluate what is important. I’ll be forever grateful to have had the opportunity to work here this year as an Augustinian Volunteer, for I have been able to see God through these children each and everyday. The time that I have spent with them has left no doubt in my mind that the students will continue to inspire others as they’ve inspired me.

Erika Esposito

Lawrence, MA 2009-2010

Durban, South Africa 2011

 

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Domestics 2009-2010

Kids are the Future

by Admin / 1. June 2010 04:33

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”

I think Whitney Houston said it best when she said that the children are the future. While I find this statement to be quite obvious and cliché, it is constantly running through my mind as I sit in St. Rita’s Day Care each day.

Every morning I make my ridiculous, yet convenient, commute to work by walking down one flight of stairs. In my travels there could be multiple thoughts racing through my head. I could be thinking about last night’s shenanigans with my community, the frustration I felt yesterday during afterschool when no one would sit down and do their homework, or how much I miss my family. Right before I open the door I take a breath and say to myself…”today is a new day.”

I gently push open the door to the bubble gum pink room and suddenly my spirits are lifted and all of the stresses from yesterday drift away. I am usually greeted with a hug and a sleepy yet hopeful “Hola!” I change the calendar and wait for the rest of the rug rats to arrive. Soon the room will be filled with the smiles and laughter of the little ones. When this kids finally arrive we play, have circle time, eat, and then I take the older children into the computer room. This has been my routine for the past nine months and surprisingly it has not gotten old or boring.

I have always known that I love children and that I was “good” with them, but in all honesty, I had never had to work with them so closely or for such an extended period of time. It was a little unnerving to me that I would be spending most of my AV year hanging out with children 22 years younger than me. Worried that I would not be what these children wanted or needed, I soon found out that the kids at St. Rita’s Day Care were exactly what I needed.

I have grown to not only appreciate these children, but to love them. I jokingly say that they are some of my best friends. I have come to rely on their smiles and laughter to get me through my day and to me that is a friend. I have been able to watch them grow and flourish and I have been present for so many milestones in their lives. I have witnessed them learning how to walk, talk, share, and even learn some English words. I have even been able to see some of my idiosyncrasies they have picked up. Through working with the children I have been able to see the love of God and the beauty still in this world.

Reflecting on the past 9 months it is difficult to say what my single greatest joy at St. Rita’s Day Care was. I can, however, say that there are 30 or so children who have been the joys of my life this year. They have reminded me that there is love in the smallest acts and that a simple smile is all it takes to brighten someone’s day. I think that I was placed in St. Rita’s Day Care so that I could once again appreciate the little things in the world. There have been a lot of people who work with children that who have said that they learned more from their children than what their children learned from them. In my case, I can report that in Day Care we learn from each other, child and adult alike. They have reminded me of what is truly important, like love, generosity, sharing, forgiveness etc. Each and every one of them has touched my life and my heart and I will remember those little faces for years and years to come.

….If they are our future, I am excited to see what we have in store….

Alli Lua
Bronx, NY 2009-2010

 

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Domestics 2009-2010

It’s the Little Things

by Admin / 26. May 2010 04:34

This year working at my service site, St. Margaret of Scotland, has been a big adjustment for me. I work in the Pre-K classroom as a teacher’s aide. One of the first challenges I was faced with was being the minority in a student body of African American children. I also had to learn how to work alongside the head teacher, Ms. Gunn, and figure out how to get the children’s respect and at the same time be able to effectively discipline them. However, along with all the different types of challenges I face daily I would like to focus on what has been my greatest joy at my service site.

Reflecting on this topic there were so many little things that have brought me joy throughout this year but it wasn’t until today, that it was made clear to me what has brought me the most joy.

I would like to focus on one little girl, in particular, who I have watched all year struggle with her speech. Having been a speech pathology major in my first couple years in college I was well aware that her speech was delayed. All year I have wondered why her parents and teachers weren’t giving her the help that she clearly needed. I have watched her struggle and get violently angry when she wasn’t able to get her message across. I, too, found myself getting frustrated with her when she wouldn’t allow me to help her with difficult tasks. It wasn’t until this past week that I noticed in the mornings that she would begin to talk to me more than just answering yes or no questions. She was telling me the color of her shirt and showing me her new shoes. But as the day would go on her conversations with me would slowly fade and the progress we made in the morning would soon be lost and her speech would no longer be as coherent.

It wasn’t until today, as I write my blog, that I have come to realize how much joy this situation has brought me. This Monday morning was expected to be no different, but even before the day officially started it was. Ms. Gunn was changing up the chore chart and telling the children what their new jobs would be for the week. As she was saying this I was helping this little girl to put her things where they belonged when she heard Ms. Gunn say aloud that it was her job to clean the tables. Now most kids aren’t too thrilled to have this job but she was ecstatic! When she heard this she looked up at me with the biggest smile and said, “My job’s to clean the tables” crystal clear and must have repeated it to me 5 more times. Then as the day went on she became my little buddy, always at my side, telling me about her weekend at the park with her dad, riding her pink bike, and going on the swings. I don’t think her smile ever left her face. Then her big moment came when center time was over and it was time to clean the tables. She couldn’t be more excited. It was so satisfying to see her enthusiasm to do her classroom job. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but seeing the joy in her helped me to be more appreciative of the little accomplishments in life.

It has been the little things this year that have brought me the most joy at my job. It could range from watching a child face their fears and slide down the pole on the playground, to being able to open their own milk and learning how to spell and write their own name. Everyday there is always a struggle with trying to get the kids to listen and get their work done but it is the little accomplishments that make it all worthwhile. It’s just important to keep yourself mindful of them and not get so caught up on the negative. This year has really helped me to become more mindful to all the good that is present and to not focus on the bad. I have learned to live in the present moment since we have no guarantee of tomorrow and to appreciate the little joys in life that God gives to us.

Lisa Mehalick
Chicago, IL 2009-2010

 

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Domestics 2009-2010

You Gotta Have Faith…

by Admin / 21. May 2010 04:35

I was walking to the medical clinic one morning and was approached by a man asking if I could spare some money.

“I’m sorry I can’t. Have a nice day,” I said as I walked by.

“Do you mean it?” he asked.

I stopped. Did I mean what? That I can’t spare change? Truthfully, as an “employee” I cannot give anything to any potential clients- so really, I was being honest.

“Excuse me?” I asked, genuinely confused. Then my heart began to race- I have NO idea who this man is. What if he was angry? Violent? Who was around to witness if anything happened? WHY did I stop?

“I wanna know if you really meant it. Do you REALLY want me to have a nice day?”

“I do sir, but I have to get to work. I’m running late.” (Again, not a lie)

I started to walk past him at a VERY brisk pace.

He called to me again. “If you want me to have a nice day, pray for me.”

I stopped. “Sorry?”

“If you really want me to have a nice day you will pray for me. I’m not a stupid man but I made stupid decisions. I need help and I know that- so I need you to pray for me. Will do you that?”

“I will,” I promised. And I did. On my way into the clinic I prayed that this man would receive the help that he needed.

A few minutes later, as I settled into the triage desk, I looked up from the computer screen just as a man fiddling through papers looked up at me. Sitting at my desk was that man from outside. We just looked at each other half in shock- and maybe even pointed at each other- and said “it’s you!”

“Did you pray for me?” he asked. I nodded.

My faith isn’t something I ever struggled with, but I’ve come to realize that it was never anything I really depended on, either. I was never really aware of God’s presence and/or possible effect on my life. I’ve seen some of the most beautiful things in the world and witnessed the most incredible acts of selfless love- but I have also seen suffering, tragedy and injustice. In both extremes, God’s presence was unknown to me.

Since working as a nurse at St. Vincent De Paul Medical Clinic I’ve met so many people, like the patient above, who have absolutely nothing but their faith. My patients, most with failing health and many without a change of clothes, a roof over their heads or access to food, have only their faith, and yet they push on day to day, many times with a smile on their faces. I have been indefinitely humbled by my patients and my faith has been undeniably strengthened. Seeing these people rely on and function solely with their faith has given me greater understanding to the belief that “with God, anything is possible.” Working with these clients has also taught me to see and accept God and His love in everything I see and do. I recognize God’s presence in all of the beauty and experiences I have been blessed with in my life, and I am now comforted by knowing the power of faith in times of struggle.

Allison Folker

San Diego 2009-2010

 

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Domestics 2009-2010

You Get What You Get and Don’t Be Upset

by Admin / 13. May 2010 04:36

Mr. Charlie, can you open my milk? Can you open my juice? Can you tie my shoe? Can you zip my jacket? Can you take me to the bathroom?

I never knew it was humanly possible to ask so many questions. Working in a Pre-K classroom can be very challenging. There are 30 children in my class between four and five years old. For some of them it is their first time in a school setting. Some like to shout, some like to hit, some like to run around. Unfortunately very few like to be quiet. A few days ago I was jotting down some last minute ideas for this blog during the kids lunch time until I was suddenly distracted. One of the kids seemed like something was bothering him so I asked him if he had to go to the bathroom. He told me he didn’t need to. I walked away, sat down and started writing at a nearby table. Then, two minutes later he started crying so I walked over to see what was wrong. As I walked up I noticed something had soaked the ground… and it wasn’t his tears. I thought it was very ironic that in the midst of writing my blog about challenges at my service site that a kid literally had an accident while I was brainstorming. This year I have said the phrase “I can’t even make this stuff up” a lot more often than I would have liked.

My biggest challenge this year was adjusting to being surrounded by five year olds for ten hours each day. For the past four years I was around college students and professors and had no problem communicating with people my age and older. This year I had to learn how to relate to kids who are almost twenty years younger than me. At first it was very difficult to have a meaningful conversation with one of my students. I learned to become a better listener and thought of creative ways to get my message across. When my roommates would come home from work and tell a story about how they gave advice to one of their junior high students or how they helped them with a difficult situation, I often felt like I was not really making much of a difference at my school besides helping my kids open their snacks. I felt like I was just babysitting them and not teaching them. I found myself asking did I waste a year of my life doing service in a Pre-K? Now with only a few weeks left of my AV experience I know that I definitely did not waste this year. I have made a difference by being a part of their lives at school and helping them mature and develop. I have learned to become a much more patient person and have learned a lot from the kids.

I came into this year thinking that I would teach the kids, but they have actually taught me a lot. We teach our young children very simple lessons about sharing, playing nicely with one another, and listening well. I really like the phrase my teacher uses “You get what you get and don’t be upset.” Sometimes in our busy lives we forget these simple lessons. We do not always share what we have with those around us. We don’t always say the nicest things to our friends and family. We don’t always listen to what others are saying. We get angry when we don’t have exactly what we want or get jealous of what someone else has. I want to take these lessons that I have learned this year and apply them to my everyday life in the future. I will be a more patient and understanding person and listen to the needs of others. This year I have overcome many obstacles at my service site and am now a stronger person because of it. Life is not always fair and throws us many challenges. Your attitude will determine if you can rise above them. Thanks to my year as an Augustinian Volunteer I will have a better attitude and strive to live by the saying “you get what you get and don’t be upset.”

Charlie Knibbs
Lawrence, MA 2009-2010

 

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Domestics 2009-2010

Hope for Spring

by Admin / 16. April 2010 04:38

In 2005, the New York Times declared the Bronx the poorest urban county in the country, with almost 50% of South Bronx residents living below the poverty line. Accordingly, the lives of many Bronx residents are not easy; however, one might not think this to be the case when observing the attitudes of the people. For, while run-down buildings and littered sidewalks hint at the county’s underlying destitution, its people remain spirited and lively, playing loud music out their windows, lounging and laughing with each other outside, and, of course, dancing whenever the opportunity presents itself. That is where I have seen God at work the most in my AV experience so far: in the spirit, faith, and hope of the Bronx people.

About a month ago, our church, St. Nicholas of Tolentine, was set on fire. Thankfully, nobody was hurt; yet, the same could not be said for church itself, whose vestibule was destroyed, doors burned, and wiring affected. Both parishioners and pastor of “The Cathedral of the Bronx” were left disheartened, though not for long. Soon after, a group of parishioners vowed to hold an outside “Stations of the Cross” ceremony that had been planned for that evening.

Newsflash to the culprit of the fire: It is going to take more than a few flames to shake the faith of this community. You may have damaged the physical church, but the most important part – the people – is still around and planning to attend mass in St. Nick’s Elementary School’s gym until the church building is restored. Faith really does play a vital role here in the Bronx. Poor residents are faced with daily hardships and anxieties; yet, at the end of the day, they still trust in their God – a God who offers them comfort and the opportunity for them to grow closer to Him during difficult times. Their fortitude truly inspires me.

I witness God at work in the residents of Siena House (the homeless shelter for pregnant women and children under three years old where I volunteer) as well, who, despite their oftentimes unfortunate circumstances, preserve a hope for the future that keeps them going. Not to say that the women do not at times feel overwhelmed or downcast – those are only natural feelings to have when raising a baby on your own, meanwhile trying to find both affordable housing and a job in today’s economy that will allow for you to move into your own place so as to escape the curfew and communal bathrooms of a shelter – but it is never long after they express their troubles to me that it seems their mood changes. All it takes is a glance down at their child, or swollen belly for some, and they are reminded of the reason they need to stay strong and persistent: the sake of their baby’s future. “All I can do is pray,” voiced one of the women to me. It is God who gives them such strength and radiant hope, for He promised never to give us more than we can bear.

God’s work is also visible within our 4-person community (temporary residents of the Bronx) in the way that God has helped me and my roommates discover more about ourselves and each other through celebrating our differences and forming supportive relationships with one another. Moreover, I have become aware of how God acts through each of us as we serve at our respective work sites, which increases our sense of duty toward those we serve, though at the same time also reminds us how God may be working through others to reach us.

The faith and resilience of the Bronx people, for example, has inspired me to further strengthen my relationship with God and those around me, and has reminded me to see life’s challenges as gifts to grow in Christ. For, as those from the Bronx know, even in the darkest darkness of winter, there will always remain hope for spring.

Natalie Jones
Bronx, NY 2009-2010

 

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Domestics 2009-2010

Don’t Stop Believin’

by Admin / 9. April 2010 04:39

What I appreciate the most about being the Campus Minister at St. Augustine High School is that I have the opportunity to affect 700 young men who are at a very impressionable point in their lives. The students at SAINTS all have the potential to mature into men committed to their Christian faith and to using the gifts they have cultivated at SAINTS to turn around and give back to their communities in service. The greatest joy in my work this year as a volunteer has been having the chance to help inspire the realization of their potential - and for some of them - witnessing times when they surprise themselves by their abilities and truly believe in themselves.

“Mass Band” is simultaneously my most taxing responsibility and most rewarding. The group plays at weekly Mass, but we have very limited practice time. We’re not always my idea of prepared at 8AM on Wednesday mornings when the liturgy starts, but it always seems to work out and the students succeed amazingly, whether they think they can or not. I watch students become confident in their ability as musicians as they play beautiful guitar solos, and volunteer to sing the psalm by themselves. Being present for these moments is such a joy for me.

Kairos retreats are our office’s biggest project of the year. They require quite a bit of work from a faculty planning perspective, but they really happen because of the six student leaders on each retreat. Each leader gives a long talk that requires them to think critically about themselves and their struggles. One of my jobs is to start with the leaders at the beginning of their talk writing process and to work with them as they develop their stories and the message of their talk. It takes a lot of courage to give a talk on Kairos, so when it finally comes to the point when they’re dressed up on the retreats speaking to their peers, I’m always really proud of them for their accomplishment.

In addition to my work at Saints, I tutor at St. Patrick’s School, where Katie and Anne teach P.E. One of my students is a 2nd grader who I’ve been working with since September. All year he’s struggled with focus, and tutoring requires focus. He does not like tutoring. When we go to find him to start the session, he pretends to be either a 1st or 3rd grader of a similar, rhyming name. It’s hysterical and we love it, but when it comes down to it, it’s really important that somehow he learns how to draw in his attention. I decided to try letting him play “Lost in Migration”, an educational computer game that could help improve his attention skills. It gives him something to look forward to at the end of alphabetizing spelling words and writing them over and over. The game is simply five birds in formation in the air facing one direction, except sometimes the middle bird is flying an opposite way. The point of the game is to hit the arrow key to match the direction of the middle bird. He got really into it and I was just about as excited as he was when he scored 740 first and then 920 on his second try. He’s up in the 1200s now, and the pride and joy he takes from succeeding and breaking records is definitely shared with me.

In my jobs this year, I have the chance to see my students excel quite often and I feel really lucky that I get to be a part of those moments, and even sometimes a factor in their achievements. I’ll miss being a part of their lives at the end of the year, but hopefully the faith I have in them will resonate and transform to strengthen their belief in themselves, and they will continue to have moments of self-actualization and accomplishment.

Emily Trancik
San Diego, CA 2009-2010

 

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Domestics 2009-2010

It’s Prayer Time!

by Admin / 19. March 2010 04:40

“Good Morning St. Rita! It’s prayer time! Please stand as we begin our morning prayer.”

I proclaim these words twice a week over the loudspeaker at St. Rita of Cascia High School, the all-boys high school I volunteer at in Chicago, Illinois. Usually, I find myself jittery by the time I get to the main office where the gargantuan, ancient announcement system lives. Nervously, I press the “All-Call” button, initiating contact with every living being in the building.

And I don’t think I’ve ever gotten through all of the approximately three-minute prayer without making a mistake.

“Today is Friday, Decemb–I mean, Wednesday…”

“In the name of the Father, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

“This week, our Mission Collection will be for those suffering from the earthquake in Peru. Wait! I mean the earthquake in Chile!”

“We especially remember those who have died, especially John Smith…I’m sorry! Correction! John Smith is not dead! He is just sick.”

“I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the …(15 second pause)…REPUBLIC!”

Hence, the biggest challenge at St. Rita, by far, has been my fear of public speaking. Personally, I really had no idea what my year held in store – other than what was listed on my job description. I figured I’d be running retreats, organizing service, etc. I thought I would probably have to do a “talk” on one of the retreats, but not really much else in terms of public speaking.

I could not have been more wrong. I soon realized I would be saying prayer and announcements twice a week. I also was assigned with what I considered a horrifying task: announcing the “Mustang of the Month” award in front of the entire student body, faculty, and staff at the monthly Mass. I found myself shaking as I stepped up to the altar to announce the awards. I could barely speak! I stuttered my way through the ceremony. In order to make progress, though, I realize you must practice. And so I continued with these awards. I finally got the hang of it (relatively) by this past February.

I found another, completely different, territory of public speaking on the Kairos retreats that I help lead. Kairos is an intense four-day retreat program that is for high school seniors. After going on the retreat as a “candidate”, I found myself assigned, as an adult leader, to a talk titled “God’s Friendship”. Although I had lead retreats in high school, I had never experienced the depth and honesty the talks I witnessed on Kairos.

My life story did not seem nearly as intense or emotional as those of the other leaders. I feared my story wouldn’t grab attention, or influence students. However, I felt that I owed it to the students to present my true self. I wrote my talk, including things I thought I could never tell to even my closest friends.

Nervous, stuttering, and shaking—as usual—I began my talk on Kairos. I really didn’t think my experience would have any significance to a bunch of 17-year-old boys, but I soon realized that emotions are universal. The warm reception that I found at the conclusion of my talk led me to understand that not only did my story touch these guys, it helped me to process my own emotions even more so. I have always feared being myself around strangers—fearing rejection—but I found that in being my true self I was even more accepted by others.

I found myself more open about my life not only on Kairos, but in general – especially with my community. I was more relaxed about sharing my problems and talking about emotions I had always kept to myself. By making myself vulnerable, I found that the students were even more open with me. I even felt confident in myself! Something I didn’t realize I was lacking until that first day of morning prayer in August, 2009.

This year has been full of many challenges that I had never expected. Even though I am continually tested, I find myself adapting to these new situations and trying my best to serve those around me. Upon moving to Chicago, I thought I would be the one making the difference in others’ lives—I could not have been more wrong. I learn about myself every day. The young men at St. Rita have given to me more than I could ever have imagined, and more than I can ever repay.

And although I may not get through morning prayer perfectly, I like to think I get the point across.

Kat O’Neill
Chicago, IL 2009-2010

 

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Domestics 2009-2010

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