Advent Week 2: Welcoming the Stranger

by Alumni / 1. December 2016 08:08

As we enter into the second week of Advent, and continue to prepare our minds and hearts for Jesus’ coming, this Sunday’s readings speak to us of harmony, welcome and preparation.  Isaiah paints a beautiful picture of a world where justice and faithfulness abound, where great kinship exists among the creatures of the land.  This is a challenging reminder and invitation for all of us to continue to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones and look to form connections with those we may not otherwise. The second reading taken from Romans, challenges us to “think in harmony with one another” so that with “one voice we may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It can be easy to remain in the same place, interacting with like-minded people, and remain comfortable, but the readings this week are asking more of us.  They are encouraging us to be welcoming, to “welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.”  The Gospel passage from Matthew takes this a step further to encourage us to stay active and “prepare the way of the Lord.”  This preparation calls us to step out of our place of comfort, our routines of life we’ve grown accustom to and instead, to go out and be that welcoming presence to those we meet.  It’s an invitation to form connections with all living things, to breakdown the walls of separation and begin to construct a world of harmony, peace, and justice for all. During this season of Advent, a period of expectant waiting and preparation for our Lord’s coming into the world, we can prepare to welcome Christ by first being a welcoming presence to those we encounter each day, whether through a smile, listening compassionately, or opening a door for another.  

Lisa Mehalick

AV Alum, Chicago 2009-2010

 

Questions for further reflection:

 

1.  As an AV, how were you welcomed into your new community and work site this year?

2.  How can you be a welcoming presence to those you encounter each day?

Tags:

Alumni

Advent Week 1: Dirty Dishes

by Alumni / 25. November 2016 09:15

Every year around the beginning of the school year, I start to prepare. Whether it was for high school with cramming in my summer reading or college with packing up my room in preparation to return, or finally to the present day when I put last minute touches on the work I’ve done over the summer before students arrive, we are either ready, or we make ourselves ready, for the arrival of the new school year.

Personally, I am more of the “make myself ready” type. I never prepare far enough ahead of time, which means I'm usually scrambling when the actual moment comes. This notion doesn’t apply exclusively to the school year; it is now, writing a reflection about the first week of Advent, that I am finding the time to prepare.

Advent, however, is a whole season of preparation – luckily, for people like me. The readings this week are all about preparing ourselves. Awake from your sleep, return to the Gospel. Stay awake, for you do not know when He will come! Prepare your hearts and minds, ask forgiveness for your sins, for He is coming – the Son of Man is coming.

I like to think of Advent as a pile of dirty dishes. We are given a sponge and soap and head to the sink to work. We might be staring at a mountain of dishes, with leftover food crusted on them and the kitchen a mess. Others might have a small pile of neatly stacked dishes, waiting to readily and easily be cleaned. We might have pushed off doing these dishes for a little too long, letting them pile up as we ignored them. The important thing is that God’s love does not depend on these dirty dishes, because we all have them. Whether you scramble to get to the pile the night before or you clean as you go, He loves each and every one of us more than we can fathom.

By the time Christmas comes, our piles may not be diminished. We might still be soaking a few really tough spots or ignoring that one dish that we really just hate to clean. Perfection isn’t important – it’s the effort we put in. So, wake up! We have a lot of work to do this Advent season.

 

Amy Rowland

AV Alum, Lawrence 2014-2015

 

Questions for reflection:

1. What is holding you back from getting to your pile of dirty dishes?

 

2. How can we better awaken our hearts and minds for Jesus’ coming at the end of the Advent season?

Tags:

Alumni

Joy Rising

by augustinian.volunteers / 18. November 2016 19:46

Working every day at my service site, St. Pat’s Elementary School, has settled me into a routine.
I am often the first one to arrive at the school every morning as the sun is rising, and the last
one to leave every evening, just as dark has crept over the entire school. Also in my schedule is
a three hour morning break since I work morning care, as an aide during the school day, and afternoon
daycare until 6pm. As much as I love feeling confident and content in my routine at St. Pat’s, it is the
moments that snap me out of this schedule that have often brought me great joy. It is always when I feel
sure of what is coming next, that I am shown no matter how much I plan, ultimately, it is out of my hands.

Today is the Friday before Thanksgiving break, and I had planned out my entire day as I was driving into
work  this morning. As I made the five-minute drive at 6:45am, I thought about how after morning care
during my break I would come home and go on a run, take a shower, make a smoothie, respond to some
e-mails, write this blog, and maybe make a phone call or two. I guess that is why the quote goes “if you
want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans” because right as I walked out of morning care, the
first grade teacher Ms. Young gave me a big hug and a knowing smile and said, “Mr. Serrano is out today
so you’ll be subbing for the third grade.” While I have subbed before, making it an eleven hour day, I had
not yet subbed for this third-grade class who are known for being especially rambunctious. Even though my
day did not go as planned, and I was subbing for a very challenging class, I ended up having one of my
favorite days at my service site.

After the third graders finished their morning work, I was able to teach all of them how to do Cat’s
Cradle with string, something my dad had taught me at their age. I had never seen a large group of
ten-year-olds listen so intently and I was filled with joy watching them complete the Cat’s Cradle after
a few failed attempts. In the afternoon, the whole school walked to Morley Field together to cheer on
their classmates who were participating in the Turkey Trot race. I played the Rocky Balboa theme song
over the megaphone and felt joy rising out of me as I watched the whole school so genuinely excited and
happy to be together. I was ready to end my day as I always do with afternoon daycare, when a former AV
who now teaches 4th grade at the school came up to me and said, “You’ve had a long day, I talked to the
principal, you can go home now.” I had never not done afternoon daycare and it was honestly hard to leave.
I made sure everything was in order with my daycare workers and for the first time all year, left school at
3:30pm! This day was exciting and stressful and hilarious and long but most of all, it was undeniably joyous.

Sarah Gloninger
San Diego, CA 2016-2017
 


Tags:

Domestics 2016-2017

Finding God

by augustinian.volunteers / 7. November 2016 13:08

Since joining the AVs, my spirituality has grown exponentially.  From finding God in nature, priests, or just people in general my faith has been challenged and rewarded.  As I am positioned in Ventura, I knew that the surrounding area would be beautiful coming into this year.  However, I could not have even predicted the extent of it.  Growing up I never loved outdoorsy things, but that has changed a lot in recent years.  Now I love hiking, going to the beach, and just being outside in general.  The hiking in California alone, and especially around here, provides views unlike anything I have ever seen before.  A couple weeks ago I did a hike in Malibu at Point Mugu State Park that was truly a surreal experience for me.  Though we got lost and ended up hiking about 3 miles more than necessary, once we finally got to the peak of the mountain we were looking for it was 100% worth getting lost.  With only the PCH separating the mountains and the beach, the views were the prettiest I have seen in my entire life.  Aside from in other people, I find God the most in nature.  Therefore it’s times like when I was on Point Mugu Peak looking out to the ocean that I can sit back and reflect on my faith and marvel at the beauty of God’s creation.  The more hikes we go on and time we spend outside, the more opportunities I have for this type of reflection which strengthens my overall spirituality and relationship with God.  

 

Additionally, I often find God, or at least glimpses of God, in other people.  My site is Our Lady of the Assumption School, which is K-8, so I am lucky to work with kids of a variety of ages.  I see glimpses of God in these kids every day.  The thoughtfulness and kindness of many continue to surprise me; whether it be one of them bringing in leftover Halloween candy for me since I “don’t get to trick-or-treat anymore” or drawing a picture with my favorite color.  It’s little things like this that give me hope about the future and remind me that people are made truly good to their core.  Not only are so may of these kids great to me, but also to each other which is not always common anymore in a middle school setting.  They are all so inclusive and encouraging, even if the other student might not be one of their best friends.


I feel so lucky to be able to feel God's presence in my life every day and I hope that the children I meet and interact with get to experience the same. Though only having been with the AVs for a few months now, my relationship with God has never been quite as tangible as it is right now. These realizations and reflections are apparent and now very impactful in my life; and with an open mind and heart, I will hopefully continue to grow each day for the rest of my time here and beyond.

 

Anna Piccirilli

Ventura, CA 2016-2017

Tags:

Domestics 2016-2017

You Are Exactly Where You’re Supposed To Be…

by augustinian.volunteers / 16. October 2016 17:23

I can still remember the day my parents dropped me off for orientation, questioning if I was making the right decision by volunteering or if I was just trying to find an excuse to not join the corporate working world yet.  Then during orientation I had a God Wink and I realized I am where I am supposed to be.  Something told me to go into the chapel at Malvern Prep and that was the day where it all began.  Sitting in the chapel, I felt someone next to me even though I was the only one in there.  After talking to God for a while I heard a voice and it was my grandpa’s saying, “Love you too, Aud.”  These were the last words my grandpa said to me before passing away.  I knew that I would not be on this new journey alone and he would be with me. 

The phrase “You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be” continues its meaning with my placement.  While choosing which community I would like to be placed in, I said anywhere but Lawrence since my sister served there at Lawrence Catholic Academy.  As it turns out, I am a paraprofessional at Lawrence Catholic Academy. I am mostly in the nursery with 3-4-year-olds but I can get called out of the classroom to do whatever is needed.  This past week I have been in pre-k, kindergarten, the kitchen and the office while being only a four-day week.  However one of these tasks really stuck out to me.  An eighth grader was late for school, so I had to walk with her to the church for Friday Mass. On this walk the girl looked like she wanted to cry, when I asked her what was wrong she immediately burst into tears, her and her mother got into an argument before school after they both overslept. She was so upset with her mom and the only words that came out of my mouth were, “When you get into the church, say a prayer for your mom, she needs it.”

One of the most touching moments I had while working was circle time after lunch. One of the teachers puts out a statue of Mother Mary in her classroom and the children say, “Good Afternoon Mary!” They go around saying one thing they are grateful for.  Some of the things the children said made me even think how I can forget to say thank you for the simple things in life.  Books, puzzles, beds, shoes are just some of these things.   

My journey is still just beginning but I have a feeling I will be getting more God Winks to reassure me I am where I am supposed to be, serving in Lawrence, seeing the children’s smiling faces every day.

Audrey Connolly
Lawrence, MA 2016-2017

Tags:

Domestics 2016-2017

Service with a Smile

by augustinian.volunteers / 25. September 2016 13:52

I am thoroughly surprised by two things after my first few weeks in San Diego, and I couldn’t be happier.  Both of my surprises have come from my service placement in the Campus Ministry Office at Saint Augustine High School.  The first surprise came from the fact that I am enjoying my time working in a school.  After going through college as a secondary education major I finished my rough semester of student teaching thinking about how I never want to have to step foot in a school again.  I was very unhappy working in the school and I decided to peruse other options.  I chose not to apply for the ACE program at Notre Dame or OperationTeach in Baltimore, as both post-grad service programs focused around teaching, and only applied to the AVs.  The people who I knew that had done the program hadn’t worked in schools so I thought that I would be working with a non-profit or a service program or anything…just not a school.  Then I was offered the position at a high school, I accepted it knowing that I had studied for four years to work with this age group and that the program was placing me somewhere that I was qualified for. Then I learned that I was going to be working in a Campus Ministry Office.  My experience with Campus Ministry has often involved “holier-than-thou” types leading quasi-hippie retreats. I hadn’t gone on a retreat all throughout college and I was a little worried that I would be surrounded by students who would either be hyper-religious or not care at all.

Both of my disappointments, working in a school and working in ministry, have been entirely thwarted.  I am happily surprised that I wake up every day happy to be going to the office and I spend my days waiting for the moments that I get to spend time with students, discussing whatever topic is on their minds that day.  Sometimes it’s sports or TV or grades or girls, and sometimes it’s the gospel or church history or faith struggles.  The students that are the leaders in Campus Ministry are well-rounded athletes, young scholars, and musicians that have learned that letting faith take the center position in their lives does not take away from the other parts of their lives, but rather invigorates them and makes them all the more enjoyable.  I have heard students of sixteen years old discussing how they work hard at school to honor the mind that God has given them. 

I have been finding so much joy in the time I am spending with students that it is encouraging me to reconsider classroom teaching as a career.  I am hoping to get in on the sub-rotation for the history classes in order to better understand if that is truly my calling.  I am learning a lot from the young men that I was so reluctant to be placed with.

Jonathan Heisler

San Diego, CA 2016-2017

Tags:

Domestics 2016-2017

I Have No Idea Where I am Going...

by augustinian.volunteers / 18. September 2016 22:37

The title of this post is a line from a prayer written by Thomas Merton, a prayer that I prayed as I was discerning what my next step after college would be, and a prayer that I find resonates as I am at the beginning of my journey as a Augustinian Volunteer. 

I am slowly but surely adjusting to living in community, my work with my service site: Augustinian Defenders of the Rights of the Poor (ADROP), and the city of Philadelphia. As I am transitioning to my life as an AV I still have many apprehensions: How do I come together with two other people I am still getting to know to form community? What will it be like walking along with people at my service site when I know so little about the populations I will be serving? How will God be present to me throughout this year? Despite some residual nervousness, I find myself feeling as though I am on the edge of something great. Experience has taught me that challenges generally turn into opportunities for growth, in my knowledge of self, the world, and in my understanding of God. 

At the end of my immersion in El Salvador this past January I wrote the following about finding many “points of reunion” with God:

There is no one punto de reunion with God, there are infinitely many. The signs are unique to each of us. They are in what gives us life, makes us laugh, breaks our heart, brings a sparkle to our eyes, what calms the storm inside, takes our breath away, what fuels our passions, makes us feel small, and what draws us into the messiness of another person. Those are the places we encounter God in our day-to-day.

Sure enough I have already found several of these moments in my short time as an AV.

  • When 14 people, who I had met less than 10 days before, were worth getting up at 5 am just to give them a hug before they headed to their service sites.
  • When I found peace sitting on a bench in Rittenhouse Square surrounded by trees.
  • When, while attending our first mass as a community, we sang the same Our Father that was sang at the chapel at USD.
  • When the library of Philadelphia recognized me as a resident.
  • When I sit and have casual conversation over lunch each day with Fr. Tony and Fr. Deegan, two Augustinians who work at ADROP.

It is these and many other seemingly small things that allow me to be confident in my journey as an AV, even if I have no idea where I am going.  

 

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."

 

-Thomas Merton

Emerald Dohleman

Philadelphia, PA 2016-2017

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Domestics 2016-2017

The Service of Living

by augustinian.volunteers / 5. August 2016 17:57

A few times a year, groups of students from the United States visit Chulucanas for weeklong service trips. Usually, on their first night in Chulucanas my community members and I reflect with them on their initial impressions of the city. We are always eager to hear the students’ observations—after living here for almost 7 months, my community members and I agree that we have become desensitized to the oddities that initially surprised us. For this reason, we love welcoming visitors; through their eyes, it seems like we, too, can see Chulucanas again for the very first time.

When we did this reflection with one of the more recent trips, many of the students’ observations seemed trivial. “I wasn’t expecting all the mototaxis,” one said. Another commented on the stray dogs. One of the boys, in response to seeing humbler homes, said, “It’s really good that we’re here, these people really need us.” 

My immediate response to this student’s observation was to dispute him. “They don’t ‘need’ us!” I wanted to shout. I thought of my Peruvian host mother, Marleny. Marleny is a sassy and generous woman who rarely verbalizes the abundant love she has for her family but who shows it in everything she does. Her love is stewed into the lomo saltado and sudado she slaves over every day in the kitchen. Her love is carved into her face; after years of caring for her own children and now her grandchildren, her eyes are edged with laugh lines, frown lines, and everything in between. And despite her humble home and her lack of access to steady healthcare, it seemed to me that claiming someone like Marleny “needed” any amount of charity was the epitome of western hubris.

In a culture where we need extra-curricular activities to put on college applications and desire proof of being “socially conscious” on our resumes, service has become an entity outside the confines of regular human interaction. It has become something that the privileged must bestow upon the less-privileged. It’s something extra. Something reserved for those who have time or skills to donate, or those who are extra selfless or extra generous. And with this definition comes the tendency to want to see the fruits of our labors. We want to quantify exactly how much we are helping people, or how much change we have affected. Perhaps because we want to feel “needed.” Or perhaps because we just want proof that this extra effort we’re putting in is worth it. 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe these views of service lessen the good that is done as a result of it. But I do believe that Chulucanas has changed my definition of what it means to serve. In Peru, I don’t see service as a duty or a necessity. I do not believe that my presence or influence is “needed” by people in Chulucanas. I know that if I were not here, life would continue the way it always has. 

With that in mind, I have found that the most profound service I can offer is the service that I believe every human is indebted to pay to the other. My service in Chulucanas is the flicker of recognition in my students’ eyes when they finally understand a difficult concept. It’s greeting the same handful of people every morning on the walk to work, entering into each other’s spheres for mere moments and reminding each other that if one of us were to disappear, someone would notice. It’s Peruvian friends’ laughter when I mispronounce or misuse words in Spanish, and it’s my own ability to laugh along with them. It’s walking back from class on Friday afternoons with a handful of my students who live close by, talking about everything from our plans for the weekend to our favorite books to politics. 

This kind of service, the sharing pieces of myself with those around me, doesn’t have any tangible or measurable results. And yet, I feel it ripping me open, allowing me to feel in ways that I hadn’t known existed previously. It is the service of laughing. It is the service of learning. It is the service of sharing. It is the service of listening. It is the service of acceptance. It is the service of living. 

Taylor De La Pena

Chulucanas, Peru 2016

Tags:

Internationals 2016

Forever Pleasantly Surprised

by augustinian.volunteers / 7. July 2016 18:40

Sticking my head out of Consultorio 1, a simple cinderblock room with a small wooden desk, floor lamp and bed where Doctor Tom has been seeing countless patients over the past few days, I see a scene of volunteers in green vests shuffling patients around. I see kids squealing in delight as they play with bubble wands, trails of benches and plastic chairs posted outside of the other visiting rooms filled with waiting patients, young women from the high sierra with men’s baseball caps covering long braids and simple pants sticking out under their shiny, pleated aquamarine dresses. Every once in a while, doctors step outside of their doors to hold X-Rays up into the light to better see the intricacies of the human body. All around me is life and the different phases of it. Newborn babies with eyes pressed firmly closed as they drift away in sleep in their mother’s arms, the elderly whose every step is deliberate and well thought out. I think about the surgery team across the street at the hospital who are busy transforming life with far more simple equipment than what they are likely used to in the United States. All around me is life and healing. And I here I am, partaking in a beautiful show of love where a team of more than forty doctors, surgeons, pharmacists, and nurses give their knowledge and specialties to the communities of the sierra and the various campos and towns around Chulucanas.

I hear Doctor Tom behind me, “Kiely, bring on in the next one!” Looking towards the long bench that has been placed in front of Consultorio 1, I lock eyes with a little girl, no older than four, sitting nervously with her father waiting to be seen. Trying to preemptively reassure her, I try to make my eyes and smile as warm as possible when I ask if they are ready to be seen by the doctor.

Seating her up on the patent bed, giant saucer-like eyes stare at me from underneath an oversized baseball cap synched tightly in the back. Contrasted against fair skin, this beautiful girl was made even more striking with a set of ruddy cheeks that gave her almost an Asian appearance. I learned later in the evening that as a result of living high in the mountains, frost bite was often a cause of the ruddy cheeks. Her young father also had faint reddish marks on his cheeks but his skin had been darkened by the sun over the years. She too sported the clothing that gave the women from the sierra an air of almost antiquity ringed with mysticism. In a bright red drop-waist dress, little fleece pants poked out at the ankles. Despite the heat of this dusty desert town, she also wore a thickly crotched sweater around her shoulders. Doctor Tom and I, sitting on squeaky wooden chairs, sat facing the little girl with her young father to my right. Leaning forward in his seat, Tom stuck out his hand and in a heavily Iowan accent, introduces himself in Spanish. With a soft smile on his face, his hand gently floats between them as she first looks to her dad for reassurance before extending her own. Tom and I quickly learned that they had traveled more than eight hours to be seen by the medical teams, with a few of those hours on foot.  

Her father launches into the reason why they have traveled so far today. He begins explaining that his young daughter, since she was little, has had a growth on the side of her chest that has steadily been increasing in size. Acting as the conduit, I switch quickly between English and Spanish relaying information and probing for more details. While I didn’t think it possible, his little girl’s eyes have grown even larger watching this conversation. She was especially bewitched by Dr. Tom as he indicates in English what he wants me to ask her father.

The father began helping his daughter remove her many layers. It turns out she was wearing a long-sleeved shirt under her dress as well! How she hadn’t expired from the heat was truly a mystery. Along her left side under her armpit was a bump the height of a water bottle and three quarters of the length of one. Dr. Tom put on his headlamp to better see the growth and as he did so, tears began welling at the bottom of her saucer-like eyes. Likely overwhelmed and frightened by Dr. Tom’s examination, her father leaned forward to rest his calloused hand on her tiny shoulder.

After several more minutes of poking and prodding at the growth, Dr. Tom swiveled in his chair, smiled and tells the father in English that the growth is not cancerous nor dangerous. Relaying this, the breath that the father had been holding inside his chest, whether consciously or not, quickly escaped and his body instantaneously relaxed. Looking across at Dr. Tom with a smile of pure relief, the young father exclaimed “Gracias a Dios.” Turning to his baby girl, with the same wide grin, he cocked his head slightly and repeated the phrase.  There are certain phrases that when expressed in such a way transcend language barriers. And with the love and relief that filled this simple cinderblock room like a tangible cloud, this was truly one of those cases. Here was a young man whom with his little girl, had traveled hours and hours to bring to her relief and healing. Previously being unable to afford or access the care that his baby girl needed, fate and something a bit stronger worked to pair this American doctor with this relieved family.

Dr. Tom quickly grabbed his phone and sent a message to the surgery team along with the description and a photo of her growth. Dr. Tom confided in me that he was hoping to fit this little girl into the surgery schedule to have this growth removed as soon as possible. Several minutes later, Dr. Tom closed his phone with a large smile on his face. He began explaining that his little girl would be freed from this growth in just two days, the surgeons would be able to operate on her. If it hadn’t been a God-send to hear that the growth alone wasn’t cancerous, Doctor Tom, with his dedication to healing was able to coordinate a quick procedure that would forever alter this little girl’s life. Someone very powerful was present here with us. He was working through this doctor to my left and through the surgeon just a few blocks away. And I knew His steadying hands would once again be present two days from now during the operation that would bring her healing. I knew too that I was seeing God in this man’s profound dedication to his baby.

Overwhelmed by happiness and joy, the father too brings out his simple phone and begins showing me grainy pictures of his same little girl in an oversized hospital gown waiting for their consultation in Lima. Relaying this quick story to Dr. Tom, he slowly leans towards the baby girl and speaks to her in English saying, “You have a very special father who loves you very much.” Pausing slightly, I swing my head to begin translating to this little doll standing in front of me. But just as I begin, my voice catches and tears prick my eyes. Here was a father who had previously brought his baby all the way to Lima with the hopes of giving her a better life but was unable to afford the surgery that had been recommended to her. And in return, his little girl had entrusted her comfort, love and well-being in his calloused hands-translated simply through her giant eyes that gazed, ever-trusting, back at him.

Love is an overpowering thing. It can push us to travel hundreds of miles, hours by foot, overextending ourselves financially all to provide a better life for those we have enveloped into our hearts. I will forever be taken aback and taken off-guard by God’s overwhelming and often unannounced presence in our lives. And with that, I hope to never grow accustomed to the shocking beauty of this same power and this love.

And for those of you who are curious, her surgery went perfectly and this adoring father and his little girl made their way back to the mountains just days afterwards. :)

Kiely Kreitzberg
Chulucanas, Peru 2016

Tags:

Internationals 2016

What I Learned During My Volunteer Year...

by augustinian.volunteers / 14. June 2016 22:19

It is nearly impossible to sum up ten-months of your life in one blog post, especially when those ten-months involved moving across the country, starting a new job, and meeting tons of new people. Well here is my attempt:

Doing a volunteer year is unlike any other year of your life, and unlike any other post-grad opportunity one can find. For most who decide to go down the unique path of a volunteer year, the aspects I listed above are huge focal points of our year, but just the surface. You learn about things you never thought you would learn, you experience thing you never pictured yourself experiencing, and you start to value the things you never thought you would value. I can fill the rest of this post with the things I learned (like how to cook meatloaf or what Hogwarts house I belong in (go Hufflepuffs!) and things I experienced (like surfing and the wonders of butterbeer), but I feel that what's most important is realizing what you value.

Before my volunteer year, I would say I was never truly on my own, even though I lived at college two hours away from my home and went to high school a 40-minute subway ride away. I always felt that I had things I knew I could rely on in case of an emergency, like the school cafeteria for food and friends down the hall if I got lonely. During this year there were times I felt completely alone. Yes I had my community and coworkers to help me out, but at the end of the day I was the one running the Christian Service program at St. Bonaventure or I was the one cooking dinner. There were also more times this year than ever where I hung out with myself, and during those times I really learned what I valued. I value my family, I mean I always have, but now I value all they have taught me and continue to teach me. I value my friends for their continuous support, advice and entertainment. I value my home for shelter and a place to be myself. I value conversations that provide me with a laugh, knowledge, or insight. And finally, at the risk of sounding arrogant: I value myself, which has enabled me not only to survive the lonely times but thrive in them. I like the person I have become and I strive to be more of that person every day. This year has afforded me the opportunity to become a genuine version of myself, and I look forward to continuing that beyond my year with the Augustinians. 

Ryan Masserano
Ventura, CA 2015-2016

Tags:

Domestics 2015-2016

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