Belonging to Each Other

by a.rowland / 16. February 2015 12:13

Before I became an Augustinian Volunteer, I held the belief that I would be a champion at community. After all, I lived with my 5 best friends. That is 5 girls who have 5 different personalities and we all still liked each other by the end of it. Doesn’t that make me an expert on community?

Even though I was warned and asked so many questions pertaining to community life in my interviews and conversations with others, I still thought I had a handle on the whole concept. I know, now you’re expecting me to go into a full-blown rant about how hard it’s been and how much I love and hate my community members at the same time (Don’t worry Brittany and Tom…that’s not where I’m going).

Don’t get me wrong, community life hasn’t been easy. Brittany and Tom were strangers to me, and frankly, they could have remained that way. But something really cool happened that I can’t exactly explain when we all walked into this unknown life together. We gave up the selfish parts of ourselves. We decided that we were going to try to do this as a team, try to make ourselves a “community,” whatever that came to mean to us. We were forced to go from “me” to “we” as Fr. Joe told us at orientation. And though we had fair warning of the scope of it all, community inevitably seeped into every aspect of our lives. 

So, community to us has come to mean nightly dinners (most of the time…), 5th grade boys basketball games, Christmas pageants, 7th and 8th grade dances, Thanksgiving morning at a soup kitchen, Thanksgiving dinner at a distant relative’s house, 90 inches of snow (and counting), 2 prayers a week (again, most of the time…), and all of the little and big stuff in between. Mostly, though, we’ve learned how to help and support each other through the hard stuff, and laugh together through the good stuff. 

From all that good stuff and bad stuff, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned how to give myself to others, whether I’ve known them for years or for days. I’ve realized the importance of maintaining the relationships that matter the most to me and that caring, truly caring about someone else’s well-being can mean the world to both parties involved. And these lessons can be applied to much more than just myself and my two community members. 

I stumbled across a quote the other day that I think speaks to our need for community in the world. Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” On both the grandest and smallest scales, we simply live for and with each other. I truly believe that acting as though we are a global, or national, or state-wide, or even neighborhood-sized community can change everything. 

I think back to the moments this year that I’ve struggled. I think to my stresses about my job search and my difficulty adjusting to life here, and I immediately think of the ways my community supported me through those times. I had two people willing to be invested in my struggles too. I have a support system, a place to bounce my crazy ideas off of, two friends to talk with about the issues that really matter. And I would be incredibly disappointed if this setting was the only place I could ever find that. 

Don’t get me wrong, I might be able to do it on my own. It would take longer, maybe hurt more, and certainly be more draining. I think much of our society today believes they can do it on their own. But isn’t it more beautiful when we don’t have to? 

I know that I can’t change the way society works. I know most people I encounter have no idea what an “intentional community” is. But for the sake of my own well-being, I believe I’ll carry the lessons I’ve learned and the support I’ve both given and received on with me in the future because it would certainly be a shame if this was the only setting I was able to find a feeling like this one. 

Amy Rowland
Lawrence, MA 2014-2015 


Domestics 2014-2015

Where Are My Clients?

by r.mccarty / 8. February 2015 21:13

I am a member of the Chicago community and am serving at Catholic Charities as an intake and outreach worker for the Family Case Management Program. The program works to help low-income pregnant women and infants remain healthy while connecting them with resources related to housing, employment, education, food, and clothing. 

Although I had no formal training in social work, before coming to Chicago I naively assumed my previous volunteer experience with at-risk populations would adequately prepare me for the work I was to do at my service site. I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

In previous volunteer experiences, I had taken for granted the very basic fact that those I was serving were physically present and actively involved. On service break trips throughout college, each week was meticulously organized with maximum possible educational opportunities and interactions between volunteers and the served populations. We were constantly meeting new people and were always graciously received by each unique community. Similarly, during weekly school service experiences throughout high school and college, the children I was helping or tutoring were always conveniently ready and willing to be served. 

It seems silly to write about having the population you’re serving easily accessible and physically available. However, I’ve learned during my time at Catholic Charities that this luxury is not one to be taken for granted. My biggest challenge thus far at my service site has not been the routine day to day assessments, paper work, or research done for clients, but rather the difficulty of physically locating those mothers and infants who could greatly benefit from our program. 

Our office is located in the basement of a WIC nutrition center (Women, Infants, and Children federally funded food supplement program), and we receive many of our referrals of pregnant women and infants directly from upstairs. Best case scenario: the referral would have an active phone number and a current stable address. Realistic scenario: the referral would have a disconnected phone number and an outdated address. As the outreach worker, I am responsible for finding these clients not only because they are eligible, but because being in our program could make a significant difference in their or their baby’s life. 

I attempt to promote our program and enroll clients through phone calls, letters, and cold visits (arriving unannounced to the listed address after previously failed contact attempts). Some weeks the clients are very receptive and answer the phone on the first try. Other weeks I may spend solely in my car driving to different houses, desperately hoping for someone to answer the door. Those kinds of weeks have been particularly difficult for me because I feel such a strong desire to help these women, but I can’t due to the simple fact that I can’t locate them. 

Not having clients physically present has proven to be one unforeseen challenge for which I don’t think other service experiences could have prepared me. However, this challenge has helped me become a more patient and determined volunteer. It has also has taught me the importance of being compassionate, generous, and emotionally present for those clients who genuinely do want to participate in the program. It has made me realize that serving others takes more drive and tenacity; more optimism and creativity; and more kindness and patience than I ever knew I had. 

Rosie McCarty

Chicago, IL 2014-2015


Domestics 2014-2015

Who's Teaching Who?

by m.madden / 27. January 2015 21:19

For the past five months, I have been volunteering at Our Mother of Sorrows/St. Ignatius school in West Philadelphia, working as a teachers aide in the first grade classroom. The school is made up of two campuses only a mile apart, grades 5-8 are at Our Mother of Sorrows, while Pre-K through 4 are at St. Ignatius. The school provides underprivileged families with a quality, faith-based education for their children. One of the main goals of the school is to encourage its students to achieve their greatest potential in a world that has offered them less than most, which I’ve observed to be absolutely remarkable. 

Growing up, my parents always reminded me of how grateful I should be for what God has given to me in my life and appreciating all that I have. Yet, it was not until this year that I fully understood this concept and how fortunate I am. The students I work with every day are like any other kids. They are full of energy, personality, hope, and love. They look forward to recess and dread spelling tests. They tattle, they have tantrums, and they whine. But most importantly, they have dreams. My job is to encourage them to achieve those dreams. It seems like a small task, but for these kids encouragement and praise is a rarity. 

One moment I had with one of my students is one that will stick with me forever. She was having a hard time focusing and I was admittedly getting frustrated with her stubborn attitude. Once my voice expressed this frustration, she broke down in tears. Without looking up from her hands that sat in her lap, she asked if she could talk to me in the hallway. Closing the classroom door behind us, I knelt down to her level and asked her what was wrong, to which she responded “I didn’t sleep much last night. My little brother had a nightmare and my mom wasn’t home because sometimes she gets sad and has us stay with my grandma.” In response, I just took her hands and told her what a great sister she is to her brother and apologized for any agitation I may have shown her. That’s when she reactively hugged me and told me she loved me. I wasn’t sure what was more heart-wrenching; the fact that this 6 year old girl holds so much responsibility at home or how grateful she was for me to listen to what she had to say.  

I cannot begin to explain the impact this experience has had on my self-growth and view of the world. I knew coming into this year of service, I would be venturing outside my comfort zone, however I had no idea how incredible it would be. Seeing the hope and enthusiasm in my students’ faces every day serves as a constant reminder of why I’m here and further assures me I’m making a difference. 

I go to work to teach my students, when in reality my students teach me.


Mary Beth Madden

Philadelphia, PA 2014-2015


Domestics 2014-2015

Living out the "CREED"

by m.lynch / 21. January 2015 02:39

Over the past four months, I have been serving as a Registered Nurse at Village Family Health Center, a federally-funded medical clinic located within St. Vincent de Paul Village in San Diego.  Our clinic provides free medical care and countless supportive services to both its residents and to people who experience the dehumanization of homelessness.  I feel so immensely grateful for this opportunity, which has allowed me to grow not only has a nurse, but even more so as a person as I strive each day to live out the Village’s mission, known as the “CREED”- to promote Compassion, Respect, Empathy, Empowerment, & Dignity within the lives of the people it serves.    

I will never forget the feeling that twisted in my stomach during one of my first shifts as Triage Nurse in the hectic waiting room where I am responsible for prioritizing the patients who seek medical care on a walk-in basis. I was conducting my initial assessment and interview with a patient not much older than myself, when I asked her “Where are you currently living?” and she replied while staring at her feet, “In the canyon near 30th street”.  I would soon come to learn that she is just one of the 8,506 individuals who experiences homelessness in San Diego each day- the 4th leading homeless population in the nation.  

Among those individuals are forgotten veterans. Teens that have aged out of foster care or who have been emancipated from abusive parents.  They are mothers and fathers.  Nearly half of this population is comprised of families with young children. They are victims of domestic violence. They are refugees. They suffer from physically and mentally disabling conditions.  Some self-medicate layers upon layers of emotional and physical wounds that have been inflicted by years of living on the streets.  Some are college graduates.  44% in fact uphold jobs and earn wages, yet still cannot escape the vicious cycle of poverty and injustice.  Some have had their loved ones and caretakers stripped of them due to deportation.  They are vulnerable, marginalized, fearful, and frustrated.  Some children have been raised amidst crisis and crowded emergency shelters; while another’s descent into homelessness was a journey they could never have foreseen. No two stories which led them to their situation are the same. They are my patients.  They are my brothers and sisters.  And I feel so blessed to now call many of them my friends.

Some days I feel incredible frustration when faced with the reality of the injustices which imprison my patients and friends.  How can I empower my patients to be self-sustaining when simple instructions to clean their hands with soap and running water prior to performing wound care at home is too unrealistic because their home is a stolen shopping cart tied up to the bottom of an overpass? How can I promote healthy diet choices in a newly diagnosed diabetic patient when the security of their next meal is never guaranteed? As a nurse, I am frustrated by the obstacles which prevent my patients and friends from leading healthy, dignified lives, and especially when I struggle to enter into true solidarity with them in light of my undeniable privilege. However, their faces and unique stories will continue to source my passion to advocate for them while extending the “CREED” both inside and outside the walls of St. Vincent de Paul.   


Maureen Lynch 

San Diego, CA 2014-2015 


Domestics 2014-2015

Advent Week 4: Anything is possible with God

by Alumni / 17. December 2014 22:26

“For nothing will be impossible for God”. This is a powerful quote from the Gospel reading for this fourth Sunday of Advent. As the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will become pregnant with Jesus she is reminded that though this may seem beyond the realm of possibility, God can make anything a reality, even a virgin birth. Mary accepts this guidance from Gabriel and opens her heart up to God’s will and His plan for her. 


Mary's trust in this Gospel is so beautiful to me because it is unconditional. She doesn't demand to have everything spelled out for her. She is strong and faithful enough to accept God's plan with what is given to her. This struck a very personal chord with me because I often find it so difficult to do this. Instead of letting God work through me and reveal Himself to me in His time, I choose instead to stress and work myself up trying to find my perfect plan. In the end this rarely leaves me more enlightened, just more frantic and less satisfied.


This Advent season offers us all the opportunity to take a step back and let God unfold what He has in mind for us. Like Mary we are called to listen and accept, even though we may not have all the answers, even though His plan may be unlike anything we had ever envisioned for ourselves before. We are reminded through the gift of His son this season that He will always be there for us, looking out for His children and guiding us toward what is right for us. We can be free to relax and trust in Him, knowing that this trust makes anything possible. 


Diana Giunta

AV Alum, Chicago 2012-2013


Questions for further reflection:


What are some areas of your life where you are struggling to trust God?


What are some ways that God has revealed God's plan to you?



Advent Week 3: Be Who You Want to Be

by Alumni / 11. December 2014 18:09

Be Who You Want to Be

This is an Advent Interactive Activity:) 


2 Minutes of Thought: Remember what kind of person you want to be. What are the words you want people to use when describing you?


2 Minutes of Refection:  Why are you doing what you are doing?


 Read: I am teaching right now and there are days when I can totally lose sight of why I took this job. I just want to get through the day. Or one of the teenagers is making me mad and I wish they were not in my class. Or I start not criticizing students. Or I just want to get the job done and have it be as easy a day as possible... But that is not why I took the job.

 I took the job to help struggling teenagers who need someone to listen. I wanted to be light in their journey. I wanted to thrive in creativity. I wanted to be a person who brings joy to each person’s day. 

It is easy to lose sight, but come back to the soul of who you are. It doesn’t matter what the future holds, focus on the present moment. Don’t wait, be who you are. Love with all your strength and might…. And you will find energy filling you.  The joy of serving the Lord will enter you. You will once again find that sense of being alive, of having passion, of living with purpose, of living in love. You will find life overflowing. 


Write: On a piece of paper write a few words describing what kind of person you want to be. Tape that little paper on your desk at work, or your dresser, or your windshield. (Put it somewhere you will see it every day). 


Do: Each day have at least one interaction with someone demonstrating who you want to be. 


Transform: Little by little is it. A small change goes a long way:) 


Merry Christmas!


“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.

In all circumstances give thanks,

for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”- Advent Reading 2,  1 THES 5:16-24


Caitlin Risk

AV Alum, Peru 2011


Advent Week 2: Prepare the Way of the Lord

by Alumni / 5. December 2014 12:31

I don’t think you could hear the message of today’s readings any clearer if it was shouted through a megaphone two feet away. Prepare the way of the Lord. Well, that doesn’t seem too hard since preparation and planning come second nature to me. After all, I prepare for each day. Physically I get out of bed each morning, prepare my outfit for work, prepare my coffee and lunch, prepare for meetings at work and, ultimately, I prepare for bed. Mental preparations are just as necessary to be successful each day. While I’m lying in bed each morning I tell myself I can’t set another alarm, it’s time to do this thing. I tell my mind to be patient as it prepares to find the train is delayed again. I have to prepare to feel completely unprepared at work for when I encounter someone whose name I don’t remember, or when I completely forgot everything I learned the day before. Sometimes we prepare so much that we forget to experience what it is we are preparing for and why. We lose sight of the bigger picture.

The readings today are asking for us to prepare something much more difficult than our minds and our bodies. We are called to prepare our hearts this Advent season and because that’s not something we do too often, it requires a level of diligence and intentionality. It’s like showing up to a party, dressed to the nines with a can’t-stop-me-now attitude, but forgetting the gift—or maybe even forgetting what/who the party is for! So still we are pondering, how can we prepare the way?

The second reading says, “what sort of persons ought you to be.” We know the answer, but the answers to the people we should be versus the people we are are often very different. This morning I was sitting in the train station passing time before walking over to work. In front of my bench I noticed a police officer talking to a woman. I didn’t think anything of it at first, assuming it was business as usual. From the little I overheard in the first few minutes I realized that this woman was mentally and financially unstable. As many people know, that’s not very uncommon in the city of Philadelphia so I continued to listen, but expected the officer to leave once she brought her bags inside. But he stayed. And stayed. And stayed. I left 30 minutes later and he was still there. He made a few phone calls to have her picked up and he waited with her. He talked to her—not as if she was homeless or mentally ill, but as a person. More importantly, he listened. In the busyness of our daily lives, I rarely see people choose a compassionate route over a convenient one.

This man’s actions emulate the themes of justice and kindness present in today’s readings. Small acts of mindfulness, presence and patience can help create a more just world—the way God intended it to be. I think preparing the way of the Lord begins with opening our eyes to God’s presence around us each and every day. When we feel that grace, we are able to open our hearts, preparing them for the beauty that awaits.

Shannon Keough

AV Alum, Lawrence 2010-2011


Questions for further reflection:

How will you prepare your heart this Advent?

Where have you witnessed great or small acts of kindness?



Advent: Week 1: On Waiting in Hope and On Finding God in the Present

by Alumni / 29. November 2014 18:18

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up. - Anne Lamott

These past few weeks, I have been reflecting a great deal on what it means to wait in hope.  As Catholics entering into the Advent season, we begin by reflecting upon the hopeful waiting for the arrival of our Lord.

Sometimes, it feels as though hope is impossible to spot in the darkness, but as Anne Lamott so wisely shares, often hope begins in darkness.  There were many times during my year in South Africa as an Augustinian Volunteer, where I experienced a feeling of hopelessness.  Often I felt that the problems I witnessed were so incredibly vast that I could not possibly make a change, a difference, a dent.  However, as I was reading through my South African blog in preparation for this reflection, I realized that my blog entries were full of hopefulness and beauty and laughter. And these words were the result of showing up, they were the result of getting out of bed each day and loving the world and loving each other and loving God.  And, while waiting in hope for a more peaceful and joy filled world, what a gift it is to be able to find God currently in our midst.

The most hopeful moments of my life have often come from moments in my life that seemed the most challenging.  These moments often came in the midst of waiting for God to show up.  But as we prepare our heart and homes for the coming of Christ, let us not forget to be aware of the God already present in our lives. 

Fr. Jim Martin, SJ reflected this week about joyful waiting by saying “Find God today—but wait in hope for a beautiful future.” During this Advent season, I pray that we each might wait in joyful hope for a more beautiful world while also recognizing the beautiful presence of God in our midst right now.


Becca Little
AV Alum, 
South Africa 2010 


Questions for further reflection:

In what ways have you "found God today"?

In what ways are you being called to "wait in hope" this advent season?


Alumni | Internationals 2010

The Spiritual Pharmacy

by r.magargee / 28. November 2014 13:49

One of the greatest gifts of my AV year has been the presence of God in my life. Each and every day, I feel God’s Love through other people who I encounter. One of the roles of my position is to help coordinate and organize grade school retreats, where about 400 kids from local grammar schools come to my high school to develop their relationship with God. Weeks of preparation are required for arranging for each retreat through countless phone calls with the school principals, making hundreds of copies of handouts that the students use, as well as working with Father Tom to make sure all of the loose ends are tied for the retreat. The actual days of the retreats are extremely busy, so much so that I come to the school an hour early to prepare the chapel and get everything in place. On the retreat days, I am the main point person for everyone on the retreat, and I spend a lot of time making sure everyone is comfortable. I do this all while continuing my daily duties, which include leading morning prayer, helping out in the cafeteria during each lunch period, working on community service opportunities for the high school students, and collecting money for our Peruvian Missions. I essentially had to be in multiple places at the same time and this scared me- I was extremely overwhelmed and prayed to God for his help. 

Throughout the day, I can genuinely say that I saw God at work through my colleagues. My fellow staff members from nearly every department at the school: admissions, maintenance, main office, development always approached me and asked how they could help. I was able to guide them to do some of the numerous jobs that were expected of me. As the day passed on, we were able to deliver a great experience for the grammar school kids and it was a huge success, so much so that all of the teachers and students kept on saying how they cannot wait to come back next year! As I went to sleep that night, I thanked God, because He was in the hallways with me that day, He was in the other staff members who didn’t hesitate to go out of their daily tasks to help me. Even now, I feel as though each of the workers were not guided by me, but rather by the Holy Spirit, without it, none of what transpired on that Thursday would have happened. 

One of the most powerful lessons I have learned this year is to let the Holy Spirit guide me in everything I do. At first I was extremely overwhelmed with all of my jobs and I felt as though I was not really helping anyone, then I let the Holy Spirit into my life. Since then, I have never had a bad moment because I know that every moment I encounter this year is bigger than me, so I just need to be a helping hand for everyone.

Another role I have in my position involves bringing a group of students to a local Homeless shelter to serve them a warm meal every Wednesday evening. This has quickly became one of the highlights of my week, and I truly look forward to serving those in need with my students. It gives me a great opportunity let the Rita students discover and foster a fire to serve others. The homeless shelter requires each guest to register with them and gives them a card, which also helps them get federal benefits such as food stamps. The homeless guests will wait up to 10 hours in cold temperatures to receive a meal. I really make it a point of emphasis to talk to each and every person while I am serving them their meals. These people have become my friends so much so that before they leave, they will always come up and give me a hug and say “ Thanks again, I’ll see you next week Rory!” As Thanksgiving came around, I never even hesitated to spend Thanksgiving Eve and Thanksgiving Day at the homeless shelter. The homeless shelter is a place where I firmly believe I am interacting with God every time I am there, especially through the power of conversation; furthermore, I believe that God is talking to me through my guys at the homeless shelter. The conversations I have with them are tremendous and full of substance. An example includes when I was talking to Terry, a man in his early fifties who has three kids and is homeless. On that certain day, I was stressed out about some earlier events that occurred in the day. I asked him what frustrates him on a daily basis, and that is when he hit me with a simple answer. He said, “Nothing, Rory, nothing anyone does frustrates me because I trust in my faith with God.” He began to say, there are plenty of people who have more luxuries than him, such as a home, money, cars, etc, but they are not as joyful as him. He summarized this with a quote from the Bible that I am very familiar with: “not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, fulfill the lusts thereof.” This comes from Romans 13:13-14 and is the line that Augustine picked up and read and led to his repentance with God. I am someone who doesn't really believe in coincidences, especially when seeking God’s Grace. What are the chances that Terry, a middle aged homeless man, would share the exact Bible verse that developed Augustines faith? If Augustine never read that verse, there would be no Augustinian Volunteer Program and I would be in a different job right now. This is no coincidence, this is God at work.

My year has been full of moments like these, I like to label them as Spiritual Pharmacy moments because if think about it, you go to the pharmacy when you are not in good health to obtain medicine that will help you get healthy. In a similar sense, these powerful spiritual moments act as some sort of “medicine” to help enhance my relationship with God. More so, these moments inspire me to wake up every morning with a smile on my face and seek to encounter as many people as I can during the day. I am a firm believer that everyone needs to know they are loved. I am so blessed to have these Spiritual Pharmacy moments which make me feel God’s Unconditional Love- love in its highest form. As a result, I understand this is the ultimate Gift of God, and it is my duty to share God’s Unconditional Love with everyone I encounter not just during this year of service, but during each and every moment of my life.

Rory Magargee

Chicago, IL 2014-2015


Domestics 2014-2015

If only I had a beard

by e.lindberg / 21. November 2014 16:06

The hardest part for me about teaching at a high school is doing my best not to look like a high schooler. My male roommate grew out his beard and seemed to age six years, where I have one of those young faces that makes me look 16 years old when I’m really 22 going on 23. This made my first month working at Santa Clara High School difficult, especially when some of the seniors would walk up to me and tell me they didn’t respect me because I wasn’t that much older than they were. I was shocked, and angry! I would stand up in front of a class to teach a lesson I had put together the students would ignore me. The freshman would listen to me, but they were new to the school and still afraid of everything.

After some time went by the students would be happy to see me when I came in to sub because I wasn’t their usual teacher. They would shout out “he won’t let us listen to music,” or “she is so grouchy all the time.” So those shifts from the norm made them listen to me more and get excited for my presence.

When I start a class I walk from the front of the room to the back and yell out something like “Good morning guys! It is a great day because it is a Friday, which means it is the weekend! Who is absent?” As I make my way to be back of the class they shout out the students who are missing and I log the information into the computer. As I make my way back to the front of the room the students throw questions at me. “What’s your first name Miss Lindberg,” “why are teaching you here Miss Lindberg,” and my favorite, “how old are you?” I like to turn that question back on the students; I call out “how old do you think I am?” and the room erupts in numbers as if the students were bidding in an auction. Usually my age ranges between 18 and 26 depending on how young the students I am teaching are; the freshman guess too high, and the seniors guess too low.

When I finally admit I am 22 a new flood of questions comes out: “where did you go to college,” “do you have a boyfriend,” “can you tell us a cool story?” All of the sudden my age has captivated the class and I have gained the respect they wouldn’t give me when they thought I was barely a year older than them. I answer one question and promise to answer more if we finish the lesson.

This time in the classroom and my job of running the school coffee shop during lunch has made it easier for me to interact with the students. They are a crazy bunch of kids that have gone from calling me “Miss Lindberg” to “Linny”, a nickname I wear with pride. They love hearing about college life and telling me their plans for the future. I think looking like I’m in high school has made it easier for them to connect with me, but being older and having the ability to share my experiences and the lessons I have learned with them has given me a level of respect.

Emma Lindberg

Ventura, CA 2014-2015


Domestics 2014-2015

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