Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New Resident Assistant

I'd like to introduce to you our newest community member Matt Raffol.  He joined us this month as our new Resident Assistant and lives with the full-time volunteer community.
Matt Raffol, new Resident Assistant
Matt graduated from Boston College after studying psychology and economics.  He then volunteered full-time for a year with MercyWorks at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, in Chicago.  As a MercyWorks volunteer, Matt lived in community with 13 other volunteers, and worked in residential care with adolescents who were experiencing a variety of difficult situations.  As a former volunteer he has an appreciation for the joys, challenges, and opportunities of communal volunteer living.  Following his MercyWorks year, Matt worked at the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School, in residential psychotherapeutic treatment with adolescents experiencing profound mental and emotional health needs.  This summer, Matt will be interning with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and in the fall, he will continue his graduate studies at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration as a full-time student.
When asked what drew Matt to apply for this position he said, "I was drawn to FOA’s mission to seek personal and societal transformation in the spirit of the Gospel.  I am excited to have the privilege of accompanying a group of highly committed people as they journey through a year of life filled with service and community.  I hope, through relationships with volunteers and contact with their ministry at FOA, to be transformed toward more aware relationship with God."
Matt is also looking forward "to the inevitable opportunities for personal and communal spiritual growth that will come through impassioned conversation about dirty dishes left in the sink.  It would also be cool to learn some conversational German."
Please join us in welcoming Matt!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Building Relationships

2010-11 Community, Stefan at top left

How can I summarize my time here?  Simply, it has likely been the most impressive of my life so far.  I am learning so much from our community, the guests that we serve, and the individuals that I have met.

Ultimately it is the relationships that I have formed with the people I am serving that motivate me.  Reflecting, it’s interesting to see how my relationships with the guests have developed. 

In my first few days at my service site I wanted to fit in. I tried to strike up a conversation with one of the guests.  In order to break the ice, I asked him confidently but naively what he was planning to do during the day.  He replied that he was intending to stay out of trouble.  The guest responded roughly since he was apparently feeling offended by my question.  He proceeded by commenting on my question.  He compared the question to asking someone about their intention to use the restroom.  I apologized for my inappropriate and intimate question and he accepted it.  He appreciated it and from then on we chat every time we see each other.

What I’m trying to say by mentioning this particular (embarrassing) situation is the following:  Even though a few guests may appear rough at first, they’ll treat you as a friend and that’s what I’ve recognized with time.  Their appreciation ranges from replying, “thanks a lot” or “God bless you” to small talking and joking.  As you build relationships, some of the guests even share their life stories and destinies. 

The valuable interactions with guests are as different as the guests themselves:  happy, when a couple of guests told me that they were going to move into housing; fun, when a guest showed me around a church downtown after I randomly ran into him on a day –off; brave, when a guest answered my question about where he slept during a blizzard and he responded that he had stayed on the streets; sad, when a guest told me that the doctors will not be able to fix his severely sick heart.

I’ve grateful for the many relationships I’ve built with the guests here at FOA.  I know that these relationships will stick with me long after I’m gone and that these relationships are forming me into who I am becoming.