Friday, October 21, 2011

A Journey of Service: Stonehill College to Chicago


As a life-long resident of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, people might wonder what I'm doing all the way out here in Chicago.  It's an interesting tale.  What has brought me from Stonehill College out here to Franciscan Outreach Association (FOA)?  In order to answer that, I'm going to have to give a summation of my journey through Stonehill.

Chapel of Mary at Stonehill College
I spent my first year at Stonehill trying to acclimate to college life while balancing academia and trying to have a social life.  I decided to take a page out of St. Ignatius' discernment of spirits and, at the beginning of my sophomore year at Stonehill, I looked back at what I liked doing and where I liked being the most.  Upon further reflection, it turns out that when I wasn't going to class, doing my homework at the library, or hanging out with friends, I was in the Chapel of Mary.  There, I met Timothy Gannon who was involved in student ministry.

During my sophomore year, I became a student minister.  My times as a student minister were some of the best I've ever had in my life and I could fill up the rest of this article just singing the praises of the program and the people.  The student ministers were (and still are) some of the most interesting people I've met at Stonehill and although we were similarly dedicated to the mission of community building and living out our faith, we each had our own strengths and weaknesses to bring to the table.  Campus Ministry became my home away from home.

My time as a student minister greatly informed my decision to do a year of service after graduation.  After corresponding through email with Kendall Grant the Program Director at FOA, she noted that my desire to live out my faith through service was admirable and my experience with working in my home parish's food pantry would be beneficial to the mission of FOA.  Soon I was applying, interviewing, and driving out with my family to Chicago.  The past 3 months or so here in Chicago have been great.  Getting to know the diverse members of the FOA community and working with FOA's guests has been a great joy and a privilege.  Being in the middle of Chicago doesn't hurt either!

Jon sorting donations at the Marquard Center
Which brings me to my final point, what is it that brought me to seek a year of service?  The most straightforward answer I can think of is my desire for a personal search for perspective and I find that volunteering and giving my time to service has given me the greatest amount of perspective.  Living a life that is unfamiliar and learning how others live in places far from what I'm accustomed to has brought me a great deal of insight and much food for thought.  However, since I'm still in the midst of my own discernment, it feels strange to me to delve too deeply into that aspect of my year of service.  Instead, let me finish with a short list of things that I could confidently suggest to anyone interested in volunteer service and/or a year of service.

When you're out volunteering, rub elbows with people.  Don't work in silence either. Talk.  Talking is where the relationship starts.  Find out people's stories or learn a thing or two about them.  After you get home from a new and/or challenging experience, reflect on it.  Think about what happened.  Write about it if that helps you.  Put on some music, lie on your bed, and review what you saw, or didn't see.  Listen with all your heart, then follow where your heart leads you.  This last part is key.  God speaks to us through our desires and, in order to truly listen, we must be ready to act on where our hearts guide us.

No comments:

Post a Comment