Find Part I of this blog post here.
“I was privileged to take part in a prayer service for Divine Savior Holy Angels High School seniors returning from VOCARE. Here, I share students’ reflections on their two-week immersion in community service. For me, their words affirm the vitality of our sponsorship ministry to foster a culture of compassion among the next generation of servant leaders.”
Sister Grace Mary Croft, SDS
Kelley (Capri Senior Community): At the beginning of Vocare, I had to adjust to the slow pace of the elderly home where I am serving, which sharply contrasted my tightly-scheduled days at DSHA. The last two weeks have taught me that I can connect to the residents in spite of the differences in our daily routines – because ultimately, their routine became my new routine. The snow day helped me recognize how much their activities have become integral parts of my day, and it was weird to miss out on them.
The point of Vocare − and my life’s work − is to find new means through which to connect to people who are different than me. Serving at Capri Wilson Commons has accordingly provided a host of opportunities to connect with a community that I would have never otherwise encountered. I am so grateful for the little things I have learned about loving others over the past two weeks there.
Audrey (Blessed Sacrament School): Creativity must be encouraged. It was so rare to see a classroom full of such wild ideas. The teacher consistently encouraged these out-of-this-world ideas and assigned homework that would continually support their creativity. The kids were never attached to technology or drama in the classroom, as I remember my fifth grade experience. They were so captivated by everything- from art projects of mod podge to the Super Blood Moon to the possibility of new inventions- like a pencil that regrew lead or a bed that flung you onto a launching pad every morning as an alarm clock. Seeing this classroom gave me so much hope. There is a gentle kindness in that place, and I am so excited to see how my fifth grade friends will change the world with their crazy ideas. I forever wish I could spend more time with them.
I only hope that they receive the creative encouragement I witnessed at home. Each child has such a different personality, yet there is always something that ties them together. There is always a common ground- even between myself and them. At the end of the day, everyone in that classroom was loved just the same, and I pray that as they get older, they remember how important and beautiful each of their minds are. I hope they notice that through all their differences, there are strange and wonderful preferences, facts, and stories that tie them together. There are not enough words to describe how much these kids mean to me. They truly have taught me to find peace in differences and encouragement in friendship. I will miss them a lot.
Nora (Cathedral Shelter): My favorite thing from Vocare so far has been how much my heart has changed. Not in a big way, but in a very, very simple, specific way. The first few days, Katie and I worked endlessly to clean out and organize a closet filled with hygiene products and clothing donations. On the fourth day of our service, neither of us felt like we had made any relationships other than the friendship between us. In that moment, though, when God closed a door, He opened a window. The next day, we had to readjust our mindsets. So when the guests came for lunch in the Cafe the next day, we decided we would each grab a tray and sit with them. First, we sat with a woman named Lela and talked about music — country, R&B, jazz, everything. She kept making up these outrageous stories, and both Katie and I laughed and enjoyed ourselves with her.
Since then, we’ve sat with the guests each day. We do our work, and then we just talk and relax. While some of the guests might struggle with homelessness, drug abuse, mental illness, or violence, ALL of them struggle with fear, loneliness, and pain. Still, they all have something to say, something to teach. They’ve definitely taught me to open my heart, and to let go of fear. I need not fear another person just because their life experiences are so drastically different from mine. I can’t be afraid to ask questions, whether I receive a positive response or a negative one. I can’t wait to go back after these two weeks and see some of my new friends again.
The biggest thing I’ve learned, though, is to rebound. Things didn’t go well right away, and honestly, we didn’t feel like we were able to integrate into the community. But, we powered through, forced ourselves to get comfortable and dig in, and actually have built relationships now. We rebounded and tried again, even after things didn’t go our way. And we learned a lot in the time. My heart has been so full of love these past few days!
Laura (Catholic Charities Adult Day Care): A woman named Mary told me something that I feel encompasses Vocare. She and I were watching Diana help a woman named Nina and she told me that watching people take care of each other made her feel good. She told me that watching the other women like Nina stand up straight made her feel good. To me that describes Vocare. Vocare is about recognizing the dignity of each person.
I went expecting to serve others, and now I feel like others have served me. When they thanked me as I left today, the words that came to mind were not “You’re welcome,” but instead, “Thank you.” I entered into Vocare worried that I could not be a blessing to the people I would serve, yet I am returning grateful for the angels I met.