If you have felt the powerful transformation that occurs inwardly as you connect with others 1-on-1, then you might have lived experience of how this connection is moving throughout the world via compassionate actions. Jesuit Volunteer Corps is a program that creates space for this compassionate encounter with self and God, repeatedly.
Committing to a faith that does justice alongside communities in need can be a challenging one. Especially in instances where the outer world is full of opportunities to solely focus on self, on money, on greed. When we as a people take the time to learn about systemic injustices that are harmful to the flourishing of others (through programs like the Jesuit Volunteer Corps!) —there is an opportunity for more empowerment, more sustainable solutions, more equitable options and more justice for the common good of all people.
Three students who graduated from the University of Notre Dame share more on how they’ve grown from Catholic Social Teaching and its application to everyday situations. And even more so from service opportunities where they created joyous experiences alongside those with barriers, that then influenced their access to levity and joy, and ultimately raised their consciousness about human connection.
Read more on their experiences and insights on service below:
- Our faith can ground us and grant us the space and energy to lead fruitful lives
“My most inspiring experience in college was a pilgrimage that I took during spring break of my senior year. A group of Notre Dame students went to El Salvador to contemplate about the Spirituality of Justice and the martyrs of the civil war in El Salvador.
We visited the sites where the Four Church Women, the Jesuit priests, their cook and her daughter, and many others were killed during the civil war. It was a heavy topic, but it was an experience that really impacted my life. The most significant experience for me was to be in the same church where Monsenor Oscar Romero celebrated his last mass and was killed. As I sat in the church, I pondered on how all of these martyrs, especially Monsenor Romero, had the courage to stand up for the voiceless and fully practice their catholic faith as defenders of the marginalized.
I felt inspired to find that same courage and discern how I can also help the voiceless. After my experience in El Salvador, I felt like I had a clearer picture on what to discern about what path I want to take in my life and how I too can answer God’s call to help the voiceless.
I am hoping to grow during JVC by becoming more grounded in my faith and trust in God. I hope to create a greater foundation in myself, focus on being present at my service site and gain more courage to become an advocate for those who are marginalized. I also hope to become open to new experiences and new relationships without fear of the future.”
Melissa Gutierrez Lopez (Albuquerque, 2018-19) is originally from Escondido, California. She recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in American Studies and a minor in Latino Studies. This year as a JV she is serving as an Immigrant Advocate at the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center in Albuquerque, NM.
- Service can lead to both mutual joy and deeper self-exploration
“In my college dorm we would host a Halloween event for kids who weren’t afforded the opportunity for things like trick-or-treating in their neighborhood. The visit from the kids included a haunted house in our completely transformed basement.
Dorm residents had so much fun making the haunted house, that many college student volunteers were often too scared to enter it with the kids.It served as a finale to full afternoon of fun in a purely great event. It was really one of the turning points where I discovered the mutual joys afforded to everyone involved in service, especially service with young people.
Life has a diverse set of opportunities, and I would really like to use this pursuit of a very distinct lifestyle as a Jesuit Volunteer to understand more fully which of those opportunities I am called to. I hope to grow a deeper understanding of my faith and my role in living it out in my life.”
Sam Tarin (Tanzania, 2018-2020) is a native of Albuquerque, New Mexico and graduate of Notre Dame (Computer Science). He will be serving in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania teaching at Loyola High School.
- Exploring systemic injustice through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching is powerful
“One of the most inspiring experiences that I had while in college was participating in the Summer Service Learning Program that Notre Dame runs. Through that, I spent two months of my summer working at a place that worked with individuals experiencing homelessness and food insecurity in Madison, Wisconsin.
While I was doing service there, I also was learning about Catholic Social Teaching, how systemic injustice was leading to the homelessness and food insecurity people were experiencing, and what social justice in that situation might look like. What captured my interest in that situation was how Catholic Social Teaching connected to the reality that people were living and how it could give practical suggestions about how that situation needed to change.
Since then, I have been involved in many other service learning seminars at Notre Dame, which eventually led me to consider JVC and eventually apply. I am hoping to learn a lot more about immigration law and hopefully learn more about how I want to continue to pursue social justice in whatever career I choose to pursue after my term of service.”
Emma Qualy-Pearson (New York City, 2018-19) is from Wexford, Pennsylvania, which is right outside of Pittsburgh. She recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in Romance Languages and Theology. This year as a JV she is serving as a legal counselor at Catholic Migration Services in New York City.