After becoming the first person in my family to graduate from college, I joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and worked as an Assistant Teacher at St. Peter’s School in Boston, MA which served immigrant children from Cape Verde and the Caribbean. My Jesuit Volunteer year truly ruined me for life, because it awakened me to the structural roots of exclusion that millions of people in our country endure every day. JVC challenged me to orient my life around the work of becoming an agent of liberation, and provided a path for a vocation dedicated to forming "emancipatory practitioners” who are writing a new future for our cities and country.
I am deeply moved by Pope Francis’s proposition to the faith community to be “a field hospital for the broken and wounded of our society”. JVC provided me the foundation that has allowed me to dedicate the past 14 years of my life to the Faith in Action Network (formerly PICO National Network) as a Community Organizer and now Co-Director. Every day I get to accompany everyday people in congregations and communities in their struggle to build power and radical kinship for racial, economic, and environmental equity across California. Recently, we organized to win Senate Bill 54, The California Values Act, which became the country’s strongest legislation protecting thousands of immigrant families from deportations, and opening new pathways to rehabilitation for ex-offenders.
Powerful forces in our country today are erecting physical and ontological walls that prevent us from fully seeing each other in all of our immense value. And this inability to fully “see” each other is not just a political problem. It is fundamentally a spiritual journey that requires each of us to go to the depths of our being, to challenge our assumptions and understanding about the “other” in our midst. The Jesuit Volunteer Corps is the ideal place for young people to venture down this journey into the depths of their being. If JVC has done its job, Jesuit Volunteers leave their time of service better able to “see”, and better equipped to be bridge builders who are creating a world rooted in radical kinship and revolutionary love.
Joseph Tomás Mckellar is Co-Director at Faith in Action Network in California.