The most nerve-racking part of saying YES to JVC for me was the idea of living in community. During college, I had roommates, but we weren’t living on a tight budget, praying together each week, or trying to make every little decision with each other in mind. And I had certainly never moved in with complete strangers before. At least I got to choose my freshman year roommate! The evening before I flew to Orientation, I was up all night worrying about not finding real friendship and trust in my community. I was so excited to move across the country and put social justice at the forefront of my life, and I was so scared that I would feel alone.
My hesitation regarding not finding a real sense of community during JVC went away as I met each of my community members individually throughout our first day of Orientation. They were so friendly and seemed genuinely excited to be a part of this experience. My fear dissipated for good, however, when I crossed the threshold of our house for the first time. I was delirious from being in the car for 10 hours, but the moment I walked through the door of our “casa” I knew I where I was meant to be. I had never entered a space that had so obviously been home to so much joy, compassion, and love.
I am currently in graduate school pursuing a Masters in Social Work and a Masters in Business Administration at Washington University in St. Louis. My experience in JVC solidified my passion for working in social services. After three years in homelessness services and juvenile justice case management, I decided to get my MSW so that I can learn more about how to make community-level change. I intend to work in non-profit management long-term, and I am getting my MBA in hopes of thinking creatively about how non-profits can be funded more sustainably.
There is no ideal resume or particular career desire needed to become a JV. What was most important in my experience was an openness to the experience and a willingness to see how JVC can (and will!) change you. The retreats, spirituality nights, stipend life, and living in intentional community are powerfully life-giving, if you give yourself the chance and allow them to be.
MARIAH BRYNE is pursuing a Masters in Social Work and a Masters in Business Administration at Washington University in St. Louis. She served as a Jesuit Volunteer in San Diego, CA in 2014-15.