When I was initially applying for a year of service program, JVC’s tagline “Dare to Change” really attracted me. I was discerning a year of service, because I wanted to continue to grow and change according to God’s plan for me, so what better program than one daring me to do just that? So I said yes to a year of service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps prepared to change, but there’s no way I could have adequately prepared for what this change would look like.
During one of Homeboy Industries daily morning meeting a few weeks ago, an individual encouraged us all through their “thought for the day” to not let being content where we are keep us from challenging ourselves to grow and change. Growth and change are uncomfortable and often painful; there are no promises that it will be easy, and JVC certainly doesn’t promise an easy year. But as a program, it does exactly what it claims to—it dares you to change your mindset and your heart in order to grow. To leave behind everywhere where you feel comfortable and content in order to change as a person and in turn deepen your capacity to open your heart to the people God places in your path.
But more than individually “daring to change,” a year as a Jesuit Volunteer teaches you the true meaning of mutuality when you are changing alongside the individuals you initially entered the program to “serve” alongside. Every day the individuals making an active, often difficult and countercultural choice to walk through the doors of my placement site, Homeboy Industries. The formally incarcerated and ex-gang members dare to change the ways of life they’ve always known. They dare to change the hurt that they’ve experienced into love and hope for the people in their lives, and they dare to change the outcome for themselves and for their friends and family.
I am reminded every day of what a difficult choice it can be to leave what you know and where you are comfortable in order to enter into something that is much harder: change. To enter a year of service that dares you to change can be extremely intimidating, but I can confidently say that when you enter a program like JVC, your openness to change will be accompanied by others also daring to change. This mutuality and accompaniment, in turn, leads us all to deeper, more authentic versions of ourselves; it dares us not just to change ourselves but also dares us to be changed by all we encounter and walk alongside during this year and beyond.
Caitlin Matthews is a recent graduate of John Carroll University where she studied Sociology/Criminology: Health, Human Service and Social Justice and minored in Political Science and Peace, Justice and Human Rights. Her Jesuit education and experiences on various immersion trips and retreats led to her desire to serve as a Jesuit Volunteer, and she is so excited to be serving as a JV at Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, California. She knows she will grow in her passion for social justice issues, as well as be able to continue her hobbies of exploring new cities and spending time outside through her time in Los Angeles!