In November of last year, I was very pleased to participate in the national convention of the Catholic Volunteer Network. People both young and old arrived in St. Louis, enthused and committed to the value of volunteer opportunities. There were great speakers like Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, author of Tattoos on the Heart (if you haven’t read this, it’s a must!) and Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourners magazine (another wonderful publication). I came away energized and newly grounded in why we offer service projects.
Fast forward to my recent trip to San Antonio, Texas, to prepare for our 2018 Ursuline Summer Service week there in July. I had plenty of “busy work” to do: check out the rooms at the university where the volunteers and I will be housed, work out schedule details for the week, be sure I know how to travel from point A to point B in the city. But as soon as I returned to our service site, Haven for Hope, a place of comprehensive services and new beginnings for persons experiencing homelessness, I was immersed in why I love doing this and heard echos of the speakers from November:
- Are we willing to go deeper? Are we willing to see ourselves in kinship with those on the margins?
- Volunteering is aimed at our blindness. The man in the Gospel who encountered Jesus said, “Now I am able to see.”
- “Whatever you do for one of these least brothers or sisters of mine, you do for me.” —Jesus reminds us: IT IS ME!
- We don’t go to the margins to make a difference; we go to the margins so the folks there will make us different. It’s not “what am I going to do” but “what’s going to happen here.”
On Friday at Haven for Hope, I met some of the people we came to know there last year. It was a lovely reunion, and I was delighted to tell them I’ll be back in July. In the meantime, I pray that we may all have eyes opened to see more clearly our kinship with one another, and do all we can to strengthen this.