Six months ago, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps East met at Blue Ridge Summit for Orientation. When I wrote about my experience there, I wrote about the goodness of my fellow JV’s and the energy that filled the Bellarmine Retreat Center.
Now, six months later, in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti and on Martin Luther King Day weekend, after reconvening for Re-Orientation (at the end of our year, we’ll have “Dis-Orientation”), I’ve come away with similar feelings and excitement, but with a better dose of reality and a deeper understanding of what it is we’re actually working toward as we move into our final six months as Jesuit Volunteers.
Fr. Fred Krammer, executive director of the Jesuit Social Research Institute, spoke to us through multiple lectures about the history of Catholic Social Teaching and how it applies to what we’re doing in JVC. He talked about how we are all part of a collective community in which God dwells and the Old Testament teaches us that we have an obligation to help the Anawim, or “those that cry out for God”. As we moved through history, he explained that Jesus stepped over the boundaries of his society when he healed the “unclean”. Later, he talked about the importance of accompaniment, mercy, and the willingness to enter into the chaos of the margins to respond to others.
At different times throughout his lectures, we broke off into Apostolate Groups to talk about our work with JV’s working in similar ministries. My group of educators and after-school organizers discussed the dominant problems and challenges that our children face each day, found ways in which we shared in their experience of chaos and darkness, and came up with possible responses to the systems and structures (both positive and negative) in our students’ lives. After each breakout session, each group shared a little of what they spoke about.
My group talked about the many outside influences that our students must deal with including consumerism and the idea of being someone because of money or possessions, family structures, the flawed and unequal American education system, and the cyclical system that affects the poor. We spoke about the frustrations and joys that come with working with children, their hopes and dreams, and the added effort that is necessary for them to succeed compared to our own experiences.
Real problems. Real challenges. Real Dreams. Real hope. Real action.
Finally, as the weekend came to a close, we talked about our future after the year is out. JVC challenged us to continue the work we have done this year and live its values. What we’re doing this year is only a glimpse, and, now that we know more, they asked, “what are you going to do about it?”
So, as I embark on the latter half of JVC, I’m trying to nurture these experiences, find ways to let them grow, and hopefully find a place where my passions and the worlds’ needs intersect.
As a side note, the people and fellow JV’s that I have met through JVC are truly amazing. They’re motivated to make change, incite hope, and are true beacons of light. Thanks for a great weekend!