Monday, July 9, 2018

Faith, Justice, and Graphic Design

Our latest blog post comes from Dominican Volunteer Sean Puzzo.

 Sean serves with the Dominican Youth Movement  in Amityville New York and helps coordinate The Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference,  the National College Preaching in Action Conference, and Dominican Young Adults USA.

Sean reflects on how these conferences have gradually shaped his Dominican journey . 

Sean also does the graphic design for our monthly Dominican Volunteers USA Newsletter.

Thank you for your Dominican service, Sean!

My time as a Dominican Volunteer is rapidly coming to an end. I have spent the last year with the Dominican Youth Movement USA which connects today’s youth and young adults to the Dominican tradition of preaching and the participant’s own call to preach. The year was filled

with great joys and great challenges all which led to the decision to commit for a second service year.

Although there are many parts about this year that I’d like to share I’m going to focus on the last month of my year of service. While many of my fellow Dominican Volunteers years were winding down as their jobs were coming to an end or their schools letting out, DYMUSA still had two major programs ahead of us - the National College Preaching in Action Conference and the Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference. In short - These conferences empower students to discover and deepen the preacher within themselves. Participants spend a week actively engaged in prayer, study, service, community, and creative ways to make preaching a living dynamic in their daily lives. These conferences, especially the college conference hold a special place in my heart as it was there where I was first introduced to Dominican Volunteers some four years ago.

I had attended the conference three times, but this was the first time in which I was involved with the running of the conference. How lucky I was that the college conference was being hosted by my alma mater, Caldwell University. It’s safe to say that at the end of the conference I could finally take a deep breath and a looooooong well-deserved nap.

It was at this conference which I think I first heard God “talking” to me. Each day of the conference focuses on a different aspect of preaching - Dominican preaching, through the signs of the times, through service, through the arts. That first year, on the final day, preaching through the arts, I felt God somewhat screaming to me. He was saying, “Hey, Sean! This is for you! You can preach through art!” As a graphic designer/artists, I always seemed to be unsure of that whole God-given talent thing - I sometimes felt that he skipped over me, but after that day it was made painfully clear that preaching through art was going to be my jam so to speak.

Here I am four years later working for the Dominican Youth Movement USA which sponsors the college conference. I believe God saw I had a gift to share. He answered my desire to find a way to put faith, justice, and design together as this year I was able to work with S. Gina to remodel the website, program materials, create promotional videos, and continue to put DYMUSA and it's programmed in the spotlight I so believe it deserves.

I was excited to work with DYMUSA because I thought back to that day at the college conference when it all seemed to just click. I thought if I could make just one connection like that with a student the whole year would be worth it. Sure enough, I made many more than just one.

From the students at the Youth Preaching Workshops to the Dominican Young Adults, to most recently the high school and college preaching conference - each allowed me to share my faith journey. Throughout the years it seems that Jesus’ message to us has become ever complicated. Yet, for me and these students, through the Four Pillars (rooted in apostolic tradition) and ideals of Dominican Life it has become clear and an integral part of our lives. Another part of my ministry this year was documenting our programs through photography and video. One of my favorite things of the year was watching students develop and especially capture that moment that God spoke to them and this whole “preaching” thing made sense to them.

As I look forward, I am forever grateful to the opportunities that DYMUSA, especially S. Gina Fleming, OP, my administrator, have given me throughout this year. This truly is a program that is answering the call of St. Dominic to find new ways to preach.

I invite and encourage you to visit to learn more about the important work we are doing to spread the charism.

Sean at the Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Reflecting on a Year of Service

As our 2017-18 service year draws to a close, we share this post from  Dominican Volunteer Erica Stewart. Erica served as a teacher at Immaculate Conception Academy in San Francisco California in 2011-12. After 6 years, Erica's words remain relevant to anyone transitioning out of a year of service.

Perhaps our 2017- 18 Dominican Volunteers can relate to Erica's words.
Erica and Immaculate Conception Academy staff from 2012.

 Thank you Erica!

I think the simple belief that we are all human and need to protect each other is sufficient reason to do something about this.” For the last few days in the month of June, I was blessed enough to spend time in Racine, Wisconsin with the sisters at their Motherhouse, the twelve other volunteers, and our wonderful program directors. This retreat provided ample time for reflection of my year of service and was the perfect ending to what has become one of the best years of my life. Have you ever made a decision—especially an important one—and just known deep inside you that it was the perfect for you? This was confirmed for me each and every day during my time with DVUSA, whether it was in my interactions with my students, coworkers, community members, or fellow volunteers.

At our retreat, ( than DVUSA Executive Director) Mike gave us the opportunity to look over our applications that we had submitted more than a year before for DVUSA. This was such a wonderful experience for me to see the transformation I have undergone over the past year. For some questions, the answers have remained very much the same, like my desire to participate in service which I truly believe speaks to God’s intended path for my life: that I am called to serve forever and not until my contract ends July 13th.

Over the past year, even through long painful minutes of waiting for my students to quiet down and prepare for my lessons, tearful reflections about the integration of God in my service year, seemingly endless lists of tasks that I never thought would reach their deadline, and of course, hours of prayer, together and community, I have responded to the call to serve with a fervent “yes” that echoes the same response that Mary gave in the Annunciation.

Please do not confuse this statement with my thinking I am anything like a divine figure because Lord knows I am far from it, but she, along with the members of my religious community who pray to her daily, has become a strong role model in difficult times when I find that the answer of “yes” too often slips off my lips when I am asked to take on yet another responsibility. Though I was asked to do quite the variety of tasks, ranging from preparing lessons on Charlemagne for my Church History class to leading an Amazing Race challenge for our freshmen around the city to cleaning out our faculty room refrigerator to hunting down the students who have failed to hand in their homework to stay after school, I often found it difficult to say no when I was asked to do something, no matter how full my plate seemed to be that day because I often did see the benefit in my “yes” to complete these tasks, whether it be a smile, a thank you, or on the very lucky days, a Starbucks gift card when I finally won the Faculty Friday raffle.

At the end of the day, and reaching the end of my service year, I am thankful for my ability to say “yes” and hope that it will continue to move me down the path God intends me to travel upon in my life, especially as I move on to my next job working as a recruitment associate for Catholic Volunteer Network. I hope that I will inspire others called to service to respond “yes” to help those who are so often told “no” by everyone else. Thank you, my Dominican family, for inspiring me to say yes and helping to unite us all in one body of Christ!

Erica and 2011-12 DV Kristen Dempsey Pasyk

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Black and Brown Women Deserve Doula Access Too

2017-18 Dominican Volunteer, Stephanie Zavala: “In New York City, a black woman is 12 times more likely to die during pregnancy, during labor, or from complications after labor.”

And from an NPR report, “A 2016 analysis of five years of data found that black, college-educated mothers who gave birth in local hospitals were more likely to suffer severe complications of pregnancy or childbirth than white women who never graduated from high school.”

In this two-part video, Dominican Volunteer Stephanie Zavala reflects on her calling to be a doula, an advocate and support to mothers during the birthing process. Stephanie was inspired to become a doula through her work at the Siena House, a homeless shelter for mothers who are pregnant and mothers who have young children in the Bronx. Stephanie seeks to offer her doula services to black, brown, and undocumented mothers who face systemic hardships and  barriers.
Thank you for your service, witness, and words Stephanie.

Blogger would not upload the second part of Stephanie's video.You can view part  2 of Stephanie's video here

Correction: in the second part of the video, Stephanie meant to say “black maternal mortality rate" rather than black mortality rate.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A Year In Review – A Dominican Volunteer’s experience at Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School in the Penn Community

DV Henry Moller
Our latest blog post comes from Dominican Volunteer Henry Moller.

Henry serves as a teacher at Immaculate Conception Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Atlanta Georgia and reflects on his year with DVUSA with gratitude.

Thank you for your service Henry and for sharing your many gifts with your students, colleagues community members,and fellow volunteers.

Dominican blessings in all your future endeavors.

As I packed my bags and prepared to board the plane on the way to the Dominican Volunteers USA opening retreat I distinctly remember thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” Now, nearly a year later, in the best possible way, I am still not sure I can fully explain the answer to my question. Here is my best attempt:

Over the course of the 2017-2018 school year I have served as a teacher and a coach at Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School living in the Penn Community in the Midtown neighborhood of Atlanta. Throughout this time I worked and lived with some truly incredible and inspirational people. I am so thankful for the warm welcome and hospitality I received upon arriving in the Penn Community and the continued growth and connection we developed as an intentional community focused on social justice issues and our own spirituality. Each member of the community contributed in different ways and taught me a great deal about living in harmony with brothers and sisters in Christ.

At my ministry site I was equally blessed to find inspiration and opportunities to grow professionally, personally, and spiritually. This inspiration came from the incredible faculty, staff, and administration at Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit in their tireless support and constant commitment to the school’s mission of developing men and women for and with others but most of the inspiration I received came from the indescribably amazing students I interacted with daily. I am lucky enough to be returning as a full-time teacher next year at Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit and truly look forward to strengthening the relationships I have forged. Being able to tell my students I would be returning for an additional year and receiving warm congratulations from them was an experience I will never forget.

Dominican Volunteers USA has been much more than a ministry/community placement program this past year. While the room and board, stipend, and placement have been great, the year would simply not have been the same without the encouragement and care shown by every member of the Dominican community. To my fellow Penn Community members, all members of the Dominican Order, Megan, Allison, and David, all the wonderful people at Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School, and to my fellow DVs, I extend a heartfelt thank you for making this year possible.

5 years ago if you had asked me if I would be open to a year of service, living in community, and exploring my faith I would have thought you had mistaken me for someone else. I am eternally grateful the me from 5 years ago grew to a point where I was willing to take a chance on what has been a wild adventure. Numerous doors have been opened to me as I continue to find myself in this wonderful thing we call life. For that, I will be forever thankful.