Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Working for justice

The 2017-18 House Of Connections Community

It has been about month since we settled into the House of Connections in Chicago and with each day comes a greater willingness to call this place home. From the moment we touched down at Chicago Midway we have been absorbed into this greater volunteer family through the incredible hospitality of Sister Marilyn Derr and Sister Bernadine Karge. For the last few weeks we have shared stories both consoling and desolating, countless laughs and numerous delicious home-cooked meals, all the while accompanying each other through this walk of life, faith and the pursuit of justice.

Something I have come to appreciate are the dinners we have cooked for each other, many of which have transported our table to various places and cultures around the world. But there is more to dinner than the food, because with good food comes good community and this has never been more evident than through how long we are together at the table each community night. Dinner may usually end around 8 o’clock, but we are immersed in conversation until 9 or after, when the impending mountain of dishes and bedtime eventually beckon us back to the kitchen. Weekends, too, have become a brief two days of solace as we embark on new adventures from rock climbing at a local bouldering gym, grabbing a beer at one of Chicago’s oldest bars, to the Jonamac Apple Orchard where we picked twenty pounds of apples, sampled ciders and hard ales, and managed to make it through a corn maze alive.

That being said, this journey hasn’t come without its problems as we encounter the roadblocks and speed bumps of settling into life in our community, and in our individual ministry sites as well. Each of us has come into this program with different personalities, life experiences and worldviews, and various ways of handling conflict. Yet, I believe that at both an individual and communal level we want to make this a life-giving experience for everyone. Things get complicated, though, when we add to this equation the stresses of daily life at work and in our personal lives. We have already endured frustrations with each other, funerals after the loss of a loved one, uncomfortable situations in the city, and times when the day, even life, is just hard.

I am working with Catholic Charities of Chicago in their Refugee Resettlement program, where I am involved in case management for refugee and asylee families, particularly issues surrounding children and youth. A particular struggle for myself is digesting the dis-ease of this work. These families, both adults and children, have endured a struggle that I cannot begin to comprehend, and then they continue to face such immense struggles when they try to resettle here in Chicago. A good way to define this dis-ease is an uneasiness or turbulence within myself, where this disorder of structure at times consumes me to the core, cripples and immobilizes me by this lack of ease internally. It is so potent when I have to be physically and emotionally present for these families and children, and it is present when I get back to community. I am not quite sure I have found enough outlets to tackle this internal dis-ease, but I continue to keep my heart and mind open as I know that working for justice is about working for someone you love.

Amid all of this, I have found consolation through an experience over the weekend after our first week of work at our ministry sites. This particular weekend, several families of past Domincan and Apostolic Volunteers reaching as far back as the first House of Connections. On Friday, they welcomed us into their home Oak Park for some pizza and beer, and on Saturday we had a potluck at the convent in River Forest. Both nights were inter-generational gatherings where countless stories and laughs were shared as they spoke of past experiences as volunteers and we shared our thoughts of the upcoming year of service. That weekend, we again fell into the incredible hospitality of others and personally speaking, this helped make both Chicago and my own fears a bit smaller and more approachable.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

First Impressions

2017-18 Dominican Volunteer Sean Puzzo serves with the Dominican Youth Movement and  shares community with the St. Hugh of Lincoln community in Long Island New York.

When I was a young child in elementary school I remember being in the grocery store with my mom. As we turned around the aisle I froze in my tracks and couldn’t believe my eyes - there halfway down the aisle was one of my school teachers. In a matter of seconds my theory that teachers never left school and slept there was shattered. Teachers were in fact real people - who did real things and as the saying goes, “put their pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us.” I had a flashback to that moment when I first moved into my community of sisters. When one hears the word “nun” or “sister” certain images often come to mind. Perhaps it’s Julie Andrews and her cast mates in the Sound of Music or Whoopi Goldberg and her pals in the Sister Act series or maybe even Sally Field in The Flying Nun. Black and white, pious, reserved, simple, etc. - a very different life than that of a recent college graduate. I have to be honest and candid and share that I got quite the gamut of reactions when I explained what I was doing. “Are you crazy,” “Are you sure,” “Does this mean you want to be a priest,” “Does that mean you have to give up having fun?” Well to answer those questions: yes, yes, no, and no!

Throughout my college career at Caldwell University, a Dominican college, I had the amazing opportunity to get to know some of the Caldwell Dominican Sisters. They were teachers, mentors, counselors and most importantly they were friends. Having this base, I was excited and nervous to starting my next adventure.

My community is St. Hugh of Lincoln Convent, where I live with four sisters (S. Gina, S. Lenore, S. Mary, and S. Mary Rose) Sydney, another DV, and Josieann, a DV from last year who continues to live in our House of Hospitality while she pursues her MBA at nearby Molloy College. It’s been less than a month since I moved in and have already learned so much in such a short amount of time. Sisters are just like regular people - they joke, they cook, they work, they may drink, and on the rarest of occasions - they may say a bad word! Sisters are educators, medical workers, counselors, social justice activists, and so much more. In my case they will become a second family this year who I will live out the Dominican Charism and the four pillars (prayer, study, community, and ministry) with.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Welcome 2017-18 Dominican Volunteers

  Today we introduce with great joy our 16 Dominican Volunteers who haved traveled across the country to share the Dominican charisms of prayer, study, community, and preaching. Please pray for them as they begin their journey of a year of service with DVUSA.

Sydney Boyer

Sydney is from Canal Winchester, Ohio. She is a recent graduate of Xavier University with a major in French. Sydney says she is passionate about French because she “loved being understood by others. To understand someone else and to be understood is such a gratifying feeling.”

Sydney is eager to begin her year as a Dominican Volunteer.  She will be living in the St. Hugh of Lincoln community in Huntington Station, NY. Sydney will be serving adult English language learners at OPening Word. She says she is most excited to work with a population that continues to inspire her every day.
 Julia Butts
Julia is from Braintree, Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Yale University with a major in Sociology. Julia has many and varied hobbies:  she loves to dance, read for leisure, make friends with every dog she meets, hike, learn, and collect lapel pins.

Julia will be working with youth at the St. Francis Center in Redwood City, CA. She will be sharing community with the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa. During her year as a Dominican Volunteer Julia hopes to, “learn from everyone she meets, growing from experience, and deepening her faith.

Jennifer Doering 
Jennifer is from Carlsbad, CA. She attended Dominican University of California where she studied Education. Jennifer’s hobbies are many and varied: she loves to read, especially mysteries, learning about the world, playing video games, watching Netflix, listening to and playing music, and laugh while spending time with loved ones.

Jennifer will be living in community at Immaculate Conception Priory with the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose. She looks forward to serving this year at St. James Elementary School, “being Dominican and having a blast!”

Elizabeth Drake
Elizabeth is from Oakton, Virginia. She attended Franklin and Marshall College and majored in Government with a concentration in Latin America, and a minor in Arabic Area Studies. She can be found happily crafting, reading, traveling, learning new languages, cooking, and taking photographs.

Elizabeth will be living at House of Connections in Chicago with the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa. She will be serving this year at Catholic Charities Chicago. Elizabeth is looking forward “to work with refugees and learn more about the resettlement process.”

Vivian Garcia-Blanco

Viviana is from Berwyn, IL. She attended Dominican University in River Forest, IL where she studied in Political Science with a concentration in International Affairs and a minor in Corporate Communications.

Viviana will be living at Our Lady of Assumption in the Bronx with the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt. She is serving this year with the Dominican Sisters Conference at the United Nations. She is eager to begin “building community with strangers, growing emotionally and spiritually, stepping out of my comfort zone and facing new challenges.”

Kateri Golbiw

Kateri is from Brighton, MI, and attended Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI. She studied Theology and English Literature. Kateri can often be found happily teaching, watching Netflix, reading, hammocking, painting, exploring new places, and cooking.

Kateri will be serving this year at Immaculate Conception Academy in San Franciso with Campus Ministry and supervising students on their work-study commute. She will also be living in community at the Immaculate Conception Priory with the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose. She is excited for this marvelous adventure.

Diana Hernandez

Diana is from Chicago, IL. Diana graduated from Dominican University, River Forest, IL where she studied Psychology. What she enjoyed most about her major was “learning about the history of western psychology by analyzing the limitations and barriers minority groups faced throughout American history,”

Diana will be living with the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinsawa in Redwood City, CA. She will be ministering to youth at the St. Francis Center. As a Dominican Volunteer, Diana is most looking forward to “building relationships with my students and their families and being moved deeply by their stories.”

Niki Klco

Niki is proud to be from West Michigan! Niki is from a small town and attended Aquinas College, in Grand Rapids, MI. She decided to get her B.A. in Studio Arts. Niki enjoys hiking, biking, pottery, putt putt golf, beaches, and camping.

Niki is a 2nd year volunteers. She spent her first year with DVUSA in Redwood City, CA where she worked at St. Francis Center. This year, she will be living at Our Lady of Assumption in the Bronx with the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt and will serve women and children experiencing homelessness at Siena House.

Zachary Moeller
 Zach was born in St. Louis MO, grew up in Akron OH, and his family now lives in Carlsbad, CA. He is a recent graduate of Xavier University with majors in Political Science and International Studies and minors in Spanish and Peace & Justice. Zach enjoys outdoor adventures. He is a big fan of hiking and backpacking, and finds rock climbing to be great exercise and a good way to face his fears.

Zach will be living at the House of Connections in Chicago with the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa. He will be serving this year at Catholic Charities Chicago. He feels “so pumped to live in community and pursue faith and justice.

Henry Moller
 Henry is from Cincinnati, OH. Henry went to Ohio State for undergrad where he studied History and recently attended Xavier University to earn his Master's of Education. Henry enjoys History, Politics, Tennis, Basketball, Guitar, Movies, Philosophy and Psychology, Writing.

Henry will be living in the Penn Community in Atlanta with the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa. He will be serving this year at Cristo Rey Atlanta. He is excited to begin “working at a top tier school with an incredible mission and becoming part of their community hopefully leaving a lasting positive footprint.”

Madeleine Paulsen
Madeleine is from Granger, Indiana. She attended the University of Notre Dame, where she studied Peace Studies and Political Science. Madeleine enjoys hobbies such as reading, cooking, and knitting, and is also extremely passionate about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

Madeleine will be serving this year at Sarah’s Inn; working with women, men, and children who are survivors of domestic violence and their perpetrators.  She will also be living at House of Connections in Chicago with the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa.  She is excited to share in community and gain new skills as well as utilize ones that she has gained from previous experiences.

Sarah Pereira
 Sarah is from San Francisco Bay California. She graduated from Dominican University of California with a major in Liberal Studies. Sarah’s hobbies include “working with kids, rock climbing, and visiting new places.”

Sarah is excited to begin her year as a Dominican Volunteer, serving at Visitation Catholic School.  She will be living at House of Connections with the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa. She looks forward to the opportunity to experience Chicago while getting to know more amazing Dominican Sisters, meeting other volunteers, and working with kids.

Sean Puzzo
 Sean is from Scotch Plains, New Jersey. He graduated from Caldwell University in Caldwell, NJ with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. Sean loves the theater and the behind-the- scenes work of a performance. He enjoys both acting and set-design and construction.

Sean is ready to begin this new adventure and is happy that his ministry will be close to home. He will be working for the Dominican Youth Movement and living at the St. Hugh of Lincoln Community in Huntington Station, NY. There he will be living with the Dominican Sisters of Amityville. He says as a native to the area, he’s excited to show his community mate around the Big Apple.

Carolina Talavera Romero
 Carolina is from Taluco, Mexico. She graduated from Dominican University, River Forest, IL with a degree in French & Spanish Secondary Education. Carolina has many interests, including reading, writing short stories & poems, jogging and trying new dessert places around town.

Carolina will be living at Casa Alianza in Redwood City, CA where she will share in community with the Dominican Sisters of Sinisinawa. She will also be ministering to families at the St. Francis Center. Carolina says she is ready to begin her volunteer year and looks forward to getting to know the families and children she will serve as well as teaching and exploring the west coast.

Gabrielle Smith

 Gabby is from Bear, Delaware. She attended Loyola University Maryland and studied English. Among Gabrielle’s favorite things are traveling, dogs, and learning!

Gabby will be living with Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose and is really excited to be serving this year at Immaculate Conception Academy in San Francisco with the Guidance Counseling office. She says she is eager to start working with the students.

Stephanie Zavala Guzman

Stephanie is from Chicago, IL. She attended Dominican University in River Forest where she studied Sociology and Studies of Women and Gender. There are so many things that she enjoyed about her education, but if she had to narrow it down she would say:  “These majors gave me a new way of seeing the world and how I fit in it. It was because of what I learned that I can fight for social justice and know that I have the necessary power and tools to fight oppressive systems.

Stephanie will be working with women and children experiencing homelessness at Siena House in the Bronx. She will share in community at our Lady of Assumption with Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt. She most looks forward to “finding a new place I can call home and creating friendships that are fruitful and hopefully last years.”  

Thank you each for saying yes to the Dominican Mission. Our Dominican family sends you forth in love and prayer. May God Creator bless you, may God Redeemer heal you, and may God the Holy Spirit fill you with light.