Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What I Have Learned Throughout This Year of Service

by Sean Mundy

I was lucky and blessed enough to volunteer for a year at St. Pius V School in Chicago, IL, where I worked as a Resource Room teacher. 

As I sit here at the closing retreat in Racine, Wisconsin at the Siena Retreat Center (we are staying in a 15-room, Georgian revival mansion built in 1934, no big deal) run by the Dominican sisters of Racine, we are reflecting on our year of service.  These are the top 10 things I learned this year:

1.     The Four Pillars of Dominican Spirituality - I have and will continue to commit myself to living my life according to the Gospel through the four pillars: prayer, study, community, and preaching/mission/service.

2.     My Four Pillars - In an activity, we were asked to reflect on what would be the four pillars of how we live our lives.  Mine were: 
·      Acceptance and Understanding
·      Personal, Professional, and Spiritual Growth
·      Making a Difference One Person or Interaction at a Time
·      Living in a Spirit of Awe
Sean with his community at St. Martin de Porres.

  3.     Human Dignity - I have been exposed to many world issues this year.  I am learning that each of these issues all come down to human dignity or the lack thereof.  These issues include, but are not limited to immigration law, human trafficking, genocide, homelessness, poverty, the right to life, education reform, domestic violence, world peace, water (access to clean water, the bottled water industry, conservation, etc.), eco-justice, LGBT rights, prison ministry, gang violence, racism, military spending, fair trade, and so much more.

4.     Family Matters - I am thrilled to have such a positive relationship with my immediate and extended family.  Having approximately 850 miles between most of my family members and I has proven difficult.  This difficulty showed me how integral they are to my life.  Every time I came home to visit, I realized how much I need their love, guidance, and support.  Thank you!

5.     Teaching is My Passion.  The art of teaching and the profession itself is a craft that I want to perfect through continued study and professional development.  Affecting positive change in children is important to me.  I feel that I can truly change the world one child or one person at a time.  The ripple effect may go much further than I will ever know, and I’m okay with that. 

Sean in the classroom
     6.     Dominican Vowed Religious are Awe-Inspiring.  Their dedication to the Catholic faith in the Dominican spirituality is tremendous.  Their years of service in education, healthcare, social services and so much more are beyond compare.  Their fighting for social justice and human rights issues is inspirational and commendable.  Every interaction I have had with a sister (especially our weekly interactions with four Dominican Sisters of Springfield at the St. Martin de Porres Convent in South Chicago) and a friar (especially our monthly interactions with the Dominican Friars of the Central Province Priory) has been a pleasant, enriching, and beautiful experience.

7.     “No I Don’t Want to Become a Priest” - It was a lighthearted joke amongst some DVs to count the amount of times we are asked if we will become a friar or sister.  I still don’t feel called to join religious life, but I have learned throughout the past few years that when I plan, God laughs.  Life has been full of twists and turns, but it always works out in the end.  I now trust that God will lead me wisely, even if it seems difficult or scary at the time. 

8.     Labyrinths are Amazing - For those of you who may not know, Labyrinths are large mazes cut into the grass or painted on the floor that have one entrance, one path, and no dead ends.  There’s no right way to walk a Labyrinth, but often you pray or meditate before and then you leave something in the center before making your way back out.   They have brought me peace and helped me along my journey.
Sean and staff at St. Pius V School.

    9.     Relationship is at the Heart of Ministry - I have been so blessed to meet a number of people who have been so integral to my service year.  I’m going to mention a few of them here. 
·      Nancy Nasko, my principal at St. Pius V School and supervisor, is beyond supportive.  Every week she would tell me how blessed she is to have me at my ministry site.  She is so full of love for her students, faculty, and staff, but honestly, I know she has that love for everyone she encounters.  The highest honor at St. Pius is the Peacemaker award.  This spirit of peace permeates throughout the school and we rarely have behavior issues.  I think this safe, loving, and caring atmosphere it largely in part due to the leadership of Nancy.  She is a great role model for peace.
·      Br. Chris became my spiritual advisor in the winter.  I truly appreciated his insight, openness, and advisement (even if he is Franciscan – just kidding!).  He really helped me get my personal prayer life going again and truly helped me throughout my journey this year. I will be forever grateful!
·      The DVUSA staff has made my life as a service volunteer as stress-free as possible.  Michael, the director, and Erica, the assistant director, work so hard to develop the program and be in tune with the volunteers’ experiences.  It is clear that they truly care about each volunteer and really try to keep relationship at the heart of ministry.

10.  Overall, my volunteer year was a huge success.  Despite any negative experiences I have had this year, I truly love everyone with whom I have come into contact and the positive experiences have greatly outweighed the negative ones. I grew personally, spiritually, emotionally, and professionally.  I truly feel I have made a world of difference.  And hey, I actually got hired by St. Pius V School to be a 6th grade teacher for next year!  See, volunteering can lead to employment! 

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