Friday, October 26, 2018

Life as a Dominican Volunteer in Redwood City, California

DV Elizabeth Broussad

Hello friends, family, and Dominican community,
Impossible as it may be, it is the beginning of my eleventh week here in Redwood City, California. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time and work here so far, and know I will continue to do so. While I have had the chance to talk to a few of you about my volunteer work and my life here on the West Coast, many of you may still be wondering what exactly I got myself into when I signed up for a year of service. And though I would love to tell you all about my amazing position, the incredible individuals of all ages I get to work with and alongside, and the variety of activities I get to cultivate, I am even more eager to tell you about the other aspects of my life here.
This year, I am a volunteer with Dominican Volunteers USA, a national, Catholic service organization that matches recent college graduates with non-profits around the country. They have partnerships with many orders of Dominican sisters, who graciously open their homes and their hearts to the volunteers. I live with a Sinsinawa sister named Sr. Christina Heltsley. I couldn’t ask for a better housemate. She is fun, adventurous, a great cook, a fellow dog lover, and enjoys “vegging” with myself and my other housemate after a long day of work. My other housemate is another volunteer from New Jersey named Sean. Both Sean and Sr. Christina keep the laughter rolling in our household, and make me feel at home even when I’m miles away from Texas. They, alongside my incredible coworkers, have made sure that I never feel lonely.
One thing I did not mentally prepare for when leaving Texas was weather. When I imagined moving to California, I pictured miles of palm trees and constant 75 degree weather. Apparently those Hollywood dreams are reserved for southern California. The Bay Area is a bit of a different story. Though it does eventually warm up to a comfortable temperature in the afternoon, I bundle up in a jacket every morning (August was no exception). The way to survive these 20 degree temperature fluctuations? Layers, layers, layers.  Cardigans have become fast friends of mine. All that being said, I do appreciate the cooler weather here. While I hear stories of 90 and 100 degree weather back home in Houston, I enjoy cool morning hikes comfortably in the surrounding mountains.
Hiking has become my favorite way to spend free time out here. With Redwood City’s proximity to numerous national and state parks, mountains, coasts, and forests, you can drive an hour in practically any direction and find a new park to explore. Equipped with a water backpack and hiking boots, I find myself more and more frequently escaping the hubbub of the city for solace. But the life and proximity of downtown Redwood City does draw me to its streets just as frequently, and it’s only a fifteen minute bike ride to visit their gorgeous library or find a few deals at my favorite thrift store, Savers.
Even though my work often carries into the weekend, it is enjoyable. As an ESL tutor for women learning English, the religion teacher for a second grade class at Holy Family School, and the Education Coordinator at Siena Youth Center (an afterschool program for middle school students), there are many lesson plans and activities to be drafted. But the enthusiasm and energy of those I work with inspire me, and motivate me everyday to provide the best learning opportunities for them and myself everyday. I feel truly blessed to work in this ministry for a year, and I cannot believe so much time has already passed. I hope to continue growing closer to those I live and work alongside, and to learn more about myself and what the future holds for me. Thank you all for your support and love; I miss each and every one of you, and look forward to seeing you all soon.
With love,
Elizabeth Broussard

Elizabeth and fellow DV Sean Puzzo

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Dominican Wedding

In our latest blog post, DV Kelly Litt (2014 -2015) shares some wedding news!

Kelly Litt with husband Justin Parrett

My name is Kelly Litt and I served as a Dominican Volunteer from 2014-2015 in New York City. I ministered with the Dominican Leadership Conference NGO to the United Nations and had the privilege to learn from and work with the incredible Margaret Mayce, OP.

My time at the United Nations taught me so much about the world and even more about myself and my calling to work toward peace, justice, and equality for all. Experiencing the inner workings of the United Nation showed me the best of intentions of international change-makers and also shined a light on true frustrations of global politics. Yet the aspects of my time as a Dominican Volunteer that had the largest impact and have remained with me continue to be my time in community grappling with questions of justice, spirituality, and truth. I remember candid conversations about both the opportunities and challenges of achieving global change. I recall fondly conversations with community members about life and love while sharing a laugh or shedding a tear together. I will always love my friends at the Catholic Worker House who lived in simple solidarity and who whole heartedly enjoyed sitting on the front step on a hot summer day as we said hi to neighbors walking past with their dogs in tow. And of course, one of my favorite memories is our weekly dinner with our Dominican Sisters where we would talk for hours about education policy, life in the Bronx, global poverty, climate change, or what local attractions we should check out soon. The Sisters were (and remain) our family, and they always knew when we needed a little chocolate or a bottle of wine with dinner.

While I was living in New York during my service year and building community with my Dominican family, I was also in a relationship with my boyfriend, Justin. We were enduring a long-distance relationship, and as individuals fresh out of college, we were both searching for our own truth and purpose. During my DVUSA year, Justin and I remained committed to strengthening our relationship despite the 550 miles between us. It is comforting to see that the Dominican pillars have not only been influential in our own personal lives, but also in our relationship. Those pillars grounded us and continue to strengthen our love to this day. As cliché as it is, our time apart during my service year brought us even closer together.

I am thrilled to share that on October 6th Justin and I were married in Mansfield, Ohio at my home parish, St. Mary of the Snows. We were blessed to be surrounded by so many family members and friends and the day truly could not have been more perfect. We were able to infuse aspects of Dominican tradition throughout our ceremony and reception, and members of my DVUSA community joined us in the celebration and traveled to Ohio to be with us.

Justin and I have found ourselves growing together entwined in Dominican tradition and spirituality. We remain involved in our alma mater, Ohio Dominican University, and we both have strong ties to the Dominican Sisters of Peace in Columbus. We are thankful for the richness that Dominican spirituality has shown us and the individuals that we have met through the Dominican family that have become our dear and lifelong friends. 

Kelly with DV Rebecca Morgenstern (2014-15) Karen Gargamelli MCrieght

Friday, October 5, 2018

"Act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with God"

In our latest blog post, we talk to Sister Pat Stringer, a Caldwell Dominican Sister from Caldwell New Jersey. Sister Pat was recently appointed to the DVUSA Corporate Board and reflects on the significance  of DVUSA and the ministries that have shaped her own  Dominican journey.

Thank you for your Dominican witness, Sister Pat!

Sister Pat Stringer

1. Give us some background. How have you been shaped by the Dominican mission and Dominican life?

I was educated by the Dominicans of Caldwell in grammar school and then at Caldwell College for Women (now Caldwell University).  After graduating from college I entered the Community. So you can say that almost all of my formal education came from Dominicans. Looking back I was always involved in acts of charity either through school projects or because my parents encouraged us to do acts of kindness. However, while in college I really began to get involved in studying the causes of injustice and I began searching for answers to these deeper questions while at the same time continuing the acts of charity.

Why do you feel called to serve on the DVUSA corporate board?

I have a deep respect for young people who are willing to give service to others so when I was asked to serve on the Corporate Board of DVUSA I was thrilled. For me it is a way to support young people and to give others the opportunities I was given to serve others.

2. As a Dominican Sister, you have served lived out the mission of St. Dominic and Saint Catherine in many ways. Please tell us some specific ministries and stories that have had an impact on you?  How has spending time with Dominican Volunteers impacted your life and ministry?

I thought that I would spend my life teaching mathematics (I have a BA and MA in mathematics) in one of our high schools—was I wrong! I spent 5 years teaching on the island of Abaco, Bahamas working with Bahamian and Haitian children. I learned about different cultures and the beauty of living and working cross-culturally. My community had a Dominican volunteer program at that time so in those five years I worked closely with these volunteers in a formal educational setting. I also ministered in Quito, Ecuador where I again lived and worked with young adults who volunteered their service for a year or two. It was a great experience living together (10 of us lived in the same apartment with only 2 bathrooms) and ministering to the people of Ecuador in formal and informal ways. For 11 years I lived in a very poor area of the Dominican Republic working together with the people to educate their children. Eventually, we built a pre-school, a grammar school, and high school. During this time we were lucky to have many groups of college students join us for a week of service. They did wonderful programs with the students and faculty, sharing their talents and skills in unbelievably creative ways. In New Jersey I did not have the pleasure of living or directly working with Dominican Volunteers but I have known a few of them personally and I am very impressed by who they are as people and the skills that they have to offer others.  

I am presently serving as the Promoter of Dominican Life and Charism for my community and this gives me many opportunities to share with and invite both young and old into a deeper understanding of the Dominican Charism and Mission. In August sisters, former sisters, associates and Dominican Laity came together to “Celebrate Our Dominican Journey.” It was a wonderful day of sharing, renewing friendships and establishing new ones. In September the faculty and staff from our 3 academies came together for a Spirituality Day before classes started.  The day started with prayer and input, followed by small group discussion and lunch and concluded with a guided reflection. There is a chapter of Dominican Young Adults that meets monthly at our Motherhouse that I help facilitate.  This group gives me hope for the future of our church and world.

4. The mission statement of Dominican Volunteers USA to “respond to the injustices of our day by ministering with our sisters and brothers, especially those who are poor and marginalized.” What does serving with our brothers and sisters who are marginalized mean to you? Why is serving with others who are marginalized so important and life-giving?
Ministering with those who are poor and marginalized means helping them help themselves. Concretely, this means helping people develop the skills they need to direct and determine their own futures. This can be accomplished informally with classes, workshops, and/or  role playing or it can be done by educating young people by establishing schools and programs or by assisting young people with resources and encouragement so that they can  get a formal education.  I saw this work in the Dominican Republic and I am now seeing it work in Haiti.

5. What advice would you have for Dominican Volunteer alumni who want to continue to make a difference and live out the Dominican mission in our world today?

Find a young adult group in your area. If possible, join the Dominican Young Adult movement. There are chapters across the United States. Their website is This is a good way to contact others who have the same values that you do and also a way to continue to give service.

6. Tell us about your life outside of DVUSA. What do you like to do for fun? Tell us something that the DVUSA community may not know about you?

I like to read both novels and books about justice issues. I love sports; I am a Yankee fan but will go to any baseball game no matter who is playing. I also enjoy going to the soccer, volleyball and basketball games of the Caldwell University teams. I enjoy being with friends and visiting my family. And lastly, I enjoy being on Long Beach Island, both in the summer and winter.

7. What are some quotes that have been particularly impactful in your ministry, life of service, and faith journey?

Micah 6:8 – "What is good has been explained to you; this is what Yahweh asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God."This quote from Micah is the one I try to live by each day.

8. As you begin your tenure on the DVUSA board, what are your hopes for the future of DVUSA? How would you like to see our ministry grow and develop?

My hope is that DVUSA continues to grow in order to give young people an opportunity to serve others and learn about the Dominican Charism. I see the roles of both Boards to help and support the Directors in their outreach efforts to young people so that this growth is achieved.