Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Valentine's Day Tree

“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do... but how much love we put in that
action.” Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)

The month of February is often known as the month of love, having Valentine’s Day at the heart
of the month; but, there is so much more to love than what Valentine’s Day holds. Valentine’s
Day focuses on romantic love, only one small part of what love can be. There are many different
kinds of love, including: love of God, love of family and friends, love of neighbor, love of
humankind as a whole, love of all living beings, and love of the Earth. With the huge focus on
romantic love in our culture, many people are missing the deep connection and fulfillment of
these other types of love. I believe that the emptiness that many people feel can be directly linked
to the lack of these types of love in their lives.

Being one of the Dominican Volunteers this year, I live in Chicago at the House of Connections.
I live with one other volunteer (Lacey) and two Dominican Sisters (Marilyn and Bernadine). In
our house, we make sure to hold these different types of love in our hearts. We express these
types of love toward each other, those in our ministries, and those in our wider Chicago

I believe that love is the best gift that one can give. Love can be expressed in several different
ways, and it is often the little things that people say or do that express the most love: Bernadine
leaving kind notes and even little Valentine’s for each of us, Marilyn consistently taking the time
to sit down to talk with us about our day, or Lacey giving a heartfelt prayer about the difficulties
she knows you are having.

This year, we decided to do something radically different than what is the norm at the House of
Connections. We saved and turned our real, live Christmas tree in to a Valentine’s Day tree
(kudos to Lacey for this lovely idea)! We made hearts and paper chains for the tree, and even put
a cupid at the top of the tree. We didn’t just decorate the tree, though. On the hearts we made, we
wrote people, things, and ideas that we love, and, on the back of the cupid, we wrote things that
we love about each other.

This just may be a new tradition for the House of Connections! We will have to see what the
2019-2020 Dominican Volunteers think. Either way, one thing is for certain: the culture of love at
the House of Connections will continue with each new group of volunteers because once this
type of love is created, it can not be extinguished.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post!

God Bless,
Jake Moran Dominican Volunteer 2018-19

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Sisters I Never Knew I Wanted

Dominican Volunteer Sean Puzzo ministers at the St. Francis Center

Picture this: ten years from now a group of friends is getting back together for a reunion. They
begin to share stories of what they did right after college. Some talk about the first “grown-up”
jobs while others talk about moving back in with their parents, and still others talk about
changing careers or different paths their lives took. I say, “Well, I lived in a convent and
ministered with sisters for two years.” All drop their drinks and look wide eyed. My friend blurts
out, “You what?” I then begin to tell them of two of the most transformative years of my life.
Religious sisters have never been strangers in my life; they have been mentors, educators,
spiritual directors, and as of most recently housemates and co-workers. It was the last two that I
never imagined were possible, however through my two years as a Dominican Volunteer
(2017-2019) I lived in community and ministered with Dominican Sisters.
Discerning what volunteer program you may want to take part in can be a daunting task. There
are so many things to consider: the type of work you will be doing, living and financial situations,
short/long term benefits, etc. There was one thing about Dominican Volunteers that set itself
apart from many other programs I was looking at. Volunteers in the program live in “…diverse,
intergenerational communities [who] live out the Dominican mission of preaching the Gospel
through the four pillars of Dominican Life: ministry, community, prayer and study.” That seemed
like an amazing opportunity to me to dig deeper into my faith and discern my future path in life.

My first ministry site was the Dominican Youth Movement USA, a organization that connects
today’s youth and young adults to the Dominican Tradition of Preaching in ways in which they
can become preachers with their lives and talents. It was exciting to work on programs that had
a huge impact on my desire to think about participating in a service year.
I was blessed as our office was in the Dominican Sisters of Amityville’s Motherhouse. Each day
I was able to spend time with the wonderful sisters and hear their incredible stories of service,
leadership, and compassion. They were truly warriors of their days. I learned more from them
and their courage to just say yes as “itinerant” preachers, responding to the signs of the times,
than I ever could have in four years of college. My work had me interacting and collaborating
with sisters and communities all across the United States who were involved with the formation
of youth and young adults. It was truly amazing to see so many sisters who had a vested
interest in the youth of the church and saw us as future torchbearers of their Dominican

One particularly touching moment was when one of the elderly sisters came to our office and
expressed great concern for the future of the Order as there had been less and less vocations
to become sisters, nuns, brothers, and friars. She expressed with great joy that she had come to
realize that the youth were indeed part of the future of the Order and able to spread the Good
News in ways never imagined before, something St. Dominic tasked us with many years ago.
St. Dominic was said to have had these last words when he died in 1221, “Have charity for one
another, hold fast to humility, and make your treasure out of voluntary poverty.” These words
were an unspoken mission statement for the four Dominican Sisters I was living with in my first
service year.

It may come as no surprise that going into the year I had preconceived notions about what living
with four catholic sisters would be like. Safe to say, all of those ideas were thrown out the
window within the first week. I quickly learned that sisters are just like regular people; they joke,
they cook, they cry, they work, they may drink, and on the rarest of occasions - they may say a
cuss word! Sisters are educators, chaplains, counselors, social justice activists, and so much
more. In my case they became a second family who I was challenged to live out Dominican
Charism and the four pillars (prayer, study, community, and ministry) with.
I am currently in my second year as a Dominican Volunteer. I enjoyed the work I was doing in
my first year, but there was something missing. I wasn't sure what it was though. As the year
moved on I figured it out - I was called to direct service. It was the times in my ministry in which I
was working directly with students and members of the Dominican family that I found the
greatest joy and fulfillment.

Soon, I found myself embarking on an incredible new journey across the United States to serve
in a ministry that would capture my entire mind, body, and spirit and quite perhaps change my
future plans, once again. Despite my excitement, that first cross country flight had be rethinking
my decision every minute!
I minister at the St. Francis Center in Redwood City, CA. It’s hard to describe just what the
center is as does so much good, in so many areas. The center is committed to serving the
community and whole person in ever-changing ways (including education, housing, and direct
services) through their motto of “compassion, not judgment.”
At the center I work as an ESL Tutor & 5th Grade Religion Teacher at Holy Family School. We
aim to “reduce and help break the cycle of poverty by providing a solid value-based education to
economically impoverished client family cohorts.” I have the unbelievable honor to share my
faith and mold disciples who are the future of our beautifully diverse Church. My hope is that
through this year they become models of Christ’s servant leadership.

All of the amazing work at the center would not be possible without the tireless vision and
leadership of S. Christina Heltsley, OP who I have the pleasure of living with at our community,
Casa Alianza.

Casa Alianza is a quiet and peaceful oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the St. Francis
Center. Living with S. Christina and my fellow DVUSA Elizabeth has been an enormous blessing
in my life. God is truly present here in our house. Everyday, S. Christina models the words
Jesus gave us - that we “come not to be served, but to serve.” S. Christina has allowed me,
without judgement, to explore my Catholic faith and better understand what it means to be a
21st Century disciple.

In ten years, I will be able to tell the stories of how living and working with sisters made me the
person I am today and changed the way I lived, what I want to do in life, and became some of
the best mentors and friends I have. They are the sisters I never had and never knew I wanted!

Sean and his New York community

Sean and his Redwood City community

Friday, January 18, 2019

Happy 2019 from Dominican Volunteers USA!

In our latest blog post,our volunteers and staff share  some of their goals and resolutions for the coming year.

Our 2018-19 Dominican Volunteers

1. “ I hope to take more time to pause, reflect, and breath: to establish peace of mind. And to reflect on this incredible thing we call life." Jake Moran, 2018-19 Dominican Volunteer, Chicago Illinois.

2. “My New Year’s Resolution is to make more art.” Allison Beyer, Codirector Dominican Volunteers USA.

3. “My New Year’s Resolution is to take time in nature’s.” David Gayes Communications Coordinator, Dominican Volunteers USA.

4. “My New Years Revolution is to continue to get out of my comfort zone and build stronger connections with not only my community but with the students of ICA Cristo Rey High School.” Rosanna Fiasche, Dominican Volunteer San Francisco California.

5.  This year, I would like to make writing a part of my life again. My resolution is to begin working on my creative writing projects a little every weekend, either through revision or drafting.” Elizabeth Broussard, Dominican Volunteer, Redwood City California

The DVUSA staff Allison Beyer, David Gayes, and Megan Rupp