Our alumni come from all sorts of backgrounds, and move on to do many different things after their year with GSV. Here are a few stories on how GSV has impacted their lives.
“A Year of GSV, a Lifetime of…”
I served as a GSV in New York City at Marian Hall. I still think about the young girls I served and where they may be today. How did life turn out for them and did their time at Marion Hall have a lasting impact?
What I treasure most from the year, is the friendships I made with the volunteers. We still stay in touch and for many years following our time in NYC we had annual reunions. Even though our lives continue to go different directions, I still call them friends.
It’s hard to find one word that encapsulates the impact of my GSV year on my life. As a member of the first GSV group, under the incredible vision of Sister Maureen, we were challenged to envision a home from an empty rectory (“you want us to lift HOW many mattresses up HOW many flights of stairs?!”). I was challenged to build a community of two; just me and the young, enthusiastic, and wonderfully naive Tricia, whom I believe will watch over us and the mission of the Good Shepherd always. I was challenged to enter into the lives and experience of an isolated, urban community who suffered a sudden and significant violent loss. I was challenged, despite my fears, to facilitate Communion Services, to give homilies (?!), to live through the experiences of rebuilding a broken community, sharing my life with people whose lives, on the surface, appeared to be nothing like mine. I learned that our hearts, our spirits, our dreams, were not so different. As I reflect on turning 50 this year (FIFTY?!), I can say that since my GSV year, I know that I do not want to remain complacent in my own experience and perceptions. GSV allowed me to challenge myself, my preconceptions, and biases, my spirituality, my relationship with God, understanding that as a child of God, despite my many flaws, I can still offer myself in service to others. I hope to continue to challenge myself as a social worker in a more homogeneous community, as a parent, and as a person. I hope to always seek out the lost with zeal, to live a life in which “a soul is of more value than a world.”
In a very obvious way, my experiences with GSV help inform the job I have today on a daily basis — I’m a Program Coordinator at JVC. (I know, gasp!) But as I accompany volunteers in a similar setting, I find myself returning again and again to what that year meant to me. I’m still unpacking it all, but the constant theme I have found so far is how GSV helped me value vulnerability and brokenness, and to meet people with compassion. To borrow words from Fr. Greg Boyle, that year started a lifetime of learning what it means to stand in awe of what people have to carry, rather than stand in judgement for how they carry it. My community and my clients let me into their brokenness, and I let them into mine, and we just loved each other. And that’s a lesson I am so, so grateful for.
My year as a GSV, provided a profound impact to both my personal and professional direction. The GSV pillar of community and relationships, created an immense amount of growth and I am grateful to my community for challenging me in some of the most vulnerable of circumstances. Additionally, within my service site at Euphrasian Residence, forming genuine relationships was critical in order to effectively serve. On a daily basis, the quote from Saint Mary Euphrasia Pelletier, “One person is of more value than the whole world”, challenged me to deepen the relationships with each of the girls and to ensure they understood their value in the world, even amidst the most difficult of times. Over the course of the last 15+ years since my service, I continue to appreciate the value and importance of relationships in both my personal and professional life. I am grateful for the opportunity to have served as a Good Shepherd Volunteer and the many ways it has challenged me to grow in relationships.
To give a voice to those who have none. To question when others obey. To stand by the conviction of your beliefs, even when others taunt you. My time with GSV has strengthened my resolve to expand my social responsibility, to use my privileges for the welfare of others. From conducting my dowry free marriage, teaching Bollywood dancing to refugee children, to petitioning against the torture of animals… GSV’s values have been at the center of my spirit. The lessons I learnt during my year can be best summarized by Edmund Burke, “All it takes for evil to triumph is when good men remain silent.”
GSV was a continuation of my education in that it taught me how to be a resilient and empathetic adult. GSV shaped me to be the person I am – someone who strives to be thoughtful, respectful, an advocate, and attentive to my community. It is really difficult to express all the ways that GSV shaped my life because without it I am sure my life would be very different. It certainly allowed me to develop my spirituality as well as my passion for social justice. Even today, I think back to the lessons I learned from the young adults I work with, my crazy but incredible community who I am still in touch with, and what New York itself taught me – true life lessons about compassion, empathy and justice. I am a better person because of my experiences as a GSV and continue to explore all the blessings and opportunities that life has to offer with an open heart and an open mind.
My year as a GSV made me realize what I wanted to do with my life. The story of the town by the river which kept seeing bodies float down the river every day and the final question raised of what was causing the bodies to float down the river made me realize that I wanted to spend my life figuring out what was causing the problems and devising solutions to address those problems. In light of that realization I obtained a Masters of Public Policy and currently work for the Colorado Legislature as a budget and policy analyst. Additionally my husband and I have 2 beautiful children and are expecting our 3rd in September. My children have taught me a lot about accepting challenges and using them to become a better mom, wife and woman.
Moving to New York as a 22 year-old I had no idea how much my time at Good Shepherd Volunteers would shape my life. I came with little knowledge and left having found my career. During my year with GSV I was placed at St. Helena’s residence, a group home for teenage girls. There I developed relationships with each young woman and was impressed by their hope for the future, despite their horrible past. Some of my favorite memories from that year include laughing while at the Fright Fest Night and smiling proudly at one of the girl’s graduations. I was later hired on as a case planner within the group home and today provide therapy to children and teens who have been affected by physical and sexual abuse. It was my time in GSV, the opportunity to focus on social justice within the support of a community, that shaped me into the person I am today. I am grateful for all I learned during my time at GSV.
My two years of service with GSV not only gave me an opportunity to strengthen my faith but also allowed me to grow my capacity to care; to be able to step onto the shoes of another and feel their pain. When I moved to the United States, I witnessed the same suffering and unbearable places in many communities. In Washington, Dc while leaving and working as a good shepherd volunteer, I was fortunate to attend the servant leadership school. I learned a lot about being broken and being beloved through the preaching and lesson of the late Gordon Cosby. In my work today as a Mental Health Clinician, I experience the greatest pain in many of my clients is rejection, the feeling that nobody really wants you. The feeling that I am seen as ugly, a burden, of no value. This is the pain I have discovered in the hearts of clients I serve today in Maryland. GVS was a happy accident for me and forever will be grateful!
My year as a GSV has taught me to approach each day as a new and different adventure. Working with teenagers, I have learned not to be too committed to a daily schedule because it rarely follows along as planned. I have learned to be flexible and to adapt to anything that may come my way. I have carried this sense of unplanned adventure not only to the children I am caring for now but to my outlook on everyday life. Through the strength of my GSV community and those around me, I am living a life full of adventure, compassion, love, and zeal.
When my undergraduate years at the University of Notre Dame ended, I could not have been placed with a better volunteer organization. To this day, my time with the Good Shepherd Sisters informs me as I try to work toward social justice in my own way as a scholar-activist. The Sisters continue to serve as role models in my life. These words come to mind when I think of the Sisters, lessons learned as a GSV, and how the Good Shepherd experiences inspire me: social justice; living simply; compassion; poco a poco (“little by little”) (i.e. seemingly small steps add up); service / volunteering; self-reflection; prayer / meditation; peacefulness; forgiveness; work ethic; feminist and human rights activism. I am very thankful to have known Good Shepherd Sisters from different countries and to have been a GSV.
My year with GSV was one of the most influential years of my life. It was my catalyst into adulthood, into independence, into self-discovery. It was also where I formed relationships with friends who would help me through the roughest times in my life. I am eternally grateful for the self-reflection, the intentional community building, and the giving of myself and my talents that was required through this program. I will always hold it near and dear to my heart. Thank you GSV!
In the two years since I was a GSV volunteer, I’ve visited and caught up with almost everyone in my Wickatunk community, some a couple of times. We share what is going on in our lives occasionally over Facebook, and I know when big life events happen we’ll be there for each other. I also spent two months working at Collier after leaving, and there are some amazing people there who I will remain friends with and visit whenever I make it out that way. So even thought I only spent 12 months with GSV, I’ve made friends that will be with me from here on out.
When I started right out of college, I never imagined that one single year would become such an integral part of the rest of my life. I’m not in social work or a related field, but the listening skills I learned in foster care still inform how I work in Book Publishing today. GSV community gave me the tools to have important conversations with all of my relationships, and the gift of some lifelong friendships. Our GSV simplicity informs my decisions every time that I consider how to spend my time and money. And experiences in spirituality shape my view of the great diversity of spiritual practice available to me. Thank God for that one year.
Almost one year later, I remain inspired by the values I embraced during my year of service. I am inspired to volunteer monthly; I engage in a different community each time. I am inspired to take on a Buy Nothing New in 2016 challenge; a way for me to embody simplicity. And I am inspired to work toward my dream job; a passion discovered while serving. I gave one year to GSV and in return I have received a lifetime of inspirational prosperity.