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Dear Future Good Shepherd Volunteers

Dear Future GSVs,

A.A. Milne once said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” I realized within the past few months that Good Shepherd Volunteers is definitely something that’s hard saying goodbye to. Some days I want it to be over already and move onto the newest chapter in my life. Most times, however, the thought of saying goodbye to such an important part of my life is scary in itself.  

GSV has been one of the most challenging experiences I have ever gone through (in a good way). I left such a comfortable space in Virginia filled with friends and family to a somewhat unfamiliar place like New York City. Thirteen individuals were going through a similar transition, leaving their comfort zones to continue the work of Saint Mary Euphrasia: to just love individuals in some of the hardest situations. I remember the transition was brutal: I had major anxiety attacks, felt lost trying to find myself in my community and work, trying to make my spiritual journey my own, and stressing out about the little stipend money I had. Through spiritual direction, guidance from colleagues, support from all of my new communities and finding my own definition of simplicity, it got better. I grew a lot as an individual by learning how to interpret the different tenets through the many retreats, experiences at work, community/spirituality nights, and just interactions with other people. I slipped a couple of times (aka spent more than I should have), but I got better at it. All the positive things about GSV outweighed the negatives by a landslide.

The greatest positive energy during my time as a GSV has been my youth in foster care. Working with teenagers and young adults is not an easy task, especially those who are in the system. However, their growth and resilience has motivated me tremendously. They inspired me to attend graduate school at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College in the fall. The hardest goodbye has been with them. They taught me a lot about inner strength and that life is too short to let bad situations take the best of me. Another constant encouragement in my year has been the other volunteers, especially my community members and the New York City/New Jersey GSVs. They have been constantly challenging me to be honest, knowledgeable of issues, accountable for living a simple lifestyle, and to be the best person I can be to support them and my youth. Some of them I have now considered long-time friends. For that, I want to thank them for being the best people to go on this journey with.

Future GSVs, I have a few suggestions for you before you start this beautiful journey:

  1. Take risks: Whether that’s trying that really weird food that’s popular in your new home or trying a simplicity challenge, just try it. This is a year of newness.

  2. Make the four tenets your own: You might have different interpretations of these tenets from your community members due to different passions and experiences. That’s totally okay.

  3. Be present during your time: This time is for YOU to learn about the world and make connections with individuals and yourself. You might miss really cool opportunities and relationships if you look too far into the future or the past.

  4. Use your support systems: You have a whole community with you. This doesn’t just include the people that you live with. Use all of them, including other GSVs, alumni, staff, coworkers, and new friends along the way.

  5. Learn about Saint Mary Euphrasia: She’s an awesome gal. Use her words and her stories as an inspiration to you.Take advantage of self-care: Your job can be really stressful and intense.

  6. Take care of you or else you won’t be able to take care of others.

  7. Just love: Take this to heart. Make this statement a constant reminder during your year.

I wish you the best of luck during your GSV year. It is a crazy ride of emotions and experiences. It is a really hard thing to say goodbye to, but I’m glad to say that I’m a better person because of it.

Written by Emily Mazzola

Family Foster Care

Washington Heights Community, ‘16-‘17


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