Jan, Kevin and Kathy, our three FaithJustice Fellowship Volunteers, are a little more than halfway through their year of service with the Center for FaithJustice. We asked each of them to give the blog a vignette on their year so far. Here are the FJF Volunteers reflecting on the gifts they’ve been given, the lessons they’ve learned and the graces received during this year.
Jan Wilcox’s volunteer responsibilities include helping coordinate and facilitate Center for FaithJustice youth programs, such as JusticeworX and SOFIA confirmation programs.
On Thursday, as I flipped my calendar to March 1, it hit me… six months of a one-year FaithJustice Fellowship with the Center for FaithJustice are officially over. It’s unbelievable to me, and as I pause to reflect on this, I realize that I feel, simultaneously, completely baffled that it’s already been six months, and utterly flabbergasted that I’ve only been here for six months. My time living and serving at the Casa on an ever-varied list of projects (from mopping floors to writing program content to pumpkin-sitting to facilitating Confirmation retreats to cooking for Soup & Psalms) has flown by. In some ways, it feels like last week that I was pulling up to the building, arriving in New Jersey for the first time in my life. I remember so well my 12-hour drive from Michigan, the excitement about my big adventure, my shyness in meeting my new co-workers, and my nerves about living so far from family and friends for the first time. How can time be passing so quickly?
On the other hand, I can’t believe that six months and one day ago, I didn’t know the fantastic staff or friends of CFJ, hadn’t seen first hand the great work they do, had never participated in Soup & Psalms or visited St. Ann or St. Matthias parish. In a surprisingly short time, places and people that were complete strangers have become a home and community; how can all that have happened in just six months?
It would take me pages to express the gifts and graces that have been offered to my life in these months; I’m not even sure where I’d begin. I have learned so much about myself, my strengths and weaknesses, my relationship with God. I could tell countless stories of encounters with middle school Confirmation candidates, lunch-time conversations with the staff of CFJ, visits to my co-fellow and the residents at Visitation Home, homilies from Monsignor Vince, and so many other moments and experiences that have forever changed my perspective.
Arguably, the biggest gifts I’ve been given so far this year are time, change, and a new appreciation for discernment. I lost my job last spring after seven years in direct parish ministry, and the time of transition both excited (“I can do whatever I want!”) and terrified me (“What the heck am I gonna do?!”). The time I’ve been granted through this Fellowship (along with the relationships and experiences) has allowed me to grieve the loss of that period of my life, learn about other sides of ministry, and discern where God might be leading me next. It has been such a gift to have a roof over my head, food on the table, and meaningful work to do while still having the downtime to explore and pray about what is next. While I miss those back in Michigan, the change of scenery and pace, meeting new people, and shaking up my day-to-day life have allowed me such grace to move forward. I’ve spent so much of my life making plans, telling God what I wanted; it’s so freeing to allow Him to lead, to be open to His plans.
It’s been 183 days since I arrived in New Jersey and to the Center for FaithJustice. Only God knows (literally) where I’ll be 183 days from now, but I do know this: I’m having a blast, and I plan to soak up every grace, every opportunity, every moment He offers me along the way. – Jan Wilcox
Kevin Wright is spending his FaithJustice Fellowship year as a pastoral intern at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
The grace I receive on a daily basis in my ministry as a FaithJustice Fellow is the gift of gratitude. My ministry experience at Sacred Heart Parish in New Brunswick teaches me that my service to the Hispanic community is an unequal relationship. As a community, they have much more love to offer me than I can ever express in kind. The most I can do on an individual basis is first to openly receive their communal love, and then share my personal love with them in unequal measure. It is the best that I can do. By myself, I am a very limited individual who has little or nothing to give. Everything that I have to give I first receive from others through God’s grace. For this I am grateful. Please don’t misunderstand; I know well the Biblical precept that it is better to give than to receive. My ultimate goal is to serve the Hispanic community at Sacred Heart, but I would be remiss if I ignored the abundant gifts I receive from them first. To pretend I am the only one who has something to give and nothing to receive from those I serve would be narrow-minded and self-centered. I must acknowledge that I have nothing to give if I do not first receive. God loved us first. For this I am grateful. – Kevin Wright
Kathy Murray’s FaithJustice Fellowship volunteer placement is at Visitation Home, a Catholic shared residence for people with developmental disabilities.
In so many facets, time has been the greatest gift I have been given thus far in my year of service. On a multitude of levels this gift has been revealed to me simply as “Kathy, just wait, you aren’t on your time, you are on mine,” love God.
Time has allowed me to be part of the lives of the residents in such a unique way. I have to laugh to myself when it feels like I am continually asking the residents to hurry along when we need to head out to an activity or Mass. Personally, I strive in being punctual and precise with time, but time only becomes an issue for the residents at bedtime or in the morning when it is time to awake.
On December 7th, we thought one of our residents was going to die from issues connected to his recent diagnoses of congestive heart failure. It was only a matter of time. As we went through the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, we waited for the news of his passing… and waited, and waited. The next day, we received word that he was going to get a pacemaker put in that day, be discharged to his sisters the next and possibly back to Visitation Home within the week. (As it turned out, he did return on that timeline.) I clearly recall during that time of waiting, the planner in me kept trying to keep one step ahead of things and figure out the next, yet I was stagnant because nothing concrete was being revealed to me — or was it? It was a matter of time, God’s time.
I have to admit that one of the main reasons why I was so attracted to the idea of this year of service/fellowship was to have an opportunity to make the best of my time to research, apply and to be accepted into graduate programs for a Masters in Social Work. I am very happy that this goal has been met. But the grace of the time that I have spent with the Visitation Home residents and staff has truly been my greatest gift. – Kathy Murray
We are grateful for the service to church and society of our FaithJustice Fellowship Volunteers. For more information on this project, including how to apply for a Fellowship, please see our website.