Tag Archives: Service

Communion of the Heart

Elizabeth Hascher, Senior Anchor Intern

Just as quickly as my summer began, it was over. Even though I hadn’t been on campus for eight months, it felt like it was just last week that I was loading up my car with storage tubs and driving away, golden dome in my rearview mirror. At first, the thought of coming back was terrifying. I left campus last fall feeling very much ready to leave. It was a semester with a lot of difficult moments, and it left me questioning if Notre Dame was the place for me.

That trying semester did come with some unexpected blessings, however. One thing led to another during the fall, and I was presented with the opportunity to spend my summer participating in an SSLP with the L’Arche community in Spokane, Washington. There are 137 L’Arche communities throughout the world, and each of them provides a home and community where people with and without intellectual disabilities share their lives with one another. They live and work together, form friendships and relationships of faith, and seek to strengthen and provide growth opportunities for their communities.

That all sounds great, but what L’Arche really looks like is living in a house with ten other people and just embracing life with one another. L’Arche is about drinking coffee with your friends in the morning and sitting on the porch for hours. It’s about dancing in the kitchen and praying together after dinner. It’s also about talking with one another and sharing feelings of sadness or frustration, or giving someone a hug after a difficult day. Sometimes it’s even about laughing really hard when someone farts unexpectedly during breakfast.

L’Arche celebrates the Fourth of July together with a picnic.

As I left my L’Arche family and came back to school, I carried this experience with me. Knowing that a lot had changed during my time away from campus, I thought about my time in Spokane and wondered how I would be able to take what I learned and share it with others. How would I be able to explain to people at Notre Dame what a radically different lifestyle L’Arche was, and how it taught me more than perhaps any class? Well, here it is.

Living with people with intellectual disabilities showed me that the way we spend our time says volumes about the values we hold. If we truly let our lives speak, we can learn a lot about ourselves. We may be surprised to find that we may not be honoring our values and beliefs quite the way we perceive ourselves to be. It should give each of us pause to think about times when we have valued worldly things, validation from others, and power over vulnerability, humility, and sharing our lives with each other. My time at L’Arche showed me that if I truly desire to let God work in my life, I must intentionally create spaces in which He can dwell.

Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, writes in his book Becoming Human, “Weakness, recognized, accepted, and offered, is at the heart of belonging, so it is at the heart of communion with another.” If we are to invite God in, we must choose to make time for the moments of joy in our lives, but also for those times of pain and sorrow. We must be more open about offering this up with the people around us. It is in such moments, when we give each other even the tiniest of glimpses into what is on our hearts, that we come into communion with one another.

Through this communion of the heart, God enters our lives. God dwells in the spaces of brokenness and weakness, and he is present in times of joy and celebration as well. He is there when we share snacks and tell jokes with our friends, and when we tell someone how tough our day really was. He’s there when we dance in the car and when we need someone to help us get out of bed in the morning. When we share life with one another and become vulnerable in this way, we make room for God.

Elizabeth and Tina go out for community night at a minor league baseball game

God seeks a personal relationship with each of us, and it is up to us to invite Him in through encounters of the heart. This means different things for everyone. Perhaps it is as simple as putting down your to-do list and taking a walk with a friend. Maybe it means sitting at dinner to talk for half an hour longer instead of catching up on your favorite TV show. It could even be simply being physically present to the person next to you. We can’t pretend to know everything that is on another person’s heart, but we can certainly make more of an effort to share what is on ours and be open to receiving that from others.

As tempting as it may be to say that everything is fine or pretend that life under the dome is all sunshine and tailgates, we are closing off our hearts to communion with each other and God when we do so. Jean Vanier also writes, “To speak of the heart is not to speak of vaguely defined emotions but to speak of the very core of our being.” If we are to cultivate our minds and our hearts here at Notre Dame, we need to be more intentional about opening our hearts to one another. It is then that we will begin to recognize God’s kingdom on Earth.

 

Why We Minister: Mary Olen

Mary Olen, Administrative Assistant, Retreat Administrative Coordinator

Why do I stay up watching one more episode of Fargo when I have to work in the morning? Why do I eat that third piece of chicken when I was full after the second piece?  Why did I offer to write this blog when I despise writing?  Those are the difficult questions!   Why we minister?  That is much easier.

Tender, Strong and True // Freshman Retreat

Leaving Martin’s supermarket, I have a trunk full of groceries and two kids strapped into the backseat. As I pull out onto Elwood Street heading home, I notice a young woman struggling to juggle groceries and a toddler while standing at the bus stop. I pull up to the curb and ask if she would like a ride. She eagerly and gratefully accepts. We make room to pack them into our little Saturn wagon. Driving several miles to the west-side on Indiana Avenue, she points to the building where I should pull over.  Mentioning how far she has to travel to grocery shop, she tells me the commute takes her downtown where she transfers buses. The block we are on is not residential and she motions to a door on the side street.  We gather her bags and trudge up the stairs which empties into a single dingy room above an abandoned business front.  There is one wooden table with 2 chairs, a bed, and a sink. I am ready to drop the groceries and get the heck out of there as she reaches for a bible from the bed and tells me how she is trying to get her life together.  She has done a lot of drugs in the past and knows that she needs to stop. Calling me an angel, she believes that God sent me to help her that day.  I laugh and tell her I am about as far from an angel as there could be but that I was happy I could be of some help.  “Keep praying,” I say “I will pray for you, too.”

Days later, my daughter asked why I picked up a person on the street that I did not know.  I told her it was because she seemed like she needed help and I felt sorry for her.  As soon as the words were leaving my lips, memories shot back into my mind: my mom taking prepared meals to elderly neighbors, buying extra groceries for a single mom who lived in a rundown house at the end of the alley- witnessing those acts of kindness made a deep impression on me.  Are we born with compassion or are we taught compassion?  Is caring and compassion what fuels our desire to minister?  Did 12 years of Catholic education make a difference? I believe yes is the answer.     

The Plunge // African-American Freshman Retreat

The awesome part of ministering is that it often has a retroactive effect.  I left the apartment of a stranger I helped and it made me more humble, more grateful, more present and alive to all the blessings in my life.  “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.” My encounter with a stranger ministered to my children.  You do not need an invitation to assist.  Ministering is just aiding someone in need or just sitting still for someone who needs a listening ear.  We do it every day.  Why?  Well, that depends on who you are.  

So, here I am in Campus Ministry.  I am not a minister by definition.  I do not hold an MDiv., not even a minor in Theology.  As an Administrative Assistant, I minister all day long: to students, to the staff I support, to the people who just drop by because they are visiting campus. But, that is my job. I believe that the true ministering is done with perfect strangers, not expecting anything out of the ordinary who are suddenly given a smile, a hello, a ride as they are standing in the rain waiting for a bus, or given a place in line at the store because they look like they’re in a hurry.  Each of these people are being noticed.  In that small instance of acknowledgment, they feel loved. Isn’t that what everyone really wants?  We seek to minister because we love and we are able to minister because we have witnessed it.  Amen.

Why We Minister: Rebecca Ruvalcaba

Rebecca Ruvulcaba, Multicultural Ministry

“Ministry is a participation in the threefold ministry of Christ, who is priest, prophet, and king.”  ~ USCCB, Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord

Pies del Bautizado (Feet of the Baptized),
Picture of my feet after a walk in the Valley of Death. May 2016

What is a minister?
For years I believed that a minister was only associated with a member of the clergy. I never realized that for years I had been an active minister; participating in the “threefold ministry of Christ.” I grew up serving and participating in different parish ministries but I really did not understand my participation until I lived a retreat called Christ Renews His Parish as an adult. My baptism for years was being lived out unconsciously.

I participated in Jesus’ ministry unknowingly (to some extent) because my parents taught me that we must all work for the betterment of society. We must seek to serve others because that is how it should be. I do not remember my parents, or any other mentor in my life, mentioning the fact that because of our baptism we are called to serve as Jesus did and that our ministry in the world is Jesus himself in the world. My understanding of my service was because it was just something we did as good people. I watched my parents give their talents and gifts, and how they loved humanity, and I desired to do the same. Therefore, my active life in Jesus existed without really knowing that He was the one working in, with, and through me

When was the first time I realized I desired to give more beyond just a “job”?
It was the Holy Spirit that moved my heart at the CRHP retreat, and I realized that God had always been guiding and moving me in His direction; serving and “ministering” to, with, and for His people. For many years my “work” was because I desired to give of myself to the community. I had worked in food pantries, with migrant farmworkers (making sure that they had medical assistance), leading girl scout troops, and confirmation classes at my parish.

After living the CRHP retreat in 2009 my “work” became God’s, and my desire to give of myself became Jesus’ gift of self in and through me. I realized that I was His vessel, I was serving and giving God’s love that had become part of me. The only reason I was able to serve at my parish, to serve at my job, and to serve my family and friends was because God’s love had penetrated my being. My life became as the apostle Paul says in his letter to the Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). My life was of God’s and it had always been. All that I had done in my life was because Jesus lived in me, and I now desired to live more fully in him.

When have I felt overwhelmed and/or consumed by Jesus in ministry? Why?
In these 8 years of consciously serving in the vineyard of the Lord (Mt 20:1-16) I have found myself often overwhelmed and consumed by Jesus. He has filled my heart so much that I often find my thoughts consumed by Him and I have found myself often saying: “Padre Mio, Aqui Estoy” (My Father, Here I Am). There is peace, joy, and an amazing love that consumes me and I desire to give myself to all that He desires. There is a growing fascination I have for Jesus, and I have fallen in love with Him and all He did and does in, with, and through all of us. My heart is so much more compassionate and generous with and for others because of Jesus’ heart in me. I desire a deeper relationship with Jesus. I sit with Him often to listen for His word, and I pray for His guidance and wisdom. As I move in the world, Jesus allows me to encounter Him in all people and I have come to love Him in the flesh through each of them.

In the spring of 2015, I started to have an overwhelming sense that there was something I needed to do that was not academically focused. I had spent four semesters and two summers studying about God and my heart was missing something. I went to visit the director of HIM (Hearts In Motion, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the poor in Guatemala) and found myself with a desire to serve the poor in Guatemala. I withdrew from my next summer session and the organization found a sponsor which allowed me to I fly with a team of doctors, nurses, and students to Zacapa, Guatemala.

I thought I was to work in an orphanage organizing a soccer camp for the local children but God had other plans for me. I spent 11 days as a medical interpreter. It was one of the most humbling and moving experiences of my life. I encountered Jesus in every single child that saw the doctors, and I heard the concerns and love in the voices of the parents. I felt His love in every hug and heard God’s voice in the words of gratitude that the people expressed. I had been studying of God but my heart desired to know Him at a deeper level. I desired to be consumed not just intellectually but spiritually.

 

La Cara de Jesus (The Face of Jesus), Interpreting in Zacapa, Guatemala, Summer of 2015.

What called me to Campus Ministry and working with Multicultural Ministry?
As I continued on in my academic studies, I realized I needed to continue ministering in my parish community at St. Adalbert/St. Casimir seeking to encounter Jesus on a deeper level. Nonetheless, there was something more that God wanted from me. As I was approaching my final year of studies, I was confronted with having to discern where God desired me to serve His people in the best way possible. In my years of study in the MDiv, here at the University of Notre Dame, I always believed that I would be doing parish ministry full-time at my home parish. It never crossed my mind to be anywhere else but God had other plans.

I was called to Campus Ministry, specifically multicultural ministry, because of God’s many servants in His vineyard who knew of my experience and work in the Latino community and in the Catholic Church. I came with no expectations and future inclinations to make ND Campus Ministry my place of ministry but God in His boundless wisdom placed me in the path of some of the most amazing and loving young people. For years, my husband and I prayed for children but we were never blessed with our very own. However, over the years, God has given us many spiritual children. I’ve come to realize that here as Campus Ministry I will be able to love and care for many of His young people.

Through the years, I have worked with many different communities and experienced many different ways of life. I have ministered in a large Latino Catholic community and encountered Jesus in a non-Catholic homeless person. I have worked with Jews, Muslims, and Christians on social justice issues and I have ministered in a diverse community on the West Side of South Bend providing food and youth programming. God has guided me here to Campus Ministry and multicultural ministry. I have learned that there is no difference in who we serve. Jesus loved everyone and cared for all no matter their ethnic background, culture, and/or faith background. “Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon” (Mark 3:7-8). During His ministry, He reached out to Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans, and Romans. I was attracted to multicultural ministry because of Jesus’ example and the call to live the “eternal gospel” which is to preach to “every nation and tribe and tongue and people” (Rev. 14:6).

Why do I minister?
I minister because of my threefold ministry in Christ. In my priestly call I pray for wisdom and the heart of Jesus; in my prophetic life I speak through, walk in, and proclaim with the Truth; and in my royal commission, I govern my interior being to be able to serve and care for the people of God. I minister because of whose I am in and through my baptism.

 

“Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” ~ Matthew 28:19