A Summer of Mercy

By Corrinne Burns, FC 17 SyracuseVincent House 2

Pope Francis, clearly thinking of me when he did it, announced that this year would be a jubilee year– of Mercy. At first, I tossed this idea aside. Mercy was too abstract. I could get behind the years of Faith and Consecrated Life much easier but I knew very little about mercy and was too busy, or not invested enough, to learn more.

Well, I didn’t need to be invested to learn about mercy. My service site and community had plenty to teach me. Last week’s Gospel reading about the Good Samaritan solidified my understanding of my year of Mercy in its closing lines, “‘Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?’ He answered, ‘The one who treated him with mercy.’”

How have I been a neighbor and merciful this past year as the Holy Father asked me to be? I’ve been asking myself this question over the past month as my year of service is ending. I signed up for a Summer of Mercy email daily devotional and it has helped me to see how my year of service has been a year of mercy.

This Summer of Mercy has focused primarily on interacting with the Works of Mercy, something FrancisCorps knows a lot about. God was constantly at work on our hearts this year in small ways and in the most unexpected ways.

Bear Wrongs Patiently: working with youth has made it far too easy to accomplish this work. Each day, I go to work and love the people God has put before me no matter what. However, living in community has placed this work heavily on my shoulders. After being patient with the children I come home and do not want to patiently bear anything. If someone bought 1% milk and not whole milk I am challenged to bear it patiently. If dinner isn’t ready as soon as I expect it I bear that patiently. Even when I’m grumpy or tired and someone makes a small joke at my expense I am pressed to bear that patiently too and be merciful to my neighbors.

Feed the Hungry: This day I thought was easy too. I spent a few extra hours of time I had with Ana at the food pantry and quickly checked this work from my list. Then, I went to Vincent House with the hungry out of my mind and began staff training with the summer staff from the neighborhood. When the Pre-K teacher asked me if I wanted some of their leftover snacks from the year, I saw another way I could feed those who, though not actively hungry, still often went without vital nutrients and I shared what she offered with our new staff from nearby impoverished neighborhoods.

Comfort the Afflicted: My supervisor sometimes can get fired up about various issues. Usually the children keep us occupied and these other thoughts take a back seat, but instead I took this day to take time to listen to the things he had to say. I took time to see how he was and be an active listener. This day led to a week of relationship building between the two of us in a way that we had never gotten to before.

Clothe the Naked: A few weeks prior to the beginning of summer I donated several sweaters and other warm gear in order to purge some of my stuff. Now that I was being challenged to clothe the naked I thought I should perhaps purge again, but that didn’t seem quite enough.  I was finishing up a few things at Vincent House for summer program when one of the girls showed up at the door. I noticed that her feet appeared to be about the same size as a pair of donated Nike shoes I had in the office. Her face lit up when I brought them to her and the day after when she happily told me her dad was letting her wear her new shoes to camp. Uniting her with the pair or shoes seemed a better fit for the day than dumping old t-shirts at Goodwill.

Counsel the Doubtful: Getting this devotional assignment I didn’t even know what it meant. I read the reflection and hoped that something would come up during my day– of course it did. On the first day of summer program we had one young boy who was having a very difficult time staying on tasks, minding his words, and listening to directions. As he was being disciplined I took some time to sit quietly with him and ask about his school year, his behavior, his dreams and fears. Encouraging him to think about his actions while being open and honest with him about my concerns about his behavior sparked a very encouraging conversation that hopefully he will keep thinking about during the summer and when he goes back to school.

Harbor the Homeless: I don’t have much of a direct contact with the homeless population in Syracuse so I again struggled so see how I could be merciful to my homeless neighbor. But, then I realized Vincent House is called a house for a reason. Every day, children without a safe place to go, children who play on the streets, children who have witnessed shootings in their neighborhood come to Vincent House and I am able to harbor them for at least a little while.

As the Summer of Mercy continues I’m eager to see where I experience Mercy every day. Likewise, as I leave FrancisCorps and move onto a new phase of life I’m eager to experience the values and insights I’ve gained here alive in a new way. My year of Service and my year of Mercy won’t end here. They’ll always be a part of who I am and the way I love and treat others.

Brady Raquel

By Brady Kegley, FC 17 Costa Rica IMG_9176

My name is Brady. This has caused a lot of confusion through the course of my life. People meeting me for the first time often expect a man to show up, or they think Brady is my last name and can’t figure out my first name, or they just call me a different name altogether- Brandy, Bradley, Brad, Braden, I thought I’d heard it all.  Living in Costa Rica this year, I found that as confusing as my name is to most people in the US, it is at least twice as confusing to the people here. Brady just isn’t easily pronounceable in Spanish, and all my usual tricks to help people remember (you know, like Tom Brady, the quarterback? Like the TV show, the Brady Bunch?) aren’t culturally relevant here and therefore do not help at all. Add to that the fact that I work with the elderly, who much more easily forget and have an even tougher time accepting such an “odd” name, and you can add even more names to the list of things I’ve been called (my personal favorite is “Brownie”).

To make things easier on my beloved (and increasingly frustrated) residents at my work site, I told them that if Brady was too hard they could call me by my middle name, Rachel, which soon turned to the Spanish version, Raquel. So, at work I began responding to basically any number of names, but more often than not with the residents, I became Raquel. Once a coworker and I were joking around, and he was teasing me about my many names. “You’re so nice Raquel,” he said, emphasizing the way the residents addressed me. “You’re right,” I said, “Raquel is so nice. It’s Brady you have to watch out for!” For a while we joked about my supposed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde scenario, deciding whenever I did something whether it was a more Raquel or more Brady type thing to do.

As I thought about it a little more a few days later, however, I started to wonder if it might be kind of true. If the person I was at work was a little different from the person I was with my community, who was in turn a little different with the person I had been at home. It is somewhat natural, I think, to be a little different depending on your surrounding, but this seemed like it was maybe a little more than that.

Starting FrancisCorps is a lot of new things at once: living in a very intentional community, participating in a very active prayer life, being immersed in sometimes emotionally draining service work. It was a lot to process, and I was finding that sometimes it was easier to compartmentalize it all. At work, I could be Raquel, fully present with the residents and working hard and lovingly. Then I could go home and be Brady, ready to deal with the challenges and joys of community. In the evenings I could go to our prayer space, check prayer off my list for the day, and move on to other things.

Upon reflecting on all this, however, I realized while it might be my reality it wasn’t my ideal. I didn’t want to leave my prayers in the prayer space, I wanted to carry them with me throughout my day. I didn’t want to deny the hard things about work while I was at home only to pick them up again when I got back the next day. I wanted it all to be interconnected- to feel like the experiences were changing me, not just that I put on a new persona everywhere I went.

Luckily, FrancisCorps is almost a year long, so I had plenty of time to put my desires into action. Through retreats, reflection time, being open and vulnerable with my community and letting them help me, and lots and lots of prayer, I found that, without even realizing it, I started to feel more consistently myself all the time. Sure, it was a changed version of myself, but in my opinion a change for the better. I found myself seeing Christ in the residents at work, sharing my frustrations about work with the community, and using skills I learned in community to communicate with the residents and coworkers. It’s still far from perfect, but I’m so happy to have had the time and support here to integrate some of these parts of me into the type of person I aspire to be.

This week, as I close out my time in Costa Rica, I was writing goodbye letters to many of the residents. As I signed them, I thought back to the beginning, when I was so conflicted about if I was putting on a show. If Brady or Raquel was better, and how I could chose one to be.  Now, I was happy to sign them with confidence, “Brady Raquel.”