A Place of Love and Support

By Veronica Feliz, FC 18 SyracuseRefugee Resettlement 1

In the hit song “22,” Taylor Swift sings, “We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time, it’s miserable and magical, oh yeah.” And I wish I was kidding, but reading the lyrics to that song made me a little emotional (read: very emotional). I had no idea how true they would become for me being 22, a year out of college, and just getting back from a whirlwind trip filled with old and new friends. At the airport or in the car going from one great group of people in a great place to another completely different, yet equally great place this past week I couldn’t help but feel every emotion imaginable.

While talking with a friend from college I realized that I’m not the only one (and we’re definitely not the only two) who struggled with massive self-doubt since graduating. We both consider ourselves pretty self-aware people but we have had some currently unexplainable changes in our lives and our selves that have caused us to reevaluate nearly everything we once believed. Although the past week has been one existential crisis after another, one thought always made me feel better: I was going back to Syracuse soon where I have a strong support system, especially at the FrancisCorps house. One source of the angst many recent college graduates have is not knowing how they fit in in their new city or job or social circle, but I will never forget how in the year after college – which can be described as both miserable and magical – I had a community of people who surrounded me and made me feel way less lonely and way more loved than I ever expected.

The Call to Sainthood

By Kaitlyn Sterneker, FC 18  SyracuseFrancis House 4

I had been struggling to find inspiration on what to write about. No out of the ordinary day, no prophetic thought during prayer, and no deep revelation while on a run were happening. Of course, I was still amazed at the life stories of the residents at my service site, Francis House.  I was listening with open ears and wide eyes. The friendships with my fellow community members and volunteers kept expanding, and I was continuously blown away by the kindness and love that surrounded me.

This morning while picking a shirt to wear to work, I stumbled upon one of my favorites that had been caught behind a jacket and I had forgotten about it. It’s a shirt from my college campus Catholic Center, St. Isidore’s. On the back is the following quote from Pope Francis: “To be a saint is not a privilege for a few, but a vocation for everyone.” There it was; the message I was feeling but struggling to pinpoint. Nice job, God. You certainly have a way of revealing your messages to us.

In the past year, I have frequently been on the receiving end of comments and questions like, “You’re giving up so much”; “You’re not receiving any college credit for this? What are you doing this for?”; “You are such a great person doing this!”; “You’re a saint!” While I understand the sentiment  – and don’t get me wrong, I am extremely appreciative of the compliments – doing this service has never felt extraordinary to me. In no way have I ever felt like I “gave up” a year of my life.

I understand where the comments come from. Many of my peers are immediately continuing on in school, diving into careers, or families, and I am ecstatic to see the accomplishments; and here I am, going off the beaten path of the “normal and planned” life of most 23 year olds. However, when reflecting upon this year, I am overwhelmingly humbled. I would never consider myself worthy enough to be called a saint. Yet, Pope Francis tells us everyone is not just worth of, but called to sainthood. In the Gospel of Matthew, we are again reminded of our call to worthiness: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed (Mt. 8:8). Maybe acting in a saint like way isn’t so rare, after all.

I don’t view my service as anything other than an incredible opportunity God led me towards in order to use my skills to serve others. We have no idea which of our actions will be saint like to the individuals we serve. Regardless of what we decide to do to serve others, if it is done with kindness, love, humility, and compassion, according to the Merriam-Webster definition – it is saint like. Whether my smile helps to console a loved one after a death or my chocolate chip cookies are the last dessert in one’s life on earth, we can all be someone’s biggest blessing right when they need it.