Growing In Compassion And Love

JillianBy Jillian Foster, FC 20

In the last few years, I have learned a lot about discernment and prayer. It started my sophomore year of college and there has always been one big decision or situation that I needed to pray and discern about. I have also started to feel a calling. That calling is very similar to what I am doing in FrancisCorps and my purpose for being in FrancisCorps. During my freshman year, I suddenly got an urge to travel and talked all about wanting to see the world despite my limited to nil international experience. Sophomore year, I chatted with a recruiter from the Peace Corps and studied abroad in Ireland the summer after. During junior year, I was accepted into a program that sent me to Malawi, Africa for two months the following summer and started being active in the Catholic Relief Services Student Ambassador program. During my senior year, I wanted to participate in a service experience abroad but decided to try domestic first, applied and was invited into a few different service organizations. Ultimately, I chose FrancisCorps.

This year has been a challenge and a test. A challenge that forced me out of my comfort zone and a test that addresses whether service is something that I enjoy and am cut out for it. These past few years, I have gotten attached to the idea of service. I believe everyone is called to serve and be a servant. There are many different ways of doing that, whether it is serving your family, friends, consumers of a business, or community, everyone is able to serve in some way or another. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have not felt called to the traditional lifestyle that most parents hope for their children: getting married, having kids, settling down or at least not yet. FrancisCorps is, for me, not just giving a year of my life to service, but the start of my career in service.

Much like my experience in FrancisCorps, I wish to seek new challenges and expand my comfort zone. I feel called to meet and live among people who are different than me. I desire to learn about different cultures and tongues. Through these experiences, I hope to be of service to others and be present to them on their journeys in life. I hope to cultivate a greater understanding and love for all of God’s children, my brothers and sisters around the world I have yet to meet. When FrancisCorps comes to a close, I have been blessed to join the Maryknoll Lay Missioners for a term of service in Haiti. God-willing, I hope to continue to be a servant to those I meet and grow in compassion and love.

Where To Next?

ElizabethBy Elizabeth McNulty, FC 20

Where to next? Isn’t that the ultimate question? It’s a very common one for us to hear, especially since the year has been winding down and people are getting curious. It’s also a totally fair question. We gave up a year of our lives to serve and that year is running out. So of course, the question is being pondered in other’s brains, and looming in our own. However, that does not make it any less terrifying or daunting. When asked this question, I usually refer to a state of panic. I always think that I need to have a beautifully eloquent answer as to what my “perfect plan” is for the next chapter in life.  I think about how I need to carefully word my answer to make my future sound successful, smart, and put-together because anything else will be a considered failing, right?

Wrong.

Society has a way of rating your own achievements and growth based on an often small-minded view of what success looks like. Go to school, get good grades, find a good job right away, get promoted, and make lots of money. While I know this schedule is a little dramatic, it is often at the very least a version of what people tend to see and expect. Truth is that I don’t have anything close to one of those “10-year plans” that people talk about. I don’t even have a 10-minute plan! Maybe I’ll open the fridge? Have a snack? In my humble opinion, success for me will not depend on how much money I make, how many connections I have, what awards and promotions I receive, etc. Now don’t get me wrong, all those things would be great to have and be recognized for, but I think true success depends on the little decisions I make every day that will either make me a better or worst person, and especially the people around me.

So here it is folks. The biggest failure for me will have nothing to do with my lack of worldly accolades. I truly believe that the biggest failure would be allowing myself to believe I am a failure simply because I do not perfectly fit someone else’s imposed view of “the successful person”. The biggest failure would be forcing myself into a mold that I was never meant to, and becoming a shell of the person I am suppose to be. The biggest failure would be living in this mold and making a lifetime of lukewarm contributions to society and the world, rather than really making my own unique and necessary impact on the lives I touch. The biggest failure would be cheating the world of what I have to offer by thinking that offer isn’t good enough.

So, for me, what comes next will be a job, and probably a few more after that until I find what I am best suited for. But of paramount more importance, what comes next will be a lifetime of using the lessons I have learned, as well as the lessons I will continue to learn, to help shape each decision I make in order to help make earth more like heaven rather than the alternative. Luckily for me, having had the privilege of participating in a year of direct service to a few different marginalized communities, I am now equipped with a fully stalked toolbox of those hard-earned lessons.

Ultimately where I’m called to go from here is not necessarily a “what” or a “where”, but a “who”. The question is not a matter of “where I am called to go from here”, so much as “who will I choose to be from now on”. At the end of the day, people are what matter, which is an all-too-forgotten concept. What will dictate my future is how I decide to handle situations, opportunities and, mostly importantly, the people that come into my path. I want to be ready if and when I do reach those pearly gates with a long list of people that I can say I helped bring. That is when I will consider myself successful.

The world has been graced with centuries of incredibly remarkable people who should certainly be revered as such. Their examples are great ones to follow and strive towards. But the world does not need another exact replica of these people, or their successes. Maybe exactly what the world needs is its very first Jenny Rose Anacan, Jill Foster, Isabel McCormick, Rachel Zanfardino, and even Elizabeth McNulty.

Life Resume

RachelBy Rachel Zanfardino, FC 20

Around this time last year, I was graduating from the best four years of my life. The kind of place that helps you to find yourself and feel that you might have an independent and unique purpose on this planet, even if you have no idea what that purpose is. Fairfield University constantly challenged me to reflect on the big stuff, and one of the hardest questions was: Who am I, whose am I, and who am I called to be? The first two were checked and checked.

But the part of who am I called to be? Well, I was going off to serve a marginalized community in Syracuse, NY with FrancisCorps so that was who I was called to be for now. However, I was hoping this year of service and reflection would help me make those big life decisions of who I was going to be in the long run. After graduation, many of my friends were going out into the world, getting their first jobs and apartments, moving away from home and starting their lives as adults. I wasn’t really ready to be an adult. In fact, I still don’t really consider myself an adult, just a big kid trying to coexist with everyone who already graduated into adulthood.

During this year of service, I think I found the answer of who I am called to be but not in the dichotomous black or white way that I was looking for. I thought I would figure out what my job would be, especially because society relies a lot on jobs, careers and money. When you meet someone, one of the first questions you ask them is “what do you do?” And I have come to realize, why does it matter? Why as a society do we fixate so much on what we do and hardly ever focus on who the people are behind the job?

As I have been worrying so much about my life after this year, where will I work, how will I pay my loans, how I will support myself, I remembered something else a friend of mine asked me: “If someone were to read your Eulogy what would you want it to say?” Whoa, kind of a weird question! Even though I am at the ripe old age of 23, I am not quite ready to think about my death. But then I got thinking… what would I want someone to say, how would I want to be remembered? Would I want the qualities that someone talked about in my eulogy to be the same qualities that I list on my resume for a potential job? Is there more to listing things like, shows up on time, works well independently or in groups, great Excel skills?

These are the qualities that you have to list when trying to market yourself to others. But are they the things that really matter about who you are? FrancisCorps is not only going on my actual resume but also my life resume. It is going under a list of experiences that have taught me to build relationships with people who are different than I am, to be a better listener (even as a huge talkative extrovert), to grow in empathy and understanding for marginalized populations and, most importantly, to voice my ideas even when others disagree with me. I am called to be Rachel. A person, who acknowledges the importance of others, leads with love, and preaches the Gospel, only using words if she has to. I am not a person who will be defined by careers and societal expectations, losing myself to the opinions and standards of others.

A eulogy is kind of like a life resume to God. It comes from the people who knew you best and outlines the important qualities that you had throughout your life. I don’t know what people will say in mine, but I hope that what they do say is that I treated others with kindness, and utilized the voice and the skills I obtained this year to make a difference in the lives of others.