Faith in Action
|WANTED: Individuals who are willing to work long hours in rural counties in Appalachia, the South and the Southwest. Must be open to learning new skills and adapting to new cultures. Must be ready for the unexpected and above all, must be open to receiving more than is given. Apply to Glenmary Home Missioners.|
Most people will never see a help-wanted ad like this, but folks who have volunteered with Glenmary would agree that the job description is accurate. There are many types of volunteer opportunities available for all age ranges in Glenmary missions or in structured volunteer programs like the Group Volunteer Program at the Glenmary Farm in Vanceburg, Ky., or Camp Glenmary in Mississippi.
The goal of both these programs is to provide outreach to those in need. But there is something else that happens when volunteers spend a week, a month or even a year in volunteer service. That something, according to Glenmary volunteer director Joe Grosek, is that the volunteers find they receive far more than they give.
After a year of service as a manager at the Glenmary Farm, Joe took the position of volunteer director, becoming the first contact for those interested in volunteering with Glenmary.
He travels the country attending volunteer fairs and making contact with folks interested in sharing time and talent in the missions. He places short-term volunteers (usually high school and college groups) and long-term volunteers (Farm managers) for the Vanceburg program.
He also works with Glenmary missioners to find long-term volunteer placement in mission settings. And he passes along the contact information for those interested in volunteering at Camp Glenmary to Father Tim Murphy, director of this Mississippi program.
But 90 percent of Joe's time is devoted to the Glenmary Farm, which grows people, not crops! The Farm managers Joe recruits and trains are vital in nurturing crops of volunteers, many of whom are high school and college-aged students participating in their first service experience.
In recruiting Farm managers—and volunteers in general—Joe says he looks for people "who aren't afraid to work, people who can see the connection between mission work and their faith."
Laura Zant is one of those volunteers. During the two years she spent as a manager at the Farm, the Kalamazoo, Mich., native says she fell in love with the Appalachian culture. So much so, she decided to stay in northeastern Kentucky after leaving the Farm. She now works at nearby Maysville Community College in Maysville, Ky., as a teacher in its adult education and family literacy program.
In her experience working and living in this region of Kentucky she saw firsthand how lack of education feeds the cycle of poverty. So, the University of Dayton graduate hopes that her involvement in the adult education program will help break that cycle.
The volunteers who come to the Farm spend a good part of their time doing a wide range of activities to help those in need in the area.
In addition to individual volunteers searching for ways to make a difference, there are also groups who have been associated with Glenmary's volunteer programs over the years such as Fordham University in New York.
Students at Fordham are encouraged to expand their educational experiences by participating in service opportunities and many choose to work with Glenmary.
Each year volunteer groups from Fordham go to the Farm twice a year and spend one week at Camp Glenmary's Catholic Camp. (Two weeks at Camp Glenmary are known as Catholic Camp. It's a time when Catholic children ages eight-14, from Northeastern Mississippi take part in the usual camp activities of swimming and arts and crafts and learn about their Catholic faith.)
Fordham graduate Jonathan Chiacchere first volunteered at Catholic Camp as a college freshman and he has returned every year since.
"During my first year working with the kids at camp, I gained a tangible understanding of true love and self-sacrifice," says Jonathan. And it's that experience that keeps him coming back. Jonathan, who teaches religion at St. Xavier High School in Manhattan, says at camp he and the other volunteers are "living out what I teach," in religion class.
And, on a personal note, the Bronx resident says camp also helps "a New Yorker slow down and get in touch with nature!"
Father Tim Murphy, pastor of the Glenmary mission in Pontotoc, Miss., and director of Camp Glenmary. says that "camp wouldn't happen if not for the volunteers!"
There are also some local folks, like Adam Troutman, who volunteer at camp. Adam attended Catholic Camp when he was growing up in nearby Amory, Miss., and returned as a teenage volunteer because he wanted to give back what he received as a camper.
When Adam was a camper he connected with a group of volunteers from a Catholic university. That interaction played an important part in his religious formation and made him begin thinking about attending a Catholic university.
"I realized that I wanted to be around other Catholics more than just at camp and that I wanted to work with children," Adam says. So he chose to attend the Jesuit-run St. Louis University this fall, majoring in educational psychology.
Also hoping to give back a little of what he received as a camper is 15-year-old Chris Collum who lived in Ripley, Miss., in the 1990s while his mother served as the pastoral coordinator of the Glenmary mission there.
He knows what it's like to be the only Catholic in a group of kids and says he often felt like a "weirdo" among his peers. But as a camper he wasn't identified by his faith tradition—he was just a kid at camp. This summer he volunteered as a counselor-in-training because he wanted to help other Catholic kids experience the same thing.
Volunteers in Glenmary's programs come in all ages, backgrounds and experience levels. They come from far away and as close as the next county.
But they all come for one purpose: to give of themselves to meet the needs of those living in the home missions. And, as a result of that service, they leave just as the help-wanted ad said they would: feeling like they have been given much more than they gave.