I'm sitting here on my new bed in Detroit complelty at a loss of words...well actually that's quite a lie...I have 30 pages in my journal from the past week FILLED with quotes, stories, reflections, fears, and prayers. I honestly am not quite sure how to describe the past week, nor do I think my words can give it justice. Please forgive me if my thoughts are all over the place.
I went into orientation comepletly terrified. Even after the first night, I had doubts and questions. I had a long conversation with God about them and that I needed to know that this was for me, that this was exaclty where I needed to be. I eventually got the answer I was looking for...but you have to hear the whole story before I give you the answer.
Before you start:
-This is long...don't be too surprised about that.
-There is probably "lingo" you won't understand, but please ask me questions about MVC, orientation, our house, anything.
-The other volunteers that I met at orientation are amazing. We heard several times throughout the week that we are the best group they have ever seen, and all of them promised and swore that they have never said that to another group.
-My "roomates" are called community members.
I arrived in Philly via the tiniest airplane ever on Friday morning last week. The door to the airplane got stuck, which apparently is something that actually does happen in real life. They had to pound it with a hammer in order to get it open. Once I managed to get through the very confusing Philly airport, I met up with Katie and Nate, two of my community members for the year, and Kat, who was placed in Savannah. Eventually we met up with a bigger crowd and were driven to Gwenydd-Mercy College where we were greeted by the MVC Staff with open arms and huge smiles. I was directed to my room, living in a suite with (I'll put the cities where they were placed) Erin (Baltimore), Mary (Savannah), and Colene (St. Michaels, AZ). Went down to the lounge and met my third and final community member, Dave. That night was very relaxed, we basically ate dinner, learned the overview for the week, lots of introductions, and hung out in the lounge playing games. I went to sleep anxious and a little intimidated, but excited to learn more.
Saturday was a little busier, we had a ritual where we shared a symbol that we felt would represent us in a community- I shared my Kairos cross. We also had an introduction to Mercy and to the Sisters of Mercy. Since I went to Mercy High School in Michigan, this was very cool to be reconnected with that. I am VERY excited about bieng back in this community and atmosphere. I missed it so much during college. The best part of the night was when Sr. Megan Brown dressed up as Catherine Mccauley (founder of Sisters of Mercy) and told us all about the history. I loved it!
Sunday we began learning about the four tenants of MVC. We had a presentation from a sister on compassionate service and justice. My favorite story she shared was about a young boy who asked his grandpa to face him while they were sleeping during a storm so he could see his face- to have that human contact, and that we need that when doing our year of service. We also had a presentation on the challeneges of ministry, given by a former Mercy Volunteer, who actually did her year in Detroit. She gave us care packages and the advice to "dance every evening", which was also a motto of Catherine McCauley. Loved when she said "we are companions on the journey of the people whom we are serving".
The next day we started getting into the expectations of the year, learned about what it means to live in a community, having meals together, guest policies, community meetings, and all that fun techincal stuff. We also had an ennegram presentation- I am a number six, a fear based person. I know, shocking. We set up fundraising pages for MVC, had a hilarious presentation on conflicts in community living from Sr. Marie. That night I spent some alone time in the prayer and meditation room they had set up for us in the dorms, read a lot of prayers by Catherine McCauley. Something about it really hit home and made me feel lucky and blessed to be in the position I am now. Also at this point in the week I was getting more comfortable with everyone and feeling so refreshed and interested in their insight.
Wednesday focused on spirituality. The morning was very quiet because we spent most of it in prayer/meditiation. The coolest part of the day was lunch time, when we picked up a boxed lunch and then took a nature walk around campus- in complete silence. We were allowed to go wherever and encouraged to use our five senses to appreciate God and nature. I found some really special things I never would have if I had been talking with someone or preoccupied with something else. That night we had the opporunity to cook a meal together as a community for Sr. Kati, who works on the campus. We were given ingrediants and worked together to make minnestrone soup. It was a great bonding experience and I loved being able to talk with Sr. Kati. That night I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and played a game with the larger group of the volunteers. Woo!
Thursday we kicked off the day with Tai Chi and then headed over to a mansion on campus to learn more about simple living- how to incorporate meditation into our lives, how to eat healthier and better for you, and how to try to give up or substitute our time- instead of spending hours on a computer, spending it with our community members. Later we had an amazing cross-culturual presentation that was very interesting and insightful. I also literally was pushed out of my comfort zone when Ann (St Michaels) and Tenille (Sacramento) forced me to volunteer for an activity in front of everyone. I am proud of myself for doing it though, and thankful to them for pushing me. That night we had a meet and greet with alum, support people, site supervisors, etc in a house on campus. Met some more amazing Sisters. Stayed up waaay too late sharing ghost stories with some other volunteers.
Friday was painfully boring. The exciting part was that we met our rep for the week from Detroit, Amy. She works at the site where Katie will be working, and drove out to Philly to get us and also to explain some things about our house and other technical details. Other than that, the day consisted of going over rules and regulations and filling out paperwork for Americorps...until nighttime, which meant TALENT SHOW...I have to say, I freaked out when I read that there was a Talent Show. Every community had to come up with something...luckily I am living with very creative and talented people for the year, so together we wrote a song about MVC. Since I can't sing, I rapped my part. Oh yeah..in front of 20 some other people. The Sacramento volunteers did something really cool- they painted rocks for each community with a "center word" on them and then a haiku on the back. Guess what our word happened to be? HOPE. Proof that Amanda is watching over all of us :)
So Saturday was our last full day. It was pretty emotional yet laid back at the same time. We had a closing ritual where we revealed who our prayer partners were and shared something we learned from the week. Then we had our commissiong mass to officially welcome us to MVC. It was a lovely experience and what made it even more special were each of the sisters who stopped to say that we are their hope and inspiration. A bunch of the group went out to Philly Saturday night, others went out with their parents who came in for the mass...Tenille and I stayed in, had pizza, packed, chatted, and relaxed. I waited with some others who had come back early for the big crowd, and then stayed up late talking and laughing with my roomates for the week.
Sunday was the day we left Philly and headed for Detroit. We had to say several goodbyes, it was really quite sad. This week allowed for the group as a whole to bond and share so many things with each other, and now we will not see any of them until our transition retreat in June. I hugged everyone extra tight and made sure I said a special thank you to those who really took care of me and pushed me. We drove to Detroit and made great time, arrived there around 5 pm. There were local Sister's of Mercy here to greet us. Our house is MUCH bigger than I expected. We each have our own bedroom and there's a great piano room, family room, and dining room. Our kitchen is small but great, and we have a 1/2 finished creepy basement. We are living in a wonderful area of Detroit, I am so excited to be here. The neighbors are great, there is SO much history. I am just so happy to be here!
Today we spent the day at the Sister's of Mercy offices and center right behind where I attended high school. We also went on a very long walk to downtown Detroit, near the river. Tomorrow we are visiting each other's sites to see where we need to go and what each other will be doing. Wednesday we have a 1/2 day of work, Thursday we're getting a tour and also being taken to University of Detroit Mercy College to get college ID's to use their facilities.
So what is my reason for being here? I have two:
1) To be reconnected with Mercy and to serve in an amazing school where I will be able to use my skills to make a difference and learn from others.
2) Because there was a reason my life crossed paths with the lives of the other volunteers, the staff, the Sisters, etc.
Okay, I have got to get to sleep now. I apologize for yet another super long entry. I'm excited to report back tomorrow when we visit sites!
LOVE AND MISS YOU ALL!