I had so many options for my "m" post. Lots of my favorite things start with M- mommy, music, memories, Michigan, mimosa's...the list goes on and on.
I chose...Mercy. More specifically, Mercy Volunteer Corps....life after Mercy Volunteer Corps, actually.
Note: For those stumbling on this blog due to the a-z challenge, MVC is a full-time lay volunteer program offering placements in the continental U.S. and Guyana, South America for a one or two year commitment. Mercy Volunteers serve in Education, Health care & Social Services. Volunteers commit equally to service, a simple lifestyle in community, and personal and communal spiritual growth. (taken from www.mercyvolunteers.org). I did a year of MVC in 2009-2010. I was placed at a high school in Detroit.
In a few months I will be talking to this years group of Mercy Volunteers on life after MVC. It's going to be a little strange. Last night I was surrounded by Sisters of Mercy at a ceremony and began to ponder what exactly I will say to them...here's what I came up with. Whether it's what the MVC staff is looking for, I have no idea.
If you had asked me in 2009-2010 what the most difficult part of Mercy Volunteer Corps is, I may have said balancing community and ministry. Ask me that now, my response is: ending MVC. I'm sorry- transitioning from MVC. Because it doesn't ever end. It will stay with you for the rest of your life.
The few months toward the end of your service through the few months after are a very strange time. You're trying to wrap your head around your experience, trying to say goodbye, while also planning for the future. Some may know what they are doing, some may not. I was in the "may not" category. I think both are difficult, but I can only speak from my experience- it was hard. You are applying for jobs, figuring out what kind of job you even want, planning on moving forward with no actual plans it all. It gets frustrating when people ask you over and over and over again what you're doing when you do not have an answer.
My advice to those going through that now- it's okay to not have an answer. It's okay to live at home for a few months and discern your next move. Do not sit in front of your computer 8 hours a day and apply for jobs. You need to live a little, too. You have to wrap up your year the best way you know how. I was lucky in that my service was at a school, so they were ending with me. I could walk out after that last day of summer school and know I wasn't leaving anyone behind just yet. But I was worried for the future of those kids- I felt like I had put my entire heart and soul into it and then it was just gone from my fingers. But you can stay involved. I advise to take baby steps. Take some time away. Keep in touch with your supervisor or a former co worker, keep those connections going. And, again, don't be afraid to let it go a little bit at a time.
As far as community goes, cherish those final weeks. Encourage each other. Pray with one another, share meals. I was personally very, very close to my community and was sad to see everyone go their separate ways. Do we talk all the time? No. Do I pray for them every day? Yes. Regardless of how hard you try, life WILL get in the way- but it's not the end. Continue to email them once in a while, swapping memories of your year together.
The main thing about leaving Mercy Volunteer Corps is that we all want to find ways to continue living the Mercy values. You don't have to be living in community and holding spiritually every Monday night to keep on being Mercy. Here's how I found ways to connect: getting involved in my parish by co leading the youth group; working in a job that I can honestly and truly call a ministry; and connecting with the Sisters of Mercy by making the decision to become an associate. Association is not for everyone, and I understand that. You can still connect with the Sisters, or still find ways to live Mercy. Sometimes you have to take a deeper look within yourself to find it...but it's there. It was there the day you decided to send in an application to MVC, and it has grown through your experiences with the program.
I can 100% promise that each of you made a difference this year. You may not realize it. You may not have felt it. But you did. A community member, someone you served, a sister...heck, it could have been someone you graduated high school with who heard you were doing a year of catholic volunteer service and thought "wow, that's cool, I should volunteer more". You never know. That's the power of mercy and MVC. So leave knowing you did something, knowing you played a part in writing MVC's story.
I guess to sum it all up, don't rush ending MVC, and be sure to end it in a way that fits with you- if you need to write a letter to people you worked with, do it. Need to have one last spirituality night? Organize it. There are ways to accomplish whatever it is you need to do. As for the future- if it's known, great- congratulations, go for it and do your thing. If it's unknown, take some time. It will come. You have God and the Sisters of Mercy on your side- you are in good hands.
That's what I'd say to them. On a personal note, life after MVC has been interesting. As I mentioned, I've found ways to keep it a big part of my life. I'm also helping to screen applicants for next year's round. I like to stay as active as possible in MVC because it gave me so much enrichment and wisdom for life. I am still close to several sisters of mercy and am headed to become an associate this fall. I work for hospice, and that in itself has mercy written all over it. I am blessed to be a part of the community.