Short-Term Commitment, Long-Term Effects

Not everyone can spend a year or two as a full-time volunteer. That’s why some long-term faith-based volunteer programs have started offering new opportunities for those with only a week or a summer to spare.

Though short-term programs are sometimes criticized as superficial fixes, Katherine Hamm, S.C., says programs like the ones she helps run through the Sisters of Charity of New York are less about the type of work and more about building relationships.

Through Charity in the City, young women serve in soup kitchens and in other ways. The Sisters of Charity also offer volunteer opportunities on their nearby organic farm.

Sister Hamm has also assisted with volunteer trips to New Orleans. “No one thinks we’re going to change the world in a week. But for the one woman whose house we were working on, we were giving her hope,” she said. “You’re planting seeds, so people see how change happens, and people see how their gifts are recognized in this environment. There’s a connectedness between all people who have the time to reach out to others.”

7 years ago
It's true, not everyone can spend a year or two as a full-time volunteer. On second thought, however, it becomes possible through an ever present "ready to volunteer" mind-set, or maybe it's a "soul-set" by volunteering in some way or the other helpful to people in need. The response of youthful Isaiah, "Send me!" responding to the Trinitarian query, "Whom shall we send?" can provide all the Faith-combustion needed to spark an every ready outreach.

If humility is truth, I guess it's not vainglorious to happily, but humbly admit, I've been a volunteer-oriented person all my life. In fact, I'd like to spend heaven volunteering to help people in a quiet, unknown way, making things easier for people in need. That would be a wonderful heaven, wouldn't it?

Overtime, I've volunteered in lots of ways and here's a few. I volunteered in a homeless shelter, helped raise money for a neighborhood ambulance corp, got a basketball court refurbished for kids, spearheaded a wonederful "Save The Tree" neighbor campaign, that successfully preserved an endangered tree later designated one of NYC's "great trees," helped my Pastor form a School Alumni Association, when he complained no one wanted to do it,volunteered in the DARE program of the NY Archdiocese. I even volunteered, unsolicited (my trademark!) to try to promote in the media books written by a well-known Jesuit author, unfortunately a very unproductive effort! This is a synthesis minus details of some of my volunteering labors of love. I just wish I could do more. My age interferes.

But there is one volunteering task more than any other, that's most dear to my heart. Its my two years with Alzheimer and dimentia "Special People of God" at the Schervier Health Care Center. Like Moses who veiled his face because of the blinding light following his conversation with God on Mt. Siani, "God's Special People" in Alzheimer or dimentia also have veiled faces and minds. But their veiling is from the light of God's darkness, suffering! Five years ago at 74 I began helping there, but now, at 79, my old bones have slowed me down and can no longer do what I once did. Looking back at my few years there, talking as best we could, walking, singing, dancing, doing simple repetitive jobs with them, but most of all hugging and listening to them speak in disconnected ways, the words of Jesus were ever before me, "I was in prision and you visited me!" People in Alzheimer's or dimentia are truly "prisioners" locked into the present without memory of the past, although at times there may be lucid moments. It also occured to me, that in some mysterious way, the first words of the well known prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola apply to these blessed people, "Take Lord and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my entire will ...!" All of this has been taken from them!

I can't help but imagine that maybe, somewhere down the road I (anyone) may find ourselves equally imprisioned. Please God, let someone be there to voluntarily help us in our need!

There's so much more that should be said, but this posting has already gotten too long. May I humbly suggest to all, if you do volunteer, pl;ease perservere - if you don't try it, YOU WILL LIKE IT and more importatly you will be helping people in need!
ANN JOHNSON
7 years ago
As a member of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, I thought that you would at least mention this group in passing. We may not be the younger class of volunteers but what we lack in youth we make up for in experience. The IVC founded by James Conroy SJ in 1995 is in 16 regions. We are all over 50 and work only in agencies that serve the materially poor. We also try to immerse ourselves in Ignatian spirituality through prayer, retreats, meeting with a spiritual reflector and reading a certain book each year. Last year we read Dean Brackley, SJ on discernment. This year it will be Gary Smith, SJ writing of his experiences with African refugees.

[There was no Comments link at the bottom of the main article but I did wish to correct one tiny error. Seattle has been an archdiocese for at least 50 years.]

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