Monthly Archives: June 2012

month ten.


Yesterday was the end of the year celebration picnic at Casserly House. During the afternoon, the ESOL students, After School kids, their families, neighbors, and other community members gathered to celebrate the end of the school year and to enjoy being together. We had food, games, and a raffle, and each student received a certificate acknowledging their participation in the programs. I loved the entire afternoon–meeting the family members of the ESOL students, being around the kids in a different atmosphere, and seeing my housemates experience Casserly House.

But the most touching moment was easily when one of the ESOL students gave a short speech after receiving her certificate, during which she said the following: “At Casserly House we are like a family. S. Nancy is your mother, Jim is your father, and Megan is your sister.”

That is one of the biggest compliments I have ever received, but I think it says less about me personally and more about why Casserly House is so special. I always say that I’m grateful for the people in my life. I am even more grateful for the people that have let me be a small part of their journeys over the past ten months. I will carry those memories (and so many more from this year) with me long after my feet have left this place physically.

month ten.

picnics at the public garden. fro yo. being a grown up. foley’s. st. cecelia’s. loving people well. baking baking baking.

making challah with the roommates. earthfest. harpoonfest. afternoons reading in the arboretum.

dinner with sarah. countdown to memorial day. red, white, and blue. 

road tripping to maine: the way life should be. jvc spring break ’99. sun’s out, gun’s out. #hashtags. sonic, fog, and going out in portland. bromance.  jumping in the ocean. an afternoon at the beach. 

grendel’s. goodbye beers. abby’s birthday. watching food stamped. rainy. weekend. free doughnut day. popsicles with mike. haymarket. :[ last spiritual direction session at athan’s. pierogies. fjv barbeque.

seeing fr. greg boyle speak. castle island with the esol students. the scooperbowl. the aquarium. roslindale farmer’s market. fornax bread co. finishing the freedom trail. climbing the bunker hill monument. going out downtown. visitors. mass by myself. casserly house picnic.


on unexpected answers to prayers.

As I sat in Mass this morning and waited for the prayers of the faithful to begin, I paused to take a minute to think about what my own personal requests were. Guidance. Peace. Wisdom.

Not even ten seconds later, a girl walked down the aisle next to me, straight into my line of vision. She was about nine years old, with straight brown hair, wearing a pink skirt and white t-shirt. Printed across her shirt in bright, colorful letters was a single phrase: “Follow UR heart.”

I don’t know if I have ever received an answer to a prayer so quickly. I guess this Ignation idea of finding God in all things isn’t something to joke about!

In all seriousness, however, one of the things I am learning because of this year is that God speaks to us in some surprising ways, through things both big and small, dramatic and very ordinary. I think many people expect to find God in a church, but they don’t expect Him to speak through a cheesy t-shirt slogan.

But I think that’s one of the things I most love about this adventure we call faith: that God can’t be contained by the limitations that we try to put around Him. He can speak through the humblest of things, and He will do whatever it takes to reach us. And at the end of the day, I think He has a sense of humor with us.

So, where does that leave me? I guess I’m just going to try to keep listening. Follow your heart, indeed.

the last days of after school.

Back in September, making it through the first day–and then the first week!–of After School at Casserly House felt like a huge accomplishment. I didn’t know then how much more difficult things would get, how much these kids would push me to grow, and how challenged I would be.

In many ways, I haven’t spoken much about the specifics of my job and daily work in this space, and that’s for several reasons, but basically, it’s something I am so wrapped up in that it’s hard to wrap my head around.

After School has easily been the most challenging part of this year for me, as I thought it would be. These kids have broken my heart in the best and worst ways. They have disappointed me, made me want to scream in frustration, and have given me some truly terrible headaches. And then, somehow, they have made me laugh.

I have heard their whispers about violence on the streets at night, houses where there doesn’t ever seem to be enough food to eat, and the empty and lonely apartments that they dread going home to. I have seen tears stream down their faces as they relate the story of that day’s bullying and witnessed the daily frustrations of dealing with schoolwork that they don’t know how to begin to approach.

I have been in awe of their talent, of their potential, and of the kindness that they are capable of showing to each other. I can’t wait to see who they become, and part of me desperately wishes I would be around to see it. Some of my most cherished moments have been spent just enjoying their company.

I will be brutally honest and say that this year has taught me that I do not want to continue to work with children, not because it isn’t valuable and meaningful work, but simply because it isn’t where my gifts lie. I know that now, but that doesn’t mean that I regret this time or wish I has spent the year doing different work. To say that I have learned more working with these children than being in a classroom could have ever taught me would be an understatement.

Now, there are only two weeks left of After School. In the scope of the whole year, that’s hardly anything. But it’s just enough time to end the year on a good note.

I have made a lot of mistakes this year. But as I look towards the end, I become more aware than ever, that while this program has focused on the academic success of these children, that’s not the real measure of success. The kind of success that matters cannot be measured; it doesn’t show up on report cards and progress reports.

I just hope they end the year a little better off, with a little bit more confidence, and a little bit more knowledge of how loved and valuable they are.

One of the hardest realizations of this year has been knowing I can’t change so many things about their lives. I can’t make problems at home and bad situations disappear, can’t enroll them in better schools, or can’t make sure they always have a warm dinner on the table.

There is so much I can’t do, but what I can and what I will do for the next two weeks is be there everyday from 3pm to 5pm, for whatever they need, whether it is math homework or just someone to listen.

And some closing words of inspiration that I think are applicable to my situation as a JV, but also to so many others that we encounter in life:

“It helps now and then to step back and take a long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a small fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the Church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about: We plant the seeds that will one day grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it well. It may be incomplete but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.”
–Archbishop Oscar Romero