Loretto Volunteer Program Expands to El Paso
Like many a good story, this one starts with an ice storm in Kentucky. Mary Swain was driving us to the Louisville airport. Claudia Calzetta and I woke early on a cold February morning to find our windshields covered with a thick layer of ice, and the roads in most spots didn’t fare any better.
The trip from the Motherhouse to the Louisville airport, which usually takes an hour, took us approximately two hours. I remember thinking, “If we don’t make this flight, we might not be able to expand the Volunteer Program to El Paso! We certainly cannot afford to reschedule the trip!” A little dramatic, sure, but that’s what rolling hills and black ice can do to a person!
Thanks to Mary’s incredible driving skills and what I now believe to be evidence of her ability to perform miracles, we arrived at the airport at 9:16 a.m. for a flight that departed at 9:30 a.m. Claudia ran for security while I ran to the front desk agent. “Please! Can you tell the gate agent that we’re coming for the 9:30 a.m. flight, eventually headed for El Paso?” I begged. “Sorry, ma’am. I can’t do that. It’s our policy.”
Ugh, airline corporations! I hustled to security, met up with Claudia, and we ran — literally ran — through the Louisville airport as we heard our names, “Last call for passengers Daily and Calzetta on United Flight 3652.” I sprinted ahead to stop them from closing the gates and got there right as the agent was about to latch the door. Again, I blurted out, “I’m here! My grandma is just around the corner! Please don’t close the door!”
As I write this three months later, I still can’t believe we made it on that flight. But we did, and here we are now with five (five!) Loretto Volunteers lined up to start working in El Paso in August of this year.
That first visit was a chance for the Community’s dreams for the Volunteer Program to expand to El Paso to be set into motion. We had meetings with five different nonprofit organizations, a dinner with the El Paso Loretto Community, a tour of the future Volunteer house (Thanks, Buffy and Elisa!), and a bit of free time to explore the city to fill our 48-hour trip.
Meeting with potential volunteer placement teams was more like gathering with family than typical business meetings. Coming from Washington, D.C., it was a bit of a surprise for me to see how warm and welcoming the environments are at these dynamic, collaborative and understandably overburdened organiza-tions. At many of these offices, we couldn’t tell the difference between the executive director, the staff or the volunteers. They all felt like one, tight-knit unit that supported and encouraged each other’s work.
I know these placements, as with all organizations, have their hardships, but it made me feel hopeful to be placing our young Volunteers in such good hands. It didn’t hurt that Loretto’s reputation in El Paso preceded us everywhere we went. There is a level of knowing and trust of Loretto, and of faith-led justice-seekers in general, in the wider El Paso community that continues to affirm our decision to place Loretto Volunteers there.
It may have started with a sweaty romp through the Louisville airport, but the visit ended with clarity and vision. With the support and guidance of many local Loretto Community members, the Volunteer Program’s advisory board, and so many others, I am thrilled to announce officially that we will be establishing a Volunteer Community in El Paso for the 2018-2019 service year and beyond.
Loretto Volunteers will serve at the following El Paso placements:
- Loretto Academy, assisting student activities coordinator
- Villa María, employment and housing liaison
- Opportunity Center for the Homeless, assistant to lead social worker
- Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, assistant to managing attorney
- Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, youth facilitator.
As we’ve been solidifying details for this program expansion, I’ve kept an excerpt from “A Garden Beyond Paradise” by Rumi at my desk. It gives me comfort and intrigue as I ponder what lies ahead. Onward, we go!
Everything you see has its roots
in the unseen world.
The forms may change,
yet the essence remains the same.
Every wondrous sight will vanish,
every sweet word will fade.
But do not be disheartened,
The Source they come from is eternal—
growing, branching out,
giving new life and new joy.
Why do you weep?—
That Source is within you,
and this whole world
is springing up from it.
The Source is full,
its waters are ever-flowing;
Do not grieve,
drink your fill!
Don’t think it will ever run dry —
This is the endless Ocean!