Four pillars of faith-based service

by | Aug 5, 2014 | Sisters of Charity

e-voc 8-14The Four Pillars of Service By S. Janet Gildea

(View or download the full issue of E-Voc August 2014_evoc)

Catholic Volunteer Network identifies four pillars of service for the longterm programs many young adults choose after college: Community Life, Spirituality, Social Justice and Simplicity. These pillars form a foundation that many volunteers continue to develop long after they finish the year of service. The four pillars create a framework that helps them to be their “best” selves.

Lived with intentionality, a common life demands time and energy. During the volunteer year there is no way to choose one’s companions in community and sometimes sparks can fly! But the commitment to common life is for a limited time and with good support the experience can inspire alumni to seek out or create new small communities wherever they locate afterwards.

Faith-based programs encourage volunteers to see their service not just as a job but as a ministry. The ups and downs of challenging positions for recent college graduates are helped by disciplines of personal and communal reflection. The spiritual resources and direction provided in many faith-based programs and the opportunity to work in agencies that are connected to churches and religious organizations often help young adults at a time of questioning the beliefs and practices of institutional religion.

Action on behalf of justice as well as charity is a prime motivator for many who choose to give a year of service. Mentors who have devoted their lives to the principles of Catholic Social Teachings witness to the possibility of sustaining such a commitment to Gospel values. Connections with networks of faith-based activists broaden the support system for volunteers and give an experience of being part of “something bigger than myself.”

Learning to live with less in a consumer society through a commitment to simplicity is a pillar that is both supported by and lends support to the others. Sharing space, negotiating needs versus wants in the household budget, making choices for community meals and entertainment create many opportunities for embracing a simple lifestyle. The Gospels come to life when read from the vantage point of persons at the margins of society. Deep questions arise, such as how much do I really need? Why have I had so many opportunities? How can I be more responsible stewarding the goods of the earth?

It is no wonder that a year of volunteer service, based on these four pillars, often raises questions about life direction and purpose. Catholic Volunteer Network is offering several discernment weekends, specifically for women who are current or former volunteers, to explore vocational choices: