“A personally transformative experience involves an experience that transforms the self, the subjective preferences, or the epistemic states of a knower in some deep and perhaps even unpredictable way.” A transformative experience working in health and advocacy, this story comes from Elisabet Barrios, VMC volunteer 2014-2015. Let it be part of your reflection this Easter Season.
Life-giving. Transformative. Redefining. My year of service with the Vincentian Mission Corps has been all of these things. It has radically transformed my understanding around community, faith, and service. Technically I have one brother, but community life has added a new layer to my concept of family. Through sincere conversations, laughter, and dishes, living in community granted additional family members with whom I share a passion for God and social justice. My understanding of spirituality was the next to shift. Just like family, faith is not meant to be contained within four walls. I learned that faith is nourished by community and is expressed through direct action. Although I was engaged in service prior to my VMC year, that definition was altered too. Service is not temporary; it is a way of life that requires passion and solidarity. Bit by bit, my experiences with the Vincentian Mission Corps renewed my mentality- particularly through my service site.
Casa de Salud, a clinic for the uninsured and underinsured, works to improve the health of immigrant communities in St. Louis. Prior to service with VMC, I knew very little about the obstacles within our healthcare system: cost, red-tape and transportation. These, along with culture shock and language barriers, form a gap Casa de Salud works to bridge. Casa extends beyond episodic care by using patient navigators to connect people to the larger healthcare system. As such I serve as advocate, case manager, and companion with particular focus on impediments to patient care. Work days at Casa de Salud are unpredictable and require much problem solving and persistence. Through navigating obstacles, I have learned that “no” means “try again,” “talk to somebody else,” or “ask a different question.” My experience at Casa de Salud has shown me the power of perseverance and faith. It has deepened my understanding of solidarity and transformed my voice to echo the needs of others. Though once soft spoken, I have become relentless and non-conforming because I believe a healthy community is within reach.
Likewise, Sts. Vincent and Louise and the Vincentian Mission Corps challenge us to be creative and perseverant. In the Vincentian charism we are called to innovate and challenge the status quo by refusing to take “no” as an answer. We are creative to infinity. Just as Vincent and Louise utilized community, faith and service to change the structures and systems of their time, we are called to remain active and hopeful. Places like Casa de Salud and programs like the Vincentian Mission Corps serve that mission by providing opportunities to address injustice and build community; they echo Christ’s calling to redefine ourselves and our communities.
As a result of the formation I have received through the Vincentian Mission Corps, I will start doing community organizing work with DART in Topeka, Kansas this summer! DART, Direct Action and Research Training, organizes congregations of diverse faiths around local issues. It encourages faith ministries to come together as one family and work collaboratively towards justice. Through DART, local faithful men and women lead the organizing process and hold people in power accountable- shining light into a broken system. I am confident that the Vincentian charism will guide me in this journey, continuing down a path where faith and justice are one.
#IamVincent. So is Elisabet.
Source: Vincentian Mission Corps blog