Taking Steps Towards Action.
VHT & Reflecting on Who Has Shaped Me
Being a part of the Vincentian Heritage Tour was a privilege and an honor. Spending a week with other student leaders at DePaul, as well as incredible faculty members, and a world-renowned Vincentian historian was a gift. As a point of reflection throughout the pilgrimage, I spent time intentionally looking back on my experience at DePaul and identifying influential people who shaped who I am today and who I will strive to be in the future. I have always been guided by the mission of Vincent de Paul and Lousie de Marillac, but the PEOPLE who have guided me these past four years have brought the mission to life.
As a Resident Advisor for the past three years, I have been challenged in ways I would have never expected. I went into the position with a surface-level understanding of what it means to truly advocate for students. The supervisors and co-RAs I worked with were my living-examples of how to actively find new ways to educate and support first-year students who were making the difficult transition from high school to college.
These people challenged me to always place myself in the experiences of others. I have learned to take the necessary time to take a step back, listen, and then respond when having challenging conversations. I have learned that we never know what others’ experience is like until we intentionally engage in dialogue and experience life moments together.
While I am burned out from the 3:00 am calls, Student Center food, and roommate conflicts, I will never be burned out by witnessing these student leaders being advocates for students in their most vulnerable moments. While this position is filled with stereotypical moments, such as RA-sponsored movie nights and resident drama, it is also filled with moments that require RAs to recognize and defend the human dignity of other students. I learned how to do this from my incredible co-workers these past three years.
My Best Buddy — Tim (Trunks from Dragon Ball Z)
In addition to my friends from Residential Education, my best buddy Tim has taught me countless lessons on how to love unconditionally and accepts others for who they are. He has shown me what it means to be joyful and playful even when it is not always easy. Spending four years with him has redefined my understanding of what it means to be someone’s buddy.
Resisting with a Fierce Joy
The most powerful community I have experienced is the community at the Erie Neighborhood House in Little Village. Through DCSA, other students and I visit the Erie House each Friday for ESL conversation practice with adult students who are native-Spanish speakers learning English.
Over the course of two years with this community, our relationship has gone deeper than simply students and tutors. We have become close friends who know each other’s fears and goals. Personally, I have learned what it means to sacrifice for the ones you love and how to do so with a spirit that minimizes the fear and uncertainty that accompanies sacrifice.
“Forgiveness is a Choice to Let Yourself Be Free”
For the past three years, my family has undergone difficult changes. This transition from stable, tight-knit family to one that has deep rifts and broken relationship has changed how I understand the concept of family. These events have resulted in my parents, sisters, and I deciding to live life with a stronger sense of acceptance, empathy, and forgiveness towards each other and our own communities. I have learned to value forgiveness and to practice it more without hesitation. The family members I remain close with have made a stronger commitment to patience and understanding. We try to be more authentic and vulnerable in our one-on-one relationships. While it has been a painful transition, I have seen my family grow even stronger as a result. From this experience, I have learned to open my heart even wider to others.
My understanding of forgiveness was transformed during my Service Immersion trip to Bogotá, Colombia this past winter. We had the privilege of meeting with an organization that provides spaces for individuals in Bogotá who are actively seeking reconciliation. Many Colombians has been victims of some sort of suffering and violence as a result of their long-standing civil war. This organization welcomed all people, regardless of which side they belonged to during the conflict.
The conversation that radically dismantled my previous understanding of what forgiveness looked like was one between a former member of the FARC, the main guerrilla group in Colombia, and a female campesino who had displaced by his group. These two individuals had known each other for years before this particular conversation took place. However, until this moment, she had not known that he was associated with the group that had destroyed her life.
Her response to the new reality of their personal dynamic was remarkable. She looked at him and told him that she loved him and accepted him as much as ever, even after learning the truth of his involvement in the FARC.
Following this conversation, another member of the reconciliation group expressed how his decision to forgive was a difficult and complicated process.
Connection to Faith Through Relationships
In addition to the challenges my family has faced, my life has always been shaped by personal connections and my Catholic faith. I am the youngest of four and the only boy. My three older sisters and my parents were major sources of support throughout my life, and that continues today. My parents are the model for self-sacrifice. My parents have sacrificed anything and everything to guarantee that my sisters and I are happy, healthy, and have access to opportunity. My dad has never asked for recognition for his hard work and sacrifice. I often tell him that he is the humblest person I have ever met and that none of us will ever deserve him. My mom sacrificed her career to dedicate her time to raising us.
In addition to her work ethic, my mom has an unwavering faith, especially when our family has faced its challenges. I was raised Catholic, and some of the most vivid and fond memories I have are going to Church as a little kid with my mom. She has the gift of applying her faith and values to everyday life. The example she set of how to live out her faith motivated all of us to do that in our own way. She never needed to say a word. She has never failed to respect the human dignity of another person. She showed us the importance of always valuing the human dignity of others above everything else, even when it requires struggle and patience.
“Vulnerability Leads to Trust. Trust Leads to Relationships. And Relationships Lead to All Good Things in Life” — Unknown”
The Vincentian Heritage Tour was an experience that will always stay with me. The trip gave me the opportunity to truly reflect on my experience at DePaul these last four years. Engaging with other student leaders gave me life. VHT re-energized me at a time when I had little energy left with my occupied by the question of what I should do after graduation.
VHT gave me the clarity and trust to make the decision to join the Jesuit Volunteer Corps this upcoming year. VHT gave me the spaces and experiences I needed to reflect on the Vincentian Mission and to allow myself to attempt to answer the Vincentian Question in a way that I feel is right at this point in time. VHT gave me the final push to make the decision to follow what I am feeling called to do. For that, I will be forever grateful for the privilege of attending this incredible trip with even more incredible people.
Originally published in “Vincentian Heritage Tour on Medium.com. See the article for more photos.