We continue to share a series of reflections made by Vincentian Lay Missionaries and Vincentian Mission Corps participants about their experience serving, how it has impacted their lives and how they continue to live the Vincentian Charism today.
Six years have passed since I lived in intentional community as part of the Vincentian Mission Corps. As a recent graduate of DePaul University at the time, I had learned about the lives of St. Vincent and St. Louise and found inspiration in the Vincentian charism through my involvement in the Vincentian Community Service Office. Although I understood the Vincentian virtues and mission intellectually, it was not until I had dedicated a year to serve in St. Louis as a patient advocate with Casa de Salud that my heart fully embraced with a burning love the commitment of our Vincentian spirituality. As a patient advocate I was asked to accompany predominantly Latino immigrants who were uninsured or underinsured to their various appointments throughout the city of St Louis.
Many times my role was mistaken for that of an interpreter, but really I was there to walk with each patient through the process of their appointment. In the span of my year of service, I went to all sorts of appointments and spent countless hours in waiting rooms with people from all over Latin America. It was in waiting rooms that I listened to stories of home countries, their journey to the U.S., the joy of family, favorite foods, the heartbreak of violence, and the injustices they faced every day in a many times xenophobic society. As a child of immigrants from Mexico these stories did not shock me, for they were very familiar, but in these waiting rooms I learned the deep desire people have for their life stories to be heard and acknowledged, even by someone who moments earlier had been a complete stranger. In a world that silences, ignores, and forgets those on the margins, I learned that the simplicity of listening could be a way for me to be a reflection of God’s unconditional love.
I learned the power of presence and listening in accompanying others in their lives and felt a calling to continue to do this beyond my time as a VMC. Now I work at DePaul University in the same office that started my own Vincentian journey. Every day I get to accompany students in their Vincentian formation and their own desire to live out their lives guided by the Vincentian question, “What must be done?” The students I work with, who identify themselves as Vincentians in Action, are committed to weekly service across the city of Chicago and are asking the important questions about justice in a many times broken world. It is a wonderful blessing to be able to walk with students who believe that another world is possible and are doing what they can to build it. They inspire and challenge me to live out the Vincentian charism every day.