By Maria Wiering
Faith and service were at the heart of a short-term volunteer experience for young women sponsored by the Sisters of Bon Secours in Baltimore Aug. 2-8.
Six women participated in Project Good Help, an annual program the sisters designed to inspire women to serve others, help underprivileged people in Baltimore City and foster religious vocations to their community.
“One of the primary reasons for doing this is to give individuals an opportunity to really put their faith into action, into service,” said Sister Pat Dowling, the sisters’ U.S. vocations director.
A resident of West Baltimore, Sister Pat led the program with Sister Fran Gorsuch, a member of the sisters’ vocation formation team who lives in Fairhaven, N.J.
The program included service work for several Baltimore City programs, including My Brother’s Keeper in Irvington and the Bon Secours Women’s Resource Center in Penrose. Participants prepared and served meals, cleaned and visited with people at the sites where they served. They also spent time in prayer and reflection while staying at the sisters’ motherhouse in Marriottsville.
Project Good Help is open to single Catholic women, ages 19 to 35. This year’s participants live in Maryland, Virginia and New York, and their reasons for joining the program varied.
Hyunjeong Choo, 22, wanted a chance to “recharge” and to see examples of faith-based service, she said. A parishioner of Ss. Philip and James in Charles Village, Choo recently graduated from The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore and is job searching. She was curious about what the sisters do, and wanted model of integrated faith and service, she said.
“I want to learn to incorporate my faith into my future job and learn how to love others,” she said.
Maryland Arciaga, 35, was interested in meeting people who work in a variety of nonprofit organizations, she said. A meeting planner for the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention in Washington, D.C., Arciaga said her interest in service work deepened while traveling and volunteering in the Philippines two years ago.
She dreams of running her own nonprofit organization one day, and she saw the program as an opportunity meet other women with similar interests, she said.
“I work in community service, I love people, and I’ve got to learn more and grow deeper in my faith,” which made the program a good fit for her, said Arciaga, a parishioner of St. Philip Neri in Linthicum Heights.
Like most participants, neither Choo nor Arciaga feels called to religious life, they said.
Two of the participants said long weekend was part of their vocational discernment.
Sister Pat said she does not expect all participants to be interested in religious life, but she does hope the program spreads awareness of the Bon Secours community, which has been in Baltimore for more than 130 years.
“Many young people are not exposed to sisters,” she said. “For young women who are exploring religious life, they do want to understand how sisters live their lives. What are they involved in? How do they make a difference in the world?”
Young adults in the Millennial Generation – the demographic Project Good Help pursues – often grew up doing service work through their schools and churches, and many want to “make a difference,” Sister Pat said.
“[Project Good Help] gives individuals an opportunity to provide their energy, gifts and talents with others,” she said.
With six participants, Project Good Help doubled in size from last year, when the program launched. Sister Pat expects it to continue to grow, she said.
Copyright (c) Aug. 7, 2012 CatholicReview.org