Tag: volunteering

A year of living monastically

Sarah Moesker, a year of living monastically

I spent this past year living with The Sisterhood of St. John the Divine [SSJD] is an Anglican, Benedictine-style monastic community located in Toronto, Ontario.

The Sisters are an open community, welcoming people to join them for their chapel services, occurring four times daily, typically followed by a silent meal. They run a Guest House ministry, providing a quiet place for a variety of individual and group retreats. Some Sisters also provide spiritual care to the patients at St. John’s Rehabilitation Hospital next door to the convent.

The Sisterhood of St. John the Divine [SSJD]

“Why,” you ask? Now that is a great question!

Truth be told, I think I was beckoned to the convent by a God who called a timeout on my somewhat floundering efforts to do life.

God was like, “Yo, Sarah…” and there was a bunch more, but I had some trouble hearing it. I did manage to catch the gesture toward SSJD when I found myself pensively gazing, back and forth, between two things: a feeling of “You are not returning to CMU next fall” in one hand, and the emptiness of the other hand. 

Seated in the ambient sanctuary of St. Benedict’s Table’s evening service, the list of songs and announcements found its way into that empty hand, and I came across an advertisement from SSJD, calling young women to join them for a year. I sat holding those two things in my hands for the next two weeks, though the setting changed sometimes. Cue the cataclysmic word: Yes.

As for what I learned, in Mere Christianity C. S. Lewis offers a perspective on what it is like to let God into one’s life, where the life is the house and God the renovator:

At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of.”

So I guess I learned pretty quickly that there was a lot more on God’s agenda than on mine.

I learned a lot about how prayer is not just a thing one does but a way one lives. I thought, “oh la dee da, I will just go there and learn how to pray more regularly”. God responded, “Your whole life is a prayer. Come; let me show you how to be attentive to that reality.” Stepping into contemplative prayer has been like coming home to myself—the way God intended me to be, on my own, in prayer, and in relation to others.

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Through simply living the lifestyle of the Sisters, I also learned things about self-compassion, time-management, self-discipline, and the healing mystery of having structure. I developed a better sense of what a balanced life of prayer, work, leisure, and rest feels like—now I just have to remember to apply it.

There was also the healing experience of living in community, which normalized a lot of the elements of socializing and relationships that used to provoke tremendous anxiety.

Another area of growth and learning was my work as a Spiritual Care Provider at the rehabilitation hospital next door, visiting patients and helping out with the services in the hospital chapel. This experience provided some insights into not only the sort of work I would like to do but might also be good at.

These inchoate learnings are some of the things I will be taking back into my life as a student at CMU and into the community I will be living in this next year. 

Sarah Moesker returned to CMU this fall for her fourth year of a Biblical & Theological Studies major, with a minor in Psychology.

Corrymeela begins when we leave: Peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland

Emilie Roussis sits on the beach with a circle of friends, near Corrymeela, Northern Ireland.

For almost three months now I have been living at Corrymeela, a peace and reconciliation center in Northern Ireland.

I have felt overwhelmed and privileged to spend my time here encountering countless courageous individuals and groups working around the globe. In the face of violence and despair, many have taken risks to chase their visions of Shalom.

Some of these peacebuilding initiatives have manifested into cross-community storytelling with Protestants and Catholics in hopes of creating mutual understanding and empathy; as well as building environments where refugees can feel safe in a foreign land, and empowering youth for their futures.

When I arrived for the first time in Northern Ireland, I am ashamed to say that I was completely unaware of the history I was walking into. The violence, death, hatred, and sorrow that I soon became very acquainted with, were completely off my radar.

As far as I knew, I was in one country: Ireland.

I was ignorant of the horrors that had taken place, and eventually devolved into the separation of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

All my preconceived thoughts and assumptions continue to unravel as I meet and converse with people from around the world.

As I think about returning to Canada at the end of the summer, it is my hope that the wisdom I have gained from my new friends, will not only be applied to my studies, but also lived out into my everyday.

Sunset at Corrymeela, Northern Ireland.

At Corrymeela, they say that our experience begins after we leave. This assures me that I have no clue what will happen next.

If I had to try and sum up my time here, this poem would express it best. It is read every morning at worship as we think back to the people who established this place, the volunteers and staff who sustain it, and how we as individuals can embody it.

Courage comes from the heart.
And we are always welcomed by God,
The Croi of all being

We bear witness to our faith,
Knowing that we are called
To live lives of courage, love and reconciliation
In the ordinary and extraordinary moments of each day

We bear witness, too, to our failures
And our complicity in the fractures of our world.

May we be courageous today.
May we learn today.
May we love today. Amen

– Pádraig Ó Tuama

Emilie Roussis is entering her fourth year of a Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies major this fall at CMU.

Finding the light: An international student’s experience

Finding the light: An international student's experience

My name is Valeriia Alipova, and I’m from Zaporozhe, in east Ukraine.  
I came to Canada with the Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS), a year and four months ago.  

I would like to share a story of where I have seen the light of God in my life.  

When I first came to Winnipeg, I had many challenges: new country, new language, new people. For the first time in my life, I was away from family, church, and friends. I so was worried about my future life, I forgot to enjoy the present. 

But I knew God was there. Through all my worries I could see a light—the light of God, in people around me. 

Valeriia joins in the singing at Bethel Mennonite Church.

Since coming here, I’ve met so many interesting, generous, and lovely people!  I could hardly believe how friendly people are in Winnipeg—especially the people at Bethel Mennonite church.

They welcomed me with open hearts.  

People invited me over for supper to their homes, taking me grocery shopping, to concerts, Jets games, and sailing.

When I struggled with homesickness, they spent time with me, showing me God’s love and support. They gave me opportunities to learn and to grow, in both relationships with people, and with God.  

It’s the same for me here at CMU. So remember: you can be the light of God in someone’s life this year! 

Valeriia Alipova is entering her second year at CMU. She originally shared this in chapel during the 2016-17 school year. 

02-29-2016 Volunteer Opportunities2

Volunteer opportunities at CMU

You might have extra time on your hands, a personality that loves to help and care for those around you, a desire to be involved in your surrounding community, or an interest in building your resume. If so, volunteering in our CMU community or surrounding community could be an opportunity for you to invest your gifts, build relationships, and improve your resume.

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