So you are interested in volunteering? Congratulations! You’ve made a great first step. Now comes the hard part. How do I pursue this desire to serve? There are so many different amazing opportunities available, it is important to do the necessary research to find a few programs or experiences that really spark your interest and sit well within your heart. That process can be challenging.
Dream a little! So, in an ideal world, what would it look like if you were going to spend a year of service? Picture it in your head. Let all your senses imagine the sights, sounds and smells of the experience…
Where are you? Are you in the US or another country? Is it a rural setting or in a city?
How long do you have? Is this for a year or two or more?
What are you doing? Are you feeding in a soup kitchen? Are you helping build a school in a village? Are you teaching? Are you leading a youth retreat? Are you caring for homeless men? Empowering women to find jobs? Remember that you don’t necessarily need to do work that exactly matches your academic background. Be open to different types of experiences.
How are you living? Are you in an intentional community of young adults? Are you living with a host family? Are you sharing space with other volunteers? With a community of sisters or brothers? Do you want to be more independent or do you want an experience of community? How important is this to you?
Faith-based or not? Do you want to be part of something that includes your faith and challenges you to discover Christ in your experience of service? Do want it to be faith-based but keep your spirituality more private? Is being faith-based not a priority for you?
OK year or a WOW year? One of the temptations you might face is to try and create an experience that fits your desires too perfectly. This might give you an OK year of service. But what if you could have a year that really challenged you to grow personally, in your faith and in your compassion for others… a year that says WOW! Jack was a volunteer in Central New York. He was pre-Med but worked in a home for disabled adults. Much of his time was given to personal care for the men of the center. It was very hard, personal intimate care. But can you imagine how this service changed Jack? No matter how famous a doctor he may become; he will never look down at even the most broken of human beings. There is no task that will be beneath him. He’s been there, done that! Can you imagine what a compassionate, caring physician he will be? WOW. That’s the same kind of life-transforming experience YOU deserve too. Pick a program that will challenge you.
Next Steps: After considering these questions, read more about FrancisCorps here and see how it fits your criteria. Also talk with your campus ministers, service learning staff, faculty members, your parish priest, or other people whose opinion you trust. They can be a wealth of knowledge about the different service options out there.
Now, after you have narrowed your choices down, decided on a few programs, and completed the application, the tricky part comes along. How do you decide which of your choices is the best option? There are numerous ways that can make the discernment process a little less terrifying.
1.Take your choices to prayer like St. Francis did when he was undergoing his discernment process. St. Francis put everything he had at the foot of the San Damiano Cross and asked God to help him during his time of discernment. He left everything in God’s hands while praying the following prayer. Take a moment and put everything at the foot of the Cross and let God help through this prayer:
Most High, Glorious God,
darkness of my heart
and give me, Lord,
a correct faith,
a certain hope,
sense and knowledge
so that I may do Your
holy and true will.
Talk your options over with those that mean the most to you. Talk to your parents, siblings, best friend, neighbor and whoever else you can think of that is important to you. The more people, the better! After you do this, ask them what their opinions are based on what you said to them. Having a few extra set of ears around helps us to hear the things we do not hear ourselves say. They catch the excitement or hesitation in your voice, or see the way your eyes light up when you talk about one option more than the other. Talking this over with those that are important to you, will guarantee a truthful and direct response because they want what is best for you.
3.Ask yourself how you feel about the options. It is important to take it to God and those you love, but ultimately it is your decision. What is your gut reaction to the possibilities that lay in front of you? Can you see yourself in this position for the time you are needed? Which will allow you to perform to the best of your ability? Which option will allow for you to put your whole heart forward? At FrancisCorps we believe taking a year to serve is not only about the service you do but also about an experience for you to grow; becoming the person God created you to be. You need to find that experience that will help you become the best version of YOU!