By Rachel Zanfardino, FC 20
Why FrancisCorps? This, or something relating to why a year of service, is slowly becoming one of the questions that I answer most, behind who am I, where am I from, and where did I go to school. At first, answering these questions started feeling monotonous and scripted as I reiterated the same answers multiple times a day to many different people. But as I reflected on these questions, I realized that their answers help to make up who I am, why I am here and what I have been called to do.
I’m Rachel, named by my parents, and sandwiched between my two brothers, I always grew up interested in doing service and volunteering. To answer the second question, I am from New Jersey and quite proud of that! Jersey is known for being overly prideful and needing to stand up for itself, as it is given a hard time by the rest of the country, which explains where my somewhat persistent, outgoing and passionate personality comes from. But the answer to the third question, where did I attend college, Fairfield University is definitely my “Why FrancisCorps?”
I chose Fairfield because of the factors of my past, such as my parents and my passions. However, in a way Fairfield chose me right back. Through the Jesuit values, I was able to recognize and channel all of my passion for service into forming my personal mission and values. The Jesuit value of “Men and Women, For and With Others” emphasized the importance of service in our everyday lives. Everything you do can and does impact the people around you. I embodied this ideal and from it became an orientation leader. This is where I began to develop my strengths and skills as well as surround myself with a supportive community of friends and peers that encouraged me to do more and embrace Magis. Directly translated “more or greater,” Magis means recognizing the potential for all that I could do with my life and to actively pursue doing more. I re-embraced my faith and began to attend weekly Mass. It was not until I allowed religion to become a huge part of my life that I saw what I had been missing. The other two Jesuit values are Cura Personalis and Reflection. I could not fully embrace Cura Personalis, care for the whole person, without religion in my life. I began attending religious retreats and service trips, trying to make sense of what I needed to do after I graduated from Fairfield. Through reflection and prayer, I saw that I was being called to do a year of service, realized that service had to be faith-based, and I decided to answer that call. Fairfield had given me all of the right tools and now I wanted to put them into practice.
There are a lot of easy reasons to do a year of service after college. It is before you jump into a career path and you have other responsibilities; it is also a time to continue to “figure it out”. FrancisCorps particularly stuck out to me during my search for the right year of service because of its intentionality. I was looking to take a year and live intentionally in solidarity with a marginalized community and do service for and with them. FrancisCorps not only provides an opportunity to do this, BUT ALSO it is a program that allows you to do that kind of service with other people who are at that same stage of life that you are at, in addition to providing really direct and personal guidance. During the whole application process I really was struggling with where I should serve and who I should serve, but something about FrancisCorps always felt right, and because of that, I knew it was where I needed to put my year of service. My placement site is at the Assumption Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen, where I assist a number of incredible volunteers in providing lunch and dinner to our clients as well as offering people food through the pantry to help stock their shelves for that month. I could not feel more at home at the pantry. My family has always found comfort and connectedness in food through preparation and eating. Knowing that I am able to help feed hundreds of people each day is something I am extraordinarily grateful for.
I have only been at this whole living in community and serving the marginalized population of Syracuse, NY for a few weeks now, and I can already say that it is nothing like what I was expecting. I do not think this is the kind of year that you can plan for, nor should you, because God has his own ideas for what is to come. The kindness and generosity that I have experienced from the members of the Assumption parish as well as the volunteers in the pantry and the members of the community that I am serving has been overwhelming to say the least! I expect that this year will help me to further figure out what it is that I need to do with my life. I also think it is going to strengthen and develop my relationship with my faith and with God. I am fortunate enough to have the ability to do a year of service and take this time to grow as a person. I look forward to the year ahead as I undergo this adventure of living simply and simply living.
Rachel is the Assistant Director of Assumption Church Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen. Visit our service sites page to learn more about Rachel’s site and others we offer.