by Caitlin Caminade, Precious Blood Volunteer Alumna (2019-2020)
It was the strangest thing to land back in my hometown after the conclusion of my service year earlier this summer, and to find that I felt like a stranger in a place that was once familiar. I have experienced so much personal and spiritual growth since I last lived here as a teenager, especially within the past year, and current events have only highlighted the differences between who I was then and who I am now. The combined effect of this global pandemic, renewed conversations about racial justice, and tensions of this election year is that there has never been a better time to reflect on our values and actions. For myself, the contemplation was not easy, but it allowed me to see my hometown with new eyes.
It occurred to me that in order to continue living out the values I gained from my volunteer year, seeking out community ought to be one of my priorities. After reconnecting with an old friend, she encour- aged me to come to daily Mass with her. It was after a Mass in August that we ran into Father Carl, the chaplain of campus ministry for the nearby university. Thanks to him, we were able to find other like-minded young adults who were yearning for community, and we began a (virtual) Bible study about the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. This study and recent events have caused me to ruminate on a certain question: how do we look after our neighbor? I believe that most of the conflicts of today come from disagreements about the answer to this question.
In our study, we recently read the parable of the Good Samaritan, and my friend shared a reflection that challenged me to see a new perspective. Of course I would like to see myself in the role of the Samaritan who acts with mercy and generosity. Several times in my life, I have also been like the traveler, in desperate need of mercy. But certainly I have also been like the Jewish priest and the Levite, turning a blind eye to those in need. The call to be a neighbor comes every day, not just the days when we encounter someone in desperate need. So now the question I ask myself is: whose neighbor can I be, here and now?
For myself and the people in my Bible study, we have had to be creative about ways to put our lessons into action because of the restrictions of the pandemic. We’re writing to residents of a local nursing home, donating items to the Catholic Charities resource center, and having sometimes difficult discussions in our circles of influence about how to push for justice for all through electing officials who uphold the values of our faith. Through the support and challenge of this community, I’ve found hope in the other young people around me that even in times of difficulty we can always discern the next right thing to do.
I am also especially grateful for the experiences and skills I gained from the Precious Blood Volunteer program and that I am able to share them with my community now. It has helped me bridge the past and present versions of myself. And since we have no way of knowing what joys or pains the rest of this strange year will contain, I am glad I have a community to journey with.
This reflection originally appeared in the October 2020 edition of the “New Wine Press.”