During orientation, the Rostro de Cristo staff (Patrick Rombalski: executive director, former Fairfield U res life employee; Helen Rombalski: program director, former Fairfield U grad student; Dan Kiers: assistant director, former RdC volunteer) helped us get in the groove of the volunteer experience. Through several presentations and intense conversations, we came to a deeper understanding of the RdC mission and vision (www.rostrodecristo.org) . We're not going to solve problems. We cannot fix anything. That's not our role. We're there to listen and to learn, to share ourselves and embrace others. We will absolutely not give out any money or resources to individuals, because this begins to build a dependency between the people and the program. And the point is to empower them, so that someday they will not need RdC to be in their community. We will direct them to social workers, to other services that can meet any immediate or emergency needs. And equally importantly, we host 27 retreat/immersion groups from the US to experience the lives of the poor, and in turn work to transform those 300+ students every year so that they might form the rest of their lives to upholding social justice, to asking why things are like this, to ask the big questions. It's too much to explain now, but as the year goes on these values will become more and more clear on this blog, i hope.
I'll be living in Antonio Jose de Sucre, which you can learn about on Rostro's website. This is my community: Lauren (from PA), Kasia (from OR), Karen (from...one of those Midwestern states), and Melissa (from Minnesota, and...engaged!). They're all really great girls, our personalities mesh well and things have been smooth so far. We're all still trying to get to know each other better, but once we move into our house I'm sure things will start to get more adventurous. The other 7 volunteers will be living in el Arbolito. They are Gina (from OH), Tracy (from OH), Danny (from WI), Andrew (from Fairfield, CT!), Carolyn (from Philly), Amy (from MA), and Colie (from WI). They're all great too and its been really fun bonding as a large community.
Now for some more exciting news...One of my favorite reflective moments during this orientation was about the Eucharist as a model for this year of service, insofar as being present to community, to myself, and to those i serve. We talk about the Real Presence. Anytime you go to a Catholic church, God is always Really Present in the tabernacle. Drop on by at any time and God is there to listen. What a great model for being really present to life in Ecuador. These reflective thoughts were sparked by Howard Gray, S.J., also known as the most incredible Jesuit around, who is a JCU professor/administrator. He accompanied us on a 3-day silent retreat that took place earlier this week, which was also a peaceful and fruitful journey of solitude and self-awareness. Anyway, Fr. Gray served as a spiritual director so i took the opportunity to pick his brain about the resurrection of the body, which has been very interesting to me lately. And in the 30 minutes that he poured out wisdom and genius that i just drooled over, he said something to the effect that after death the totality of the reality of ourselves will be in union with the totality of the reality of God (love the language here). And what a beautiful thing that the totality of the reality of Jesus is already present to us in the Real Presence.
There have been many other fruitful conversations, prayers, and presentations, but i can't possibly share it all.