“Every project I do, every report I write and every call I make has to have a real benefit to the world around me, or it isn’t worth doing.”
These are the words of Tim Ruggaber, senior project manager at EmNet in South Bend. Ruggaber’s undergraduate and graduate education were oriented towards his career as a civil engineer. After receiving his bachelors from the University of Notre Dame, however, he chose not to enter directly into the work force. Instead, he dedicated a year of his life to service at Nazareth Farm, a Catholic community in rural West Virginia that transforms lives through a service-retreat experience.
Serving from 2003 to 2004, Ruggaber wanted to gain a different perspective on life before traveling down a conventional career path. He shared: “My experience before my year of service had been very homogenous, and I knew that I lacked a broader perspective on life.
“While I was working at the farm, I daily ran into scenarios with no clear answer in sight, such as opening up a wall in an old house and not finding any studs, or having to teach a group of volunteers a skill that I had just learned that morning. The result was that I learned how to have confidence to innovate new solutions, to try something that I might fail at and to ask for help when I needed it. Today, I work to develop new technology to make infrastructure work better and smarter, and I’m continually using those same skills.”
For Ruggaber, his year of service equipped him an innovation-oriented mindset and a desire to use his work for good. For others, a year of service can go beyond this, directly influencing which field one pursues professionally.
Clarice Shear discerned her vocation to full-time service while a senior in college. From fall 2014 to summer 2016, she served as a Mission Corps member at Maggie’s Place in Phoenix, Ariz. Maggie’s Place is a house of hospitality, healing and growth for pregnant women and their babies.
“While at Maggie’s Place, I was fortunate enough to have the unique opportunity to walk beside these mothers on their personal journeys of struggle, heartbreak and triumph,” Shear shared. “Being able to share a home with them, I was able to also share the everyday challenges and joys in a very intimate way.”
As a Mission Corps member, she lived in a house with homeless, pregnant women. Her days were filled with anything from sharing chocolate cake at midnight to standing beside them in the court room and holding the hands of mothers as they gave birth. “After serving at Maggie’s Place I was able to discern that God was continuing to call me to work with this population.” Shear continues her commitment to mothers and to life through her current position at the Women’s Care Center in LaPorte.
Opportunities to serve are available across the nation and world, and are also present in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Raquel Falk served at the St. Peter Claver Catholic Worker in South Bend for the three years immediately following college. Her call to service began the summer before her senior year, when Falk dedicated her summer to living in voluntary poverty at the Catholic Worker, focusing on manual labor, works of mercy and community living. Falk discerned that “I felt most alive when I was at the Catholic Worker and so committed to stay for one year, though I ended up staying for three.”
Living in community and voluntary poverty isn’t always easy. “The challenges were different from year to year, but recurring challenges included learning how to practice the works of mercy toward myself and learning to practice loving conflict resolution with my community mates,” Falk shared.
Now a youth worker, she still lives with former residents of the Catholic Worker houses. “Through my time ‘on staff’ at the Catholic Worker, I discerned that living close to the poor, living simply, practicing the works of mercy and living in community were going to be important parts of the rest of my life… . While I am still discerning the particulars, the call to be a Catholic Worker seems to be a lifelong vocation for me.”
Interested in discerning a year of service? To view a database of Catholic service opportunities, both national and global, check out the Catholic Volunteer Network at www.catholicvolunteernetwork.org
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