How Mercy Volunteer Corps Opened My Life Up

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By Sister Michele Schroeck

The Coronavirus pandemic has affected all aspects of life, and the work of Mercy Volunteer Corps is no exception. In this extraordinary April, when we celebrate National Volunteer Month, Mercy Volunteers are more committed than ever to serving the most marginalized members of our communities. They continue to do so, some from community houses that have been deemed essential, to ensure that each person living on the margins continues to receive care and is not forgotten. During this special month of commemorating volunteers, follow along on our blog to read stories by alumni of Mercy Volunteer Corps whose lives have been forever changed through Mercy service.

My Mercy Volunteer Corps year was an experience that changed my life.

It opened my eyes through serving in another culture. I was a second-grade teacher on the Acoma and Laguna Pueblo Reservation in San Fidel, New Mexico, from 1988 to 1989 and still have a vase and seed pot made for me by the parents.

It opened my mind to different ways of thinking in community and broadened my worldview. I was more sheltered than I realized. I was a “meat”atarian and lived with vegetarians. In the process, I learned to try and enjoy many new foods. I still tell the story of how our group painted the donated Bishop’s car with the yin yang sign on the hood, the Mercy Volunteer shield on the trunk and the four seasons on the doors. We were a crazy group!

It opened my heart to new ways of sharing spirituality. We took the legs off the kitchen table in the trailer and made a “Buddha room.” The sisters were a great support. I learned so much about native spirituality and its great respect for all of Earth.

It challenged my social and political views and invited me to stand for justice. We debated issues of poverty and education.

For me, the values of Mercy Volunteer Corps (MVC)—service, spirituality, community and simplicity—were so life-changing that they gave me the courage and confidence to consider a life as a Sister of Mercy. As a sister, I stayed connected by serving as a community coordinator and on the MVC board. I even lived with volunteers at the House of Mercy in Erie, Pennsylvania. I am so happy about the way MVC provides an opportunity for young adults to connect deeply with the Mercy Charism in ways that continue to impact their life.

While serving at Mercyhurst University in the 2000s, I made sure to include St. Michael’s, Arizona—part of the Navajo Nation—as one of our alternative spring breaks. From that experience, several other students gave a year of service as Mercy volunteers. Now, as a member of the Institute New Membership Team, I continue to encourage young adults to consider a year of MVC!