This weekend, more than 20 Project SERVE alumni and the 5 current Project SERVE volunteers gathered to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Catholic Charities year-long volunteer program for young adults. The alumni came from all over the country and Canada to reunite with their housemates, share stories, reflect on their volunteer experience and visit Baltimore again. Alumni were present from 9 of the 15 years of the program’s history.
The weekend kicked off with an educational forum on Friday where Catholic Charities staff, volunteers and alumni gathered to reflect on the theme “Lord, When Did We See You…?” Deacon Ed Stoops from Our Lady of the Fields Parish spoke about ways that we are called to see God in and through our service. Caitlin Baummer, Project SERVE alumni and Catholic Volunteer Network AmeriCorps Education Program Assistant, and Rachel Christian, Loyola University student and intern for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, joined as panelists to share stories about how their lives have been impacted by service.
On Friday evening, alumni celebrated at Mick O’Shea’s where the volunteers from 2002-2003 reunited with Robin Rich, their Project SERVE Coordinator. Randi Leigh Swoboda from Portland, OR; Amy Cadoret from Baltimore, MD; Allison Creekmur from Chicago, IL; and Nick Warner from Detroit, MI were all there to open a time capsule they had put together 10 years earlier at the end of their Project SERVE year. Opening it caused much laughter and even a few happy tears!
Even though they had each already given over 1700 hours of service to Catholic Charities, the alumni participated in 2 service projects over the weekend—sprucing up the garden at Caritas Assisted Living Community and serving breakfast at My Sister’s Place Women’s Center. The alumni that hadn’t yet seen the renovated My Sister’s Place Women’s Center were thrilled to see the expansion of the space and services offered.
Sunday morning alumni gathered with Bill McCarthy, Executive Director of Catholic Charities, and Allison Stone, current Project SERVE Coordinator, for a service of reflection with the theme of “Breathing Out Compassion… for ourselves, our communities and our world” from author Joyce Rupp. Kellyann Conners from 2009-2010 said, “ever since I left Project SERVE I’ve been looking for ways to articulate how living in intentional community and working at Sarah’s House impacted my life. The easiest way to put it is that I carry it in my heart every day.” While reflecting upon living in intentional community with other volunteers, Faith Savill from 2010-2011 said, “I didn’t really know that I could love someone who is so different from me in so many ways.” Each of the volunteers shared how the program shaped the people who they are today.