Opportunities to learn help sustain a ministry

From left: Jose, Stefanie, Monserrat and Lusila eat pizza. (Provided photo)

Notes from the Field includes reports from young people volunteering in ministries of Catholic sisters. A partnership with Catholic Volunteer Network, the project began in the summer of 2015. This is our sixth round of bloggers: Natalia Liviero is a volunteer with VIDES+USA serving in the Middle East, and Janie Rosko is a Humility of Mary volunteer serving within the Ursuline Ministries in Youngstown, Ohio.

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As part of my service, I look for opportunities to expand upon the solid foundation of the Immigrant Outreach Program at Beatitude House in Youngstown. I know this is true for other volunteers and staff members, as well. However, complications arise, as they are meant to, so we improvise and work on solutions.

A few weeks ago, one of the children I work with through the program, Lusila, handed me a paper and said, "I am having a test over this."

"OK. When?" I asked.

"Tomorrow," she said. The paper had social studies vocabulary words such as "community," "democracy," "citizen," "leader" and "country."

"Have you reviewed this at all?" I asked.

"Nope," she replied.

Although I am familiar with last-minute studying, this worried me. I carefully and consciously took a breath in and let it out. Together, we reviewed the social studies words, and she memorized their definitions.

However, memorization is not enough. I wanted her to have a deeper understanding of these words. We discussed different types of communities, like schools, churches, cities and neighborhoods, and different types of leaders, like principals, mayors, presidents, firefighters and police officers. We discussed ways to be a good student, citizen and leader. The paper had examples of how to fulfill these expectations such as by taking turns, being patient, listening to other people and helping others.

Marta Hergenrother, left, is a volunteer from Youngstown State University, but she has been with us several years. (Provided photo)

Knowledge and wisdom play key roles in being a good citizen and leader. Beatitude House staff recently had a meeting at which Joan Rosenberg, an accomplished psychologist, spoke about the significance of identifying and properly handling our feelings. Being a good leader is understanding with whom we are working and then using that wisdom to work with them with methods that are more relevant and personal to them.

I want Lusila to be able to label definitions and define labels regarding her homework, just as with feelings, but learning how to be good community members and working practically on those skills is truly a valuable lesson.

I met Lusila's teacher at an open house a few months ago. She is inspiring and motivated to push the children to grow. She spoke to parents, guardians and mentors about her willingness to do all that is necessary to work with us to allow each child to learn. The teacher does her part to educate her class, and I do my part to help tutor and mentor children within the ministry. Together, we each contribute to our own area of influence within our community.

Ursuline Sr. Norma Raupple, director of the Immigrant Outreach Program; Samantha Williams, another Humility of Mary AmeriCorps member; and I wish to continue developing and enhancing our commitment to the program. We recently discussed adding a day for tutoring for some of the children here, in addition to the tutoring on Wednesday nights.

Setting up for the Immigrant Outreach Program's Halloween party Oct. 25 (Provided photo)

Within the next few weeks, we will allow some of the children to come on Monday evenings for tutoring. It may only begin as Samantha and me with a few children because of the demanding schedules of our other volunteers. Perhaps this extra day does not seem like much, but our plans for it are ambitious.

Just as those of us working within Beatitude House and other Ursuline ministries must take time to go to training and meeting discussions, we should allow similar opportunities for the people we serve. We plan to create presentations on age-appropriate anti-bullying techniques and perhaps variations of mental health information.

Knowledge from Rosenberg's presentation will be advantageous; however, we still must continue pulling from other valuable resources. We may incorporate meditation and yoga, which proved to be helpful for the children within the Casa Madre program, another Ursuline ministry that serves children.

Recently, I attended a panel titled "Rural and Small Town Immigration to Ohio" at the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor. A man named Jacinto told us his story from his childhood in Guatemala to his time now in Ohio. He spoke of the injustice toward many immigrants within a specific Ohio school system: He and other immigrant high school students were placed in kindergarten classes and treated as if they were that age. The school tried to use the language barrier to justify their treatment of the immigrants. This disappointed and frustrated the immigrants and some of the school staff.

Immigration status and complexities that may arise because of it should not take away any of the dignity of the human being. Listening to Jacinto's story helped me to assess the encounters we have with the adults and children within our program. When teaching the adult English-language learners, we must speak to them in respectful ways. When tutoring the children, we must speak to them with appropriate tones of voice. Impatience or frustration can sometimes be conveyed through one's voice; kind, encouraging words must match a genuinely kind, encouraging attitude.

From left: Kimberly shows off her temporary elephant tattoo from the Immigrant Outreach Program's Oct. 25 Halloween party; Samantha Williams, left, a Humility of Mary AmeriCorps member, and Stefanie play the game TipIt; Monserrat puts on her cat mask at the Immigrant Outreach Program's Halloween party. (Provided photos)

Collecting more self-knowledge will help us constructively criticize how we respond to those we serve. The immigration panel helped me stay humble and attentive to my service. The Beatitude House staff meeting helped to ground me and remind me of how to help and work with myself. I took a closer look into how my service affects me personally and emotionally and how I can use this knowledge to the benefit of myself and others.

It is crucial to learn and implement strategies to sustain a positive impact within the community we serve. Multitudes of parts make up the whole ministry, and other community extensions exist. I am only one part of this whole, but I intend to do what I can to keep my part strong.

[Janie Rosko is a Humility of Mary volunteer serving within the Ursuline ministries in Youngstown, Ohio.]