Former Member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Shares Stories
Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 01:11
Colleen Kerrisk (COL ’10) held a dinner for student interested in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Friday.
Georgetown graduate and Ignatian Programs Coordinator Colleen Kerrisk (COL ’10) shared her experience working with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps at an informal dinner with a group of 20 seniors and juniors Friday night.
The dinner, which was held in the home of Director of Professional and Residential Ministry Michelle Siemietkowski, aimed to raise students’ awareness of the JVC and to encourage students to consider the program when making postgraduate plans.
Founded in 1956, JVC pairs volunteers with some of America’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Volunteers spend one year serving in positions that focus on education and immigration.
When Kerrisk began her talk, she asked the students why they were interested in the JVC. Reasons varied from confirming whether or not to become a Jesuit to having an interest in community organizing after graduation.
“For me, I knew from the get-go that I wanted to do JVC,” Kerrisk said.
She credited her Georgetown education as the motivating factor behind her decision to apply to JVC.
“I learned about how broken and unjust our world is in the classes I took at Georgetown,” she said. “I wanted to learn about these people — their names and faces, not just statistics.”
Like every interested applicant, Kerrisk underwent an online application process, followed by an interview with a JVC staff member and a reflection process to prove her personal commitment to the program.
After her acceptance, Kerrisk was assigned to Proyecto Pastoral, an after-school educational program for children in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. The program was organized by the Dolores Mission Church, a small Jesuit parish known for its active pursuit of community-wide social justice.
Kerrisk said the Dolores Mission Church enlivened her spiritual life.
“There was no separation of faith and life there. They were so intertwined,” she said. “I saw them embrace homeless men as sons, brothers and fathers.”
This communal spirituality encouraged Kerrisk to complete a second year with JVC. She moved to D.C. and began her work at an inner-city tutoring program.
Kerrisk shared the story of an undocumented immigrant from the Dominican Republic whom Kerrisk helped get accepted into her dream university and acquire enough scholarship and financial aid funds to afford her education.
“You all will have different experiences, but the ones I’ve had, they’ve helped to shape and form me,” she said. “I will always carry these people, these experiences and JVC with me.”
Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13), a student who attended the meeting, said she attended the dinner to meet the off-campus chaplain-in-residence and learn more about post-graduation options.
“I’m looking into a lot of options and it gave me a better understanding what the JVC is as a volunteer option,” she said. “I haven’t applied to many things after graduation but when I do, I definitely will look back and draw upon her experiences.”