When I reflect on my first few weeks with my community and the St. Vincent de Paul society, I cannot help but listen and relate to the hymn, “The Summons”. Each line in this song is a question which seems to directly hit the points I am feeling in this phase of my experience with Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati or VVC. I feel that the first two verses of this hymn asks all the right questions in regard to how I am feeling about VVC, my experiences with community and SVDP so far. [This reflection first appeared on FamVin.]
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?– We all said “yes” to the unknown of being a VVC and living in the West End alongside our neighbors in need. Likewise, from a personal perspective, this “yes” was one of the hardest ones I have ever had to make so I imagine my community members have had similar experiences. However, although it was a difficult decision to make, I know God is calling me to be here for a reason and I feel honored to be given this experience through Him.
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same? – Our living space is intentional and one that we pray to grow in and through. God is changing our hearts every second and every day of being here. I have never been to Cincinnati before and I committed myself to taking that leap of faith to do something I have never done before and to go somewhere that I have never been. I am ready to “never be the same”.
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known? – As a community we are trying to embody the Vincentian message through every action we take. Personally, I am seeing God’s face in our neighbors in such a profound and beautiful way. I am also taken back by my community member’s generosity to this question; they are all wonderful examples of Christ to me.
Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me? – As I mentioned before, God is growing in each of us every day. However, I can personally say that I am feeling closer to God through my neighbors and co-workers, I am reassured that I am where God is calling me to be and I pray this closeness I am feeling only continues to get stronger.
Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name? – I am a twin and prior to this experience Isabella and I had only ever been apart for a short period of time. By coming to Cincinnati, I was in a very real way leaving myself behind because I have always been my twin’s follower and always stepped back to allow her to take the lead. For the first time ever, I am challenged to be my own person and grow as an individual.
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same? – My community members and I feel passionately about our neighbors and the overall social justice system. From my end, I am doing what I can to promote a sense of community and equality among myself and those who I am serving alongside. While I can say that I may never be the same again through this experience, I am also striving to make sure my neighbors feel the same way through their encounters with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare? -When I tell people I am a part of a yearlong service program, I often receive the response; “why would you want to do that?” or, “don’t you want to get your life started?” These questions make me feel like I am risking the hostile stare because I know some won’t approve or understand my choice/calling to be here. However, I am firm that my life will flourish through this experience.
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me? – I am enchanted by this question and humbled by its simplicity and strength. Although it is a question that is difficult to grasp, I am tickled by the idea that God is working through me, my community members, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul as a whole to do His will and to be His hands and feet.
While I can keep going through the song, I feel that the first two verses of this hymn asks all the right questions in regard to how I am feeling about VVC, my experiences with community and SVDP so far. Likewise, these questions resonate with me through the way they keep me in-line with the ways I should be living the Vincentian mission this year and beyond. I am very blessed to be here and I am very hopeful for my future as an advocate and Vincentian.
Ana Davila is a graduate of Niagara University and a member of this year’s Cincinnati Vincentian Volunteers, where this article first appeared.