"The greater the work the more
important it is to establish it on
a solid foundation. Thus it will
not only be more perfect; it
will also be more lasting.”

St. Louise de Marillac

“Be diligent in serving
the poor. Love the poor,
honor them, my children,
as you would honor
Christ Himself.”

St. Louise de Marillac

 

Feeding a Hunger for Service and Prayer

By Associate Angela Anno

S. Victoria Marie Forde (back, left) served as a mentor to John O’Connor (back, center), the Community’s first Associate in Volunteer Ministry.

In 1995 John O’Connor, a social studies and Spanish teacher living in Tennessee, was looking for a summer volunteer opportunity that would also deepen his Catholic faith. He found what he was looking for as an Associate in Volunteer Ministry with migrant workers near Tipp City, Ohio.

After completing an extensive application and spending some time in prayer at the Motherhouse, John was accepted as the Community’s first Associate in Volunteer Ministry and met the Sisters and the local and migrant families he would be working with over the next two months. S. Rita Hawk headed the program and S. Victoria Marie Forde was his mentor.

He lived with a couple who already was working with migrant families. Because the families found work in Brownsville, Texas, in the winter and the Tipp City region in the summer, many of the students missed school, lost credits and were behind. S. Victoria wanted to change that and asked John to work with four students to help them catch up. “It was a great sacrifice for the parents,” John said, “because the teens could be bringing in money by working.” But the parents saw the value of education and encouraged their children to work with John. By the end of the summer, the students each earned one credit. It was a success.

In the evenings John joined the husband of the family he was living with in teaching English to migrant families. He also worked with involving migrant teens in youth group events at the nearby parish, including a visit to Kings Island.

As part of his experience, he met biweekly with S. Victoria. He remembers her giving him a book of reflections by St. Vincent de Paul, and found that helped him grow spiritually.

John says he enjoyed the life of prayer and helping people and even considered becoming a priest as a result of his experience. He also found a new appreciation for migrant workers, how they had to live and the treatment they received, and that made him an advocate for them.

Almost 30 years later, S. Victoria Marie Forde still enjoys receiving a Christmas card from former Associate in Volunteer Ministry John O’Connor.

Almost 30 years later, S. Victoria Marie Forde still enjoys receiving a Christmas card from former Associate in Volunteer Ministry John O’Connor.

The bonds of friendship he made with the Sisters and his host family continued through the years. He says having them be present at his wedding meant a lot to him and they have continued to correspond over the years, sharing memories, news of ministries, children, and life events.

His faith has continued to deepen and grow and he credits that summer years ago with nourishing his desire for service and prayer as important parts of his life. He is actively involved in the men’s ministry in his church, St. Joseph University Parish in Terre Haute, Indiana, as well as the ACTS (Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service) program, where he now helps feed other men’s hunger for service and prayer.

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