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Mercy Charism shines through Mercy Volunteer Corps members

May 29, 2012

By Liz Dossa, WMW Communications Manager

Mercy Volunteer Corps attracts people of all ages who are drawn to fixing a broken world. With fresh energy, they want to house the homeless, feed hungry children and find healthcare for pregnant women. They are inspired to challenge unjust systems.

Since the founding of Mercy Volunteer Corps (MVC) in 1978, more than 900 women and men have been called to compassionate service in 122 different sites in 24 states and in Guyana, South America, and Honduras, Central America.

Once the volunteer is placed, they learn to live in community, pray together and buy food on a tiny budget. Often the young volunteers are homesick, but they embrace their work. Sisters in ministries in which MVC members have served are enthusiastic about what they have seen and experienced with the volunteers.

“The MVCs have made themselves invaluable,” said Sister Mary Ellen Howard, executive director of Detroit’s St. Frances Cabrini Clinic which brings healthcare to the uninsured poor. “They have doubled my output.”

The clinic has had a volunteer for the last four years serving as an administrative assistant covering the front desk, helping patients in need, and keeping medical records in order.

Part-time volunteer Robert Wotypka organized the clinic’s move to larger quarters which then made it possible to accept a full-time volunteer. Nate Megel helped develop and implement patient registration software, and trained volunteers on a new pharmacy system. Siobhan Dobbs brought an interest in environmental issues, helped formulate institutional policies and organize an online volunteer schedule. This year, the bilingual skills of Xochitl Rocha are a tremendous help.

Sister Libby Fernandez counts on her MVC members as full-fledged staff members at Loaves and Fishes in Sacramento. Each month, 1,000 volunteers come to help at the ministry founded in 1983 to feed the hungry and house the homeless, but the MVC members are constants in the flow. But it’s not just the work they do, the food trays they serve, or the cases they manage that make them essential.

“They add a whole dimension, the charism of Mercy, works of Mercy,” Sister Libby shared. “They talk about community, and their actions speak Mercy. They really bring the presence here.”

MVC estimates that in the last 20 years six to eight volunteers have become sisters and 20-30 are now associates, but most do not enter religious life. However, they continue to be involved in the Mercy charism. Drawn by the Mercy mission and the examples of the sisters, MVC members are a Mercy presence in spirit and works during the time they serve. They are the future of Mercy in the world.

“I love who and what the MVC nurtures in our youth today,” said Sister Jean Umlor, who has worked with MVC members in Michigan. “We can nurture the seeds planted by God in the volunteers. Then we must let go and trust that Mercy will grow and produce fruits in its own time and place. It is that ‘letting go or releasing’ that challenges all of us. Easter time reminds me of that message and fruit.”

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