Monday, February 11, 2013


AmeriCorps volunteers at work
I helped assure, along with others {especially Al’s* hesitant but willing-to-give-her-kid-a-chance mom}, Al’s final steps in boarding a plane to begin a year’s AmeriCorps service. His success made me feel grateful.  Al had persisted for over a year through a laborious application process, with few resources, and at stalemate with his high school graduation {despite good support from alternative school staff.}  His medical problems had held him back in the past, and he would much rather have gone east to the AmeriCorps training center by train bus or car.  Yet he’d made the flight, and now confronts the good daily problems of getting to know his team-mates, and who gets the top bunk.
         * Name changed.
Then thinking back on my own 19 year-old efforts to be of service, I remember the kindness, support, and beatnik courage of Fr. Joe {his brother was part owner of Ann Arbor’s first real coffee house, gathering place for 50’s--60’s critical thinkers, right across from the Quad}.  Fr. Joe had been transferred north of Detroit to a migrant mission parish in 1966, and invited me to help with youth ministry in the town and the migrant camps.  We’d met when I was in my first year of college at Sacred Heart Seminary, moderator of a Young Christian Students group at his parish on the Eastside.  He’d been recruited by his global-minded bishop to learn Spanish, and the small group {comunidades de base} church movement, in Puerto Rico.
 June 4, 1972--Fr. Joe gives bread to Cesar Chavez ending his 24-day Fast for Justice -- photo by Glen Pearcy
Now he was my financial and spiritual mentor making it possible for me to enter a new larger world—a world unexplainable without actually living in it months on end.  Fr. Joe, and many others in the camps, made it possible for me to have more than four summers with Mexican-American farmworkers—changed my life, and is still changing.  The experience has given me passable Spanish language, and the knowledge that one can live with less—unlocking new culture doors as I became a Physicians Assistant, and providing invaluable skills for managing life in breakneck U.S. consumer society.

Helped an AFSC group while at St. Nicholas migrant mission

t’s my time, at 65, to look for the ways to open paths for young people, opportunities that envision a more inclusive, just world.  AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, Jesuit Volunteer Corps, City Year, American Friends Service Committee, Pax Christi USA, Habitat for Humanity, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Lutheran Volunteer Corps, a myriad of church mission activities here and abroad.   The list is yet longer, but almost unknown to exist.  Serve your community and country without learning the method of the assault rifle.  All these require time and money to enlist in.  Unlike the military, there is no phalanx of recruiters to guide your way.

 “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” was assassinated in 1963.   Our county’s unflagging dedication to war upon war has clipped the wings of the Peace Corps, the hopes of the developing world, and our own children’s access to a complete, creative education.  But as Al overcame his fear of flying, and starts AmeriCorps service, another eagle has landed, dropping the arrows from its talons, ready to help build the planet with liberty and justice for all. May God bless his fledgling efforts, and may we support those of millions more.                  
Illumination by Kathey Brahney

From Ande's Valentine creation sent to me in 1978 -- a loving "bowl of warm fuzzies" I forever hold dear.

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