Volunteers who have dedicated their time and effort to the Lay Mission Volunteer Program were celebrated during a special retreat at Nazareth Campus from March 10-12, 2023. The event brought together around 50 women and men who have participated in localized and international mission trips, disaster relief efforts, and special events.
The volunteer ministry has grown to become a transformative experience for many individuals who participate, providing opportunities for personal and spiritual growth while serving those in need. Over the last 12 years alone, about 600 volunteers have contributed their time and dedication to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, making a profound impact on communities across the globe.
During the retreat, attendees shared their personal stories and experiences with mission work, which have been a source of inspiration for many. David White, from Bardstown, recalled how he got involved in volunteering after meeting a woman who was receiving a house through Habitat for Humanity. After helping with that house build, he looked for other ways to volunteer his time. When his wife, Janice, received a scholarship through Nazareth to attend a mission trip in Belize, David accompanied her, and his journey as a Nazareth volunteer officially began.
“Once you get it in your system, it’s stuck. You’re ready to go,” he said of volunteering. “The people that you meet, the people that you know, the people that you go back and help, there is just a feeling you have that is unreal. You just want to keep going back.”
Many who attended the weekend retreat have been to Belize, where a series of house builds have helped improve the quality of life for countless individuals and families. The trips and builds have deeply touched and inspired many of the participants.
Mark and Cindy Rhonemus, from Alabama, started volunteering with the Sisters in 2015 when they participated in a rebuild for Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans. Since then, they have traveled to Belize on multiple occasions, which led them to start their own charity and build a mission house in Las Flores. They recently hosted a group of volunteers from the Lay Mission Volunteer Program there for a home build.
The weekend retreat was an opportunity for program leaders and Sisters to express their gratitude for the volunteers’ contributions and celebrate their impact. Director Luke Boiarski, SCN, highlighted how the volunteer and disaster relief ministries allow Sisters to pass on their charism to future generations. The volunteers have become an integral part of the SCN Community, and in a time when more Sisters are retiring, they can continue to live out their mission.
Sister Luke said she is sometimes asked why the Sisters send volunteers instead of just sending the funds for other groups to take on the work. Being there in person to understand the need and build relationships with the people is essential.
Throughout the weekend, the volunteers participated in team-building activities, contemplative and spiritual exercises, and heard from presenters on topics such as self-care and building relationships. Pat Poole, SCIC, traveled in from Canada for the weekend, speaking on the spirituality of St. Vincent de Paul and seeing the face of Christ in those made poor and marginalized.
The weekend retreat, which was provided at no cost to the volunteers, was made possible through a grant received by the Nazareth Retreat Center. The Lay Mission Volunteer Program has had a profound impact on communities across the globe, and the volunteers’ dedication and commitment are truly commendable.