Create Your Charism: Allison Reynolds – Good Shepherd Volunteers

Allie is one of five CVN Serving with Sisters Ambassadors – volunteers sharing the joy, energy, and fulfillment of serving alongside Catholic Sisters in CVN member programs, through creative reflection, conversation, and experience. Enjoy this post, and stay tuned to hear more from Allie and her fellow Ambassadors over the course of their service year!

The dictionary defines Charisma as “a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion to others.” I believe this definition is perfect to describe why I chose to serve. I was attracted to service because it was a world of unknowns and adventure, while devoting time and work to others. As I was applying to service organizations, the values of Good Shepherd Volunteers (GSV) stuck out to me. GSV has four core values of Social Justice, Community, Spirituality, and Simplicity while encouraging their volunteers to represent the Sisters’ core values of Individual Dignity, Zeal, Reconciliation, and Mercy. All these values of the GSV program can be broken down into the following words that, I believe, best describe Good Shepherd’s charism. 
C – Calling The dictionary defines the word vocation as “a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career.” I believe when the Good Shepherd Sisters received their calling towards this vocation, they knew they were in the right place. Sisters feel such a strong desire to help others, and they make a significant sacrifice to serve others. I have witnessed this work first hand, and it is incredible. Watching the sisters interact with every person that crosses their path with love and compassion influences me every day to be more open minded without pre-judgments. With this mindset I feel I have been able to reach more people, learn more, and take more risks without fear. 

Andrea and I attending the mass for the Sisters of Good Shepherd vow renewal.
H- Humbling Working with GSV has proven to be one of the most humbling experiences. Every day I learn something new, proving how little I knew about life before this experience. Living in Sucre, Bolivia has made me more humble than ever before. I have met people who need to walk 3 hours from their house to get to work, I have seen children wear the same clothes constantly- no matter how dirty they might be, and I have witnessed a corrupt political system full of civilian protests for laws and actions that I have never thought could exist. With these few examples in mind, I have learned how every country, group, or individual is different. If I believe something could be done in a certain way, that does not mean a Bolivian is accustomed to doing things my way. In these moments I truly have to step back, listen, understand and trust the process. I am constantly growing in appreciation and respect for the communities I work with. Learning every day about our communities is difficult and eye opening, but only creates more of a curiosity and attentiveness for what is out there and how we can help. 

Marching with our women to lift our voices against violence.
A-Amor Amor; love. Working in communities experiencing hardship, discouragement, violence, neglect, poverty, misunderstanding, and any other negative words you can think of… love is always the most important tool to have. I believe the staff, volunteers and Sisters who work with GSV have a strong belief that everyone is human, everyone has a story, and everyone deserves a chance. Knowing I am working with communities who the political, social, and economic systems ignore, oppress or discourage, I realize sometimes that second chances can only be shown through love and compassion. I am not in this work for the money, or for being the boss and making decisions. I am attracted to this work to be devoted to others and to just be there. The GSV slogan is “Just Love” which means love in justice, and to simply, just love. Playing games with children who come from homes that suffer from domestic violence and seeing their worry-free smiles is why I chose to volunteer. Being able to show these children, and women that someone believes in them and loves them, especially as a complete stranger, gives them hope and confidence they might not have had before. This part of GSV is one of the strongest pieces of the charism to include and inspire others. 

Teaching art therapy at a Good Shepherd Shelter in
Los Angeles, CA in my first year as a GSV (children’s faces blurred for confidentiality).
R- Rapport Creating rapport is a phrase used in all jobs throughout GSV. From the beginning, I learned I would have to gain the trust of the people I might encounter throughout my year. The best way I have been taught to do that is through love and open-mindedness. Being able to observe the Sisters create rapport so easily has inspired me and taught me different ways to interact with others. Every time I encounter a new person, I know they have a story to tell, and every story is different. Learning how to create rapport has taught me not to assume that everyone has had the same experiences or beliefs. Keeping this in mind, I have been able to have open conversations with many different people by sharing opinions. Being able to accept and value every person’s difference has taught me many new things that I have to credit to my new friends along this journey. 

The Good Shepherd Sisters modeled the importance of having fun
with the kids on Halloween in my first year as a GSV in Los Angeles.
I-Intentional Intentionality is a huge part of GSV. Coming into a volunteer year would not have worked if I did not feel intentional about it. I have to want to be here; I have to want to be in it for the hard times and the good times. To live intentionally is to live with purpose, and to live with the idea that every choice you make has an impact on yourself and others around you. As a second year volunteer, I also have a better understanding of the meaning of intentional living. It means believing in your own happiness through a conscious attempt to live according to your beliefs and values. Living on a stipend, living in community, exploring different religious values, adventuring in new countries and cities, meeting new people, teaching my own students; every single one of these GSV experiences (and more) has taught me more about myself, my values and beliefs, and how to live intentionally. 

Andrea and I having fun being GSVs at Orientation last summer, where
I had the chance to reflect on my first year as a GSV and prepare for my second.
S- Spirituality I believe Spirituality is one of the best ways GSV is different from other volunteer programs. While GSV is a Catholic based organization, it accepts all religious and spiritual backgrounds. This shows GSV does not discriminate against other religions and is willing to see their volunteers discover their own spiritual journey, allowing me the freedom to express and explore my spirituality the way I want. Admittedly, working with Catholic Sisters at the beginning made me nervous. When I entered a religious world I was unfamiliar with, I pictured having to pretend to be something I wasn’t. I did not attend mass constantly, and I did not understand most of the Catholic world. When I first met the Sisters, I thought I would have to act religious. However, right away I learned that the Sisters love hearing and learning about religious, spiritual values and the backgrounds each new volunteer brings. This has motivated me and showed me how religion can be expressed through personality and curiosity, and that there is more than one-way to express the way you feel spiritually.
Hermana Consuelo and I after renewing her vows! 93 and she
still shows an amazing amount of love towards everyone!

M- Moral GSV has showed me what my morals are and what I believe in. I have realized my heart is with helping others. Being in this profession has helped me recognize human character, and how morals can be learned at a young age, but can also be rediscovered and made your own as you grow older. The families and communities GSV works with come from harsh homes, where the morals that have been taught might be considered inhumane. What I love about my job is being able to reteach these children new morals, new values, and how a person should be treated. Watching the violence leave their lives with tiny successes is the most rewarding part about my job. This has been one of the most attractive parts about GSV throughout my experience: the need and want to continue to have these successes with the families I serve, and the curiosity of how I will continue this work when my volunteer career ends. 

Allie, a current Good Shepherd Volunteer, will be blogging about her service experience as part of our ongoing Serving with Sisters Ambassadors series. This series is sponsored by CVN’s From Service to Sisterhood Initiative, a project made possible thanks to the support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

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