When you are preparing to graduate, you have lots of options. This series highlights people who chose service, and how the volunteer experience has made an impact on their lives.
Name: Amanda Ceraldi
Volunteer Program: Franciscan Mission Service (FMS)
Hometown: Pasadena, Maryland
College: The Catholic University of America ’14, Theology major
How did you first learn about post-graduate service? I was first introduced to the possibility of post-grad service during my freshman year at Catholic U. I saw a flyer for the long-term service fair and began thinking about having that as an option when I graduated. After that first fair meeting different post-grad organizations I began meeting with my campus minister and dean regularly for the following three years to see how that could be my next step after graduation.
What other options were available to you, and why did you decide on Franciscan Mission Service? During my senior year of college I knew that I wanted to do long-term service after graduation, so I wasn’t looking into any other options. I decided to become a missioner with FMS because I knew I wanted to go international for at least two year and I feel in love with the Franciscan charism, especially their commitment to ministry of presence.
Tell us about your service experience. For the past two and a half years I have lived and worked at a boarding school for poor and marginalized children in Guatemala called Valle de los Angeles. We are home to 215 boys and girls for 10 months of the year. At Valle, I teach English to 3rd-6th graders, plan and lead short-term mission trips, tutor, volunteer with local communities throughout Guatemala, and spend as much time as possible with our precious children! I live in a small community of FMS volunteers here at Valle, but my true community experience is with the local people I spend my days with here in Guatemala. In addition to the 215 children I work with I have also developed deep communion-like relationships with many of their families, the staff here at the school, and other local volunteers.
What benefits have you gained from this experience that you might not have received otherwise? Outwardly, the biggest thing I have gained from my time on mission is the ability to speak Spanish. Prior to my arrival in Guatemala I knew no Spanish! Thankfully, after 2.5 years, I’ve been able to pick up the language really well. I love communicating in Spanish now! Internally, the greatest thing I have gained is a new understanding on what it means to love and be loved. I have loved harder and deeper than I ever thought possible and I am constantly surrounded by people who love me and call me to be my most authentic self. Additionally, I have never felt closer to God then during my time on mission!
What advice do you have for someone considering post-graduate service? My biggest piece of advice for someone considering post-graduate service would be to open your heart to going outside of your comfort zone. I think that on mission and when doing service we are called to be uncomfortable and in those moments of discomfort we are able to experience God, to see His face, and love His children. I am called outside of my comfort zone every single day and that has allowed me to experience God in ways I never thought possible!