A Valentines Day Special Pt. 2
Twelve years later and we’re still a team!
–Brian Desmarais, Dominican Volunteer 2004-2006 and Megan (Decker) Desmarais, Dominican Volunteer 2005-2006
The Dominican charism, one that is loving and one that openly shares through connection is something that breaks down barriers and overcomes obstacles. Ashley found this important piece of her life in high school at Regina Dominican in Wilmette, IL and Chris at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, NY. DVUSA unknowingly brought them together through their passion to serve the refugee population. Their relationship is built on this special Dominican charism.
Ashley and Chris met during their service year in 2014-2015. Ashley was placed in Atlanta that year working in Catholic Charities Atlanta in Refugee Resettlement while Chris was placed in Chicago at Heartland Alliance: Refugee and Immigrant Communities Services. Ashley thought that Chris was “annoying” at their Orientation. Luckily, first impressions were not everything and after the mid-year retreat, Ashley and Chris started their journey supporting each other, and becoming best friends. They could even credit their relationship starting simply on personal letters that they had shared at this mid-year retreat. They found common ground in diving into the challenges that they were each experiencing, including those they both faced as volunteers of color.
Chris did a second year of service in Ashley’s position at Catholic Charities Atlanta. Even though Ashley wasn’t a volunteer for a second year, their relationship grew more in depth with continuing to support each other in different parts of the country. Long distance relationships are not easy, and sometimes they are daunting. But for Ashley and Chris, what continues to be a driving force in their strong commitment to each other is this foundation they had with DVUSA.
Years later, we began to fall in love while walking along the beach in Racine, Wisconsin during an extended break in a Dominican Volunteers Board of Directors meeting. Various circumstances had opened up the space for us to see one another in a new way. And again, the Dominican community—full of faith, joy and mission—tilled the soil in which this the seed of love could take root.
Twelve years of marriage later with two smart, beautiful and happy daughters in tow, we continue to be blessed by the spirit and the fact of Dominican community. Whether it is the warm greeting our girls receive from the Sisters as we walk through the doors of Rosary Chapel at Dominican University or the hilarious Christmas letters we receive from our fellow program alums or the sterling inspirations to holiness we see in our Dominican Volunteers friends, our love is grown and nurtured by Dominican Family. And we are so grateful.
Two of the things we really enjoy doing together are seeing plays and musicals and hiking. I think that taking in the arts in whatever form that might be is essential for everyone. And Cynthia and I are so lucky to live in such a great city for the arts! We have seen Hamilton, The Newsies, Les Mis and much more! We love going over our favorite parts of the musical, our favorite songs and our favorite actor/actress! It definitely brings us closer as a couple.
We also really enjoy Hiking and being in nature. We never feel so grounded in who we are as people and who we are as a couple than when we hike. This is especially true when we face adversity (like being lost on a trail!) and we work through it together to become a stronger couple. One of the more profound quotes someone told me was, “If you can’t find God anywhere, then go climb a mountain.” Nothing brings me closer to God then climbing a mountain with Cynthia.
Because we met through DVUSA, the program holds a very special place in our hearts. We support the program in any way we can and have learned so much from the people we have met along the way (including each other!). We count ourselves fortunate each and every day for Dominican Volunteers.
-Luke Sullivan and Cynthia Velasquez, Dominican Volunteers 2012-2014