Throughout National Catholic Sisters Week, Catholic Volunteer Network will share interviews with volunteers currently serving alongside sisters. In each post you will hear a little more about how the volunteers found their program and what they’ve learned from the sisters they work with. Today we feature Aubrey Kimble from Zebulon, North Carolina, a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, volunteering with the Franciscan Mission Service in Carmen Pampa, Bolivia.
How did you find your volunteer program? What appealed to you about it?
I knew that I wanted to do mission work after I graduated from college, so I started researching different international programs on the Catholic Volunteer Networksite. Franciscan Mission Service (FMS) particularly stuck out to me because of their emphasis on ministry of presence and accompaniment, their 2-year international commitment, and because they offered a 3-month formation program that sounded extremely well thought out (it was!).
Where do you serve?
I am currently serving in Carmen Pampa, Bolivia, which is in the department of La Paz. I am volunteering at the Catholic University of Bolivia at their Carmen Pampa site. I am currently the director of the English department of the university. I’m responsible for coordinating English classes, exams, and activities. I teach 2 English classes – an English I class for agronomy and education students, and an English II class for tourism students. I also open the children’s library on campus. There is a primary school in the area, and the kids come to the library after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
How has service strengthened your faith and your understanding of vocation?
Although I am “serving” here in Carmen Pampa as a lay missioner and volunteer, when I talk about my time here I prefer to use the word “presence.” In fact, this is what I believe makes missioners different from regular volunteers who come to serve. I specifically chose a 2-year program because I wanted to live in solidarity with my community and accompany them. Everything I do on a daily basis is based on being present to my students, the kids who come to the children’s library, and my community members. This ministry of presence has strengthened my faith because it helps me to reflect on what love really is, and how my actions and words reflect the love that I have to give – which comes from God. The ministry of presence that I intentionally try to live out has also changed my understanding of vocation. I’ve realized that we all have a vocation to love others and to show them God’s love. I believe that our individual vocations must all start there – we must find where our specific gifts and abilities lay and where they intersect with the love we have to give.
What have you learned from living and working with the sisters?
The sisters here at the university have taught me so much, both implicitly and explicitly. First, even though I never personally met Sister Damon or Sister Jean, their spirits are very much alive on campus and in this community. Sister Damon founded the university in Carmen Pampa with a vision that rural, impoverished students would have the ability to receive higher education and take back the skills they learned to their communities. Sister Jean ran the Pastoral group on campus, which is a religious youth group. Both of these Sisters were beloved – everybody in the community still talks about their love and generosity. This has taught me the importance of caring for others and fighting to make opportunities possible for those people who are marginalized in society.
I have, however, had the privilege of meeting and working with Sister Chris in Carmen Pampa. She has taught me the true meaning of presence and accompaniment. She dedicated her life to serving God, and lived in Bolivia for more than 50 years. She was a steady, strong presence in Carmen Pampa that everyone looked up to and admired. She worked hard for the benefit not only of the university, but also for the community of Carmen Pampa.
What advice would you give to someone interested in full-time volunteer service?
I would absolutely encourage them to do it. There is no doubt that this is hard work – it is incredibly challenging, and there are times when you will want to give up. However, being present to others and sharing God’s love is always worth it. Your volunteer experience will also stretch you and force you to grow in ways you never could have imagined – and that is an amazing gift to receive!
To learn more about CVN’s From Service to Sisterhood initiative and discernment resources for volunteers, please click here.
For more information about National Catholic Sisters Week, including details about events taking place all over the U.S. please click here