The joy of volunteering

December 6, 2011

Are you a volunteer at your parish? If so, why do you volunteer? Many people who have taken their baptismal call very seriously take time out of their very busy schedule to serve others through ministries in their parish. Some people spend a couple of hours volunteering, some are gone from their home and families for a week at a time to serve in various ministries. What makes people volunteer with such joy?

St. Thomas the Apostle, Huntsville

Kathy Boscarino, who serves as a parish catechetical leader at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Huntsville, excitedly recommended Rocio Torres, a faithful volunteer from her parish, to answer this query. 

Torres is a volunteer in our Spanish Children’s CCE program. She and her husband Alfredo Torres have four children. Dad also volunteers in the Spanish choir where 8-year-old Emily sings. Their oldest daughter Lizbeth has been an altar server for six years. This is what Torres said about volunteering:
“I have volunteered since I was little. In Church there was a mission. I was in charge of talking to people to tell them we need clothes, food… and getting the teams together. Momma told me that even though we were poor, other people needed more than we needed. I have something special in my mind that my momma told me: ‘Today you have nothing, but tomorrow you have many blessings in your life.’ I like to volunteer; you may not receive money or gifts but the smile on someone’s face is everything to me.”

It is evident from the work that the Torres’ do at the parish that they follow their baptismal and vocational call. In doing so by example and empowerment, they are handing on the tradition of faith in action to their young children — showing and teaching them the beauty of discipleship and sharing of time, talent and in some ways treasure. Also, spreading joy brings Rocio Torres joy as well, since a smile on someone’s face ‘is everything’ to her. All are great reasons to volunteer.

Christ the Good Shepherd, Spring
Donna Wilganowski, assistant coordinator of Youth Ministry at Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Spring, recommended a volunteer from their youth program, Patricia Barry, to answer “Why volunteer?”

“Whenever I think about discipleship, I remember the story of the man born blind in the Gospel of John. The disciples asked Jesus if the man was blind because of his sin or his parents. Jesus answered ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.’ For years, I thought that Jesus meant that this miraculous healing was a sign that he was the Son of God, a sort of one-time-only event, and then I read the next line. ‘We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.’ ”

What an eye-opener! Jesus said “we,”not “I.” “We” means Jesus, the disciples, and me! It means all of us who are in the light, all who have the strength, the time, the capability. And He said “have to” — it’s a command. So if you ask me why I volunteer, well, it’s because Jesus told me to because by volunteering, I make visible the works of God.

I help out in several ministries, but mainly, I share my faith in the high school faith formation program at my parish. I offer a willingness to work, a talent for organizing and for coming up with fun learning activities, hopefully a talent for teaching, and a respect and liking for the youth to the program. High school youth are a wonderful mixture of generosity and self-centeredness, worldliness and spirituality, maturity and desire for adult praise. I love seeing them make our faith their own. Many of them are so much closer to God than I was at their age.

I am well rewarded for the time and effort I put into the program. Besides the young people, I have met many other volunteers who have shared their faith, and strengthened mine. Because of the time I spend studying and preparing for the sessions, I have become closer to God. I will freely admit that I rely heavily on the Holy Spirit every time I walk into a room filled with youth.”

If you take the concept of volunteering to another level, this is “stewardship.” The fundamental reason for all acts of stewardship is gratitude for the abundance we have been given and our open response to give back to God. 

The ministry of stewardship is rooted in the understanding that the entirety of our life is a gift from God. The most precious gift is God’s self-gift, the person of Jesus Christ who came so that we may know life abundant. Stewardship fulfills our call be modern day disciples, an ordering of life that puts all we have under Christ’s commands — our time, our money, our relationships.

Our modern society calls us to simply regulate our time to the social calendar. Jesus calls us to so much more. Jesus is not interested in just 10 percent. Jesus wants 100 percent of our lives to continue building His Kingdom here on earth. The essence of stewardship formation asks: How do we respond? †

Norma Torok is Associate Director of the Archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry.