Novices in ministry

Posted on: September 12, 2016 2:00 pm
Tags: Novitiate, Volunteer,

Sr. Mayra Marie Martinez and Sr. Nicole Marie Varnerin came to the SND National Novitiate in August 2015. Since then their formation has included university studies, inter-community formation, and ministry in the Greater Cincinnati area, which they describe below. 

Sr. Nicole Marie Varnerin and Ilonda, receptionist at the Homeless Coalition

Sr. Nicole

Since March 2016, I have ministered at the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. The Coalition itself is an advocacy group. Our mission is to advocate for people experiencing homelessness and create systemic change through legislation and litigation that will affect lives. For example, we led tenants to bring a lawsuit against absentee landlords who left over 1,000 apartments without heat and in horrible disrepair. We won receivership for the apartment complexes, one of the largest cases granted in the United States. 

Most of the work carried out at the Coalition is office work, but the Coalition is also a place where people experiencing homelessness can be accepted and loved. We open our lobby and collect mail for our friends experiencing homelessness and offer small hospitality like water and donuts. We also connect people to other resources. I do anything that needs to be done. I mail letters asking for donations, create forms for our projects, and put together databases for the staff. 

Our friends experiencing homelessness are of all ages, from a little two-year-old with her parents to young adults on their own to seniors. The staff is mostly young adults, passionate about grassroots movements and dedicated to the well-being of our friends. 

My ministry at the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition keeps me connected to the injustices of our world and the people who are affected. I am continually amazed by the smiles on the faces of my friends who have to endure more hardship in one day than I have in my 26 years of life. Their faith and perseverance inspire me to do the same in my life. If my friend who was robbed of his entire sum of money can still say "I'm blessed", then I can certainly keep going. I see my friendship with people experiencing homelessness as an extension of Jesus' mission to call attention to the dignity of persons on the margins of society. I do not do much, but I see Jesus in them and hopefully they see Jesus in me. 

Sr. Mayra Marie Martinez

Sr. Mayra

I began ministering at Transitions-Grateful Life Center (TGL) in Erlanger, KY last fall. Transitions-Grateful Life provides treatment to people with substance abuse disorders. I primarily work with young men from Northern Kentucky, Louisville, and Ashland, KY. Some are court-appointed and others check themselves in, ready to better their lives. 

Linda Verst, a Notre Dame Associate, introduced me to her work at the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings at TGL in October 2015. In April 2016, I began teaching a weekly spirituality class. Through this ministry I am trying to give the students the spiritual tools to help them build a relationship with God and maybe create a better listening ear to hear God, especially since they are battling the voices of their addiction. It is my hope that they center themselves and become dependent on God. 

In our class, I try to integrate Ignation spirituality, reference Psalms and do meditations to help them figure out how God speaks to them. Not everyone prays and relates to God the same way. Some write, some play music, some are artists. God speaks to them through these outlets. It is my goal to help them find what channels their energy toward God and away from their addiction. I want to give back what God has given to me always. I want to be the best vessel possible of God’s grace and I hope that the students also share it and bring healing. I hope that when I walk with the students, they see a different side of themselves, that this addiction is just one part of them. 

Ministering at TGL is a gift for me. It has taught me solidarity with our brothers and sisters because as I go through my own formation, I see that we all have to look at our own areas of growth, and it is really hard sometimes. When I talk to the students or hear them in my prayer, I hear God say “Mayra, this is what so-and-so at TGL is going through. This growth is not just for you.” It gives me strength to say I can push through my struggle because it is not just for me, it is for others. I walk with them in their pain and it helps me to keep moving forward in my vocation. 

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