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Jumping In With Complete Abandon: Finding My Sanctuary

Where do you find your sanctuary? As I embarked on the journey I began at the beginning of my service year in San Francisco, I was seeking out a place where I could find my own sanctuary. Luckily, I found that place at my local parish as well as with the community at my service site.

At this point in the school year, if you were to ask my K-8 students at St. Peter’s School what the word “sanctuary” means, you would discover that they know what they are talking about. Some students may say “shelter” while others say “the church.” What these definitions have in common is that they are both places where we go to feel safe. I bring up this word because our school sings the song “Lord Prepare Me to be a Sanctuary” each week at mass. My students understand that when we are with Jesus we should feel safe and loved, so we sing this song to help ourselves be that for other people. Each time I hear their sweet voices singing this song, my heart fills with such joy. I am incredibly lucky to have students who were interested in joining the choir I started this year and who are willing to share their voices with the rest of the school. Those that sing with me jump right into praising Jesus and they sing this song with complete abandon. It is my prayer that they can go in their lives to be beacons of peace and safety for those that they meet. Even moreso, I pray that wherever they go, they find a sanctuary of their own. 

As for the sanctuary I have found while in San Francisco, the Jesuit parish of St. Agnes has proven to be the most welcoming and peaceful place amidst the business of the big city. The first time I met the community at St. Agnes’, I was singled out because the priest had never seen me and my fellow volunteers. Following that initial impression, I felt drawn to return the next weekend. Again, I was greeted with people wanting to know who I was and what I was doing in San Francisco. I had the joy of sharing my journey to MVC with people whose lives also inspired me that day, and as I was just about to leave I was invited to join the Young Adult Community at their planning session that afternoon. Here I found myself volunteering to help lead Taizé services and get involved in the myriad of activities they had planned for our growing group. I left church that day in a whirlwind of emotions. I was incredulous of how quickly I had jumped into a new group of people, and I was so relieved that I had found such a warm community. The next thing I knew I was signing up for St. Agnes’ RCIA program in order to enter the Catholic church. Truthfully, I discovered this church at just the moment when I needed to. What I have found in the Young Adult Community, the choir, my RCIA group, and the congregation as a whole is a spirit of profound joy, peace, and intentionality. At the end of a long week, I know that I can find refuge and rejuvenation in the sanctuary that St. Agnes provides. 

Where would I be had I not jumped into these communities with complete abandon? One thing is certain, I have found immense spiritual growth through my year with MVC at both my service site and at St. Agnes’ Parish. I thank God everyday for the communities I have been given, and I encourage you to practice a moment of gratitude for the gifts that God has given you as well.

Alivia Schmidt-Sanders: San Francisco, California

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