While I taught at St. Michael Indian School (SMIS), a school serving youth from the…
As seen in our Annual Report, we invite you to read more about Joe Falco’s (‘97, ’98) service placements and takeaways from his two years as a Mercy Volunteer in New Mexico and New York City:
Joe’s first service placement in Santa Fe was at St. Katharine Indian School. The school was started by Mother Catherine Drexel, and it predominantly served Native American and Hispanic students. There were a lot of different tribes, pueblos, and cultural differences among the students and families. Joe learned a lot about local history and the unique intersection of cultures and colonialism. The different perspectives opened his mind up a lot, and he credits MVC for allowing him and other Mercy Volunteers to experience life in new ways and explore how other cultures, experiences, and perspectives are intertwined. Joe remembers fondly the different cultural celebrations where food, traditional Native American dance, and fellowship took place in small household gatherings and larger public festivities. He remembers how present the Blessed Sacrament Sisters were to the local community, and the memorable celebrations the Sisters would host. They would ensure that food from all cultures and traditions were represented, and any individualism turned communal for these celebrations would focus on unique commonalities and not differences.
In New York, Joe served at St. Francis Xavier Parish in lower Manhattan. Joe helped with many aspects of vibrant parish life, including the Welcome Table, a soup kitchen started in the West Village on Sundays. Many volunteers helped serve 1,200 – 1,500 meals for the economically poor and senior citizens every Sunday. The parish also provided an ESL program for folks in the city, and an Education Outreach Program that included local volunteer mentors to help students in the neighborhood. It was a very diverse parish with some Sisters of Mercy presence and connections. Joe learned to see God in people different from him by accompanying those from other cultures and backgrounds, as well as individuals experiencing substance abuse and mental health challenges. He also learned that the people they were “serving” were really serving the Mercy Volunteers. Joe recognized how MVC helps Mercy Volunteers move from self to others by providing reflection opportunities focusing on what’s really meaningful and valuable in life. For Joe, his MVC experience continues to serve him well into a lifetime of community, faith, family, and valuable relationships. Joe remembers his Mercy Volunteer experience as a transformative experience overall, and a lot of fun!
Joe has a special message for Mercy Volunteers and all Alumni: don’t forget to talk about MVC. During our conversation with Joe, he mentioned multiple times how he wouldn’t have been able to serve at two different sites in two different cities, states, and cultures, and live in community with fellow Mercy Volunteers, if it weren’t for the staff and comprehensive framework the program provides. Joe feels that MVC as an organization matters, and without it, he would not have been able to build community through service, nor gain the important life lessons and strong relationships MVC fostered.
Finally, we asked Joe why he donates to MVC. He immediately said, “No money, no mission.” He also shared that his contributions feel like prayer in action, and that Mercy Volunteers get more from his investment since it allows others to serve communities in need and helps others see beyond themselves. Joe feels his monthly donations are a worthwhile return on investment, and he sees the proof in MVC’s hard work, support for Mercy Volunteers, and the positive organizational impact. We’re so grateful for Joe’s service as a volunteer, former board member, and monthly donor. We greatly appreciate the contributions of all Alumni and other donors, too!
Joe Falco: New Mexico and New York City Alumnus