Our Jesuit Volunteer Says Goodbye to St. V

by Codie Perry

As I set out to write this farewell, it seemed daunting to try and come up with exact message that I could leave you with. I racked my brain on what I wanted to say, what insight I could part to you. After all, I am just a recent college graduate with little real world experience, who has only read about poverty in economic textbooks, studied nonprofit structures in business classes, and heard long lectures on the theology of the Catholic church.

I was intimidated at trying to find what insight could I possibly offer. And so for the past couple weeks, I would try to just sit in silence and listen to the small stirrings in my heart, searching for that piece of gold and have that light bulb go off. But the same thing came up again and again. It was neither overly inspirational nor emotionally stirring. And so here it is:

Thank you.

Truly, from the bottom and the top of my heart and every place in between, thank you. That is  simply what I want to say as I approach the end of my time here in Baltimore, I just want to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to each of you who have made this year such an unforgettable experience for me.

During a time when I have missed my family so deeply, you have been there for me, as mothers and fathers, as grandmothers and grandfathers, as friends and mentors. For that I am greatly indebted to you. Thank you to all of you for the direct and indirect ways in which you have been there for me, as well as in support of the rest of the JVC cohort. Thank you for welcoming us into your community.

Thank you for your consistency. Week in and week out people show up to volunteer and give of themselves with a smile. There were times when I certainly was not at my best but your constant example of being kind and generous served as inspiration for me to continue to try to be better, to be more patient, and to search for Christ in my encounters. It has been such an honor and a privilege to serve along side you, to labor with you to bring to fulfillment the Christ inspired mission of service to others.

This is why this community is an incredibly special place. Early on I conveyed this to my housemates by the fact that this church is one of the few places where people can come and hear a warm yes, instead of a cold no. So often those in need have the courage to ask for help but are only given a cold shoulder or an icy glare in return. While hearts elsewhere are so often closed, here, in this community, all welcomed and embraced with a smile day in and day out.

I have learned that the church is no longer simply just a gathering space that we inhabit for an hour on Sunday. But rather, as this community has shown me, your faith life informs and infiltrates your life outside the church. The spirit of this church extends far beyond the walls of this edifice. It seeps out into the park and on the undercroft. It can be found at Saint James & John, in the homes of those served by TRE and the food pantry, and throughout this city.

I have been challenged in more ways than I thought possible during this year. There have been countless moments when I have been tested to give when I felt I had no more to give. But I have learned that we all have something to offer, no matter how small it may be. Simply waving to someone and acknowledging them, or just listening to someone share their story, does more for them than we can ever imagine.

But it also moves us in a powerful way too.

Father Harry, my spiritual director, who is the Superior at the Jesuit Community in Roland Park, has always teased me, so have you saved Baltimore yet, Codie? We get caught up trying to save the world and change people, but at the end of the day we are the ones who are changed. By standing at the margins (Father Greg Boyle) or by seeing the world with the eyes of the marginalized (Father Arturo Sosa), our hearts are changed to a more loving spirit.

So although I am shifting my focus to the next challenge that is before me, I will continue to unpack this JVC experience, knowing that I have been touched by a community of ministry that has truly been inspiring. This year of post-graduate service has emboldened my desire and ambition to serve those in need and to contribute to something greater than myself. I have been strengthened by the example of your resolve to do good, more confident than ever to continue responding to the call to serve.

Having been reaffirmed in my commitment to service, I will be continuing in that spirit as I pursue commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. I am headed back home to Massachusetts to first and foremost reconnect with my family. I became an uncle shortly before arriving in Baltimore and so I know a young little niece who I owe some kisses and hugs. But I will also start making preparations to apply for Officer Candidate School in Quantico, VA.

As I take this step forward with fear and trembling, I take comfort in knowing that you have encouraged me in the passion of service. I do not know if I would attempt this endeavor if it were not for the constant examples that I have witnessed in each of you.

And so I’d like to leave you with a poem that was written by a homeless man by the name of Matteo, who shared it with my one day on my way home from work.

Seek and find the inner the peace,
you must first learn to love
and to release that fear that blocks the inner mind

from seeing that we are all one kind.
Sharing and giving all that we know,
can only help us and the world to grow.
Hold not back,
for if you do, that which you withhold, you withhold from you.
Brothers and sisters, one are we, once we are as one,
only then shall we be free.

Thank you for the indelible mark that you have left on me, one that I will carry fondly for the rest of my life.

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