I really had no idea what I was getting into when I joined the Augustinian Volunteers. When I decided to sign up for a year of service in late spring, I did not have a strong inclination towards any particular group. In fact, my decision to join the Augustinian Volunteers was largely based on their relatively late deadline for applying. Since then, I have been bombarded with uncomfortably different notions of community living and spirituality. Things like group prayer, assigned nights to cook, and communal budgets all felt weirdly imposed on people who were legal adults. However, I have since been impressed by the thoughtful construction of this program and Augustinian living, most prominently in the community life model. Community for the Augustinians goes far beyond living with roommates and sharing a home. Community involves a constant, evolving process by which community members are present for each other and help each other to grow spiritually by deliberately and consistently fostering connections. Each community member has immense responsibility, not just to buy groceries, clean the home, and cook, but also to be guardians, friends, and mentors to each other.
Already, my community members have helped me to set goals for myself which I never would have on my own. By forcing my own spirituality out into the open, I am not only brought to analyze it more thoroughly, but also to see how it can improve and be improved by the spirituality of my community. Being among a community that is not only dedicated to living harmoniously in Christ, but also to the individual development of each member, is a radical thing that I have yet to see the real effects of.
If you had approached me six months ago and told me I would be leading a group prayer in the fall, I would have been equally amused and alarmed. I have always approached prayer from a very solitary perspective, even while at Mass, and praying with a group seemed at first to be a burden, with no real change to the spirituality of the act. However, in the few times we have gathered thus far, I have grown to look forward to group prayer, either to share my own approach or to see what new ways my community will approach prayer for that night. My approach to prayer in general has changed, and hope to keep building on this change as the year progresses.
In conclusion, while I would never recommend my approach to choosing a service program, I cannot help but feel like I struck gold with the Augustinians. The compelling and powerful approach to living and prayer, alongside the delightful company of the nearby Augustinian friars, I think will make this year not only an enjoyable one, but also one in which I can make great strides in my own spiritual development, and to grow closer to God.
Philadelphia, PA 2017-2018