November 19, 2015
Mercy Volunteer Corps members have returned to San Francisco. First year MVC member Lauren Mifsud and Bianca Huerta, a second-year member, are learning to be at home here in a city known for a deep divide between rich and poor.
Mifsud caught the “Mercy bug” when she was a math education intern last year at Mercy Vocational High School in Philadelphia. Inspired by the staff at the Mercy-sponsored school, she signed on with Mercy Volunteer Corps which places volunteers for a year of service with people who are poor and marginalized in the U.S. and South America. MVC placed her on staff at St. Peter School in San Francisco’s Mission district, a school established by the Sisters of Mercy in 1878.
Mifsud teaches fifth grade math, middle school math and after school sports. She’s mentored by Karen Hammen, vice principal, who picked her up at the airport when she arrived in August. “She’s a fantastic support,” Mifsud said. “She took into account my strengths and figured out the best way to utilize my skills.”
Bianca is on staff at Faithful Fools, an organization founded to be a presence to those living in poverty on the streets. Her first task was to become familiar with other similar agencies in San Francisco, so she ate with people at St. Anthony’s and Glide Memorial. She’s part of the Faithful Fools’ street retreats, an essential part of their mission. She “shadowed” students from Julia Morgan School on their street retreats last week, giving them support and guidance when needed. She will be part of The Healing Well at the Faithful Fools site on Hyde Street, taking part in their yoga, meditation and substance abuse support groups.
Huerta became a part of the MVC program for a second year after serving at Mary Howard Health Center in Philadelphia. “Working with those experiencing homelessness taught me so much,” she said. “The people I interacted with – those living on the streets – had a huge impact in my life. I adored especially those professionals who worked with their whole hearts to take care of the patients.”
MVC stresses simple living, core values and community. The two share rooms at St. Mary’s Hall, housing donated by St Mary’s Medical Center.
They have regular community, eating together and exploring San Francisco’s neighborhoods. MVC asks them to have a spirituality night. “One night we went to the beach and did a meditation for 30 minutes. That’s something Bianca does at Faithful Fools regularly, but for me it was hard. It was cool,” Mifsud said. “We sometimes sit at home and read a Bible passage and reflection. Our spirituality night has been nurturing.”
The two women are supported by sisters and associates of the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community, who invite them to events, visit with them and answer questions. Mercy Sisters Joan Marie O’Donnell, Mary Kilgariff, Eileen Pazmino, Sheila Devereux, Martha Larsen, Marian Rose Power and Judy Carle helped bring the two to San Francisco and continue to mentor them.
For more information about Mercy Volunteer Corps, visit www.mercyvolunteers.org.
Dossa is communications manager for the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community.