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by: Toynessa Kennedy, 10-12
Since I started serving and participating in community as a full time Lasallian Volunteer, it has been hard to find the time to get away and rest in the presence of God especially with focus on discerning His voice for my life and my future. My day as a volunteer consists of waking up at 5am in order to make it out of the door dressed and ready by 6am. I make my way down the street from our community to the cold D train of the NYC Subway, which in 45-50 minutes will get me to LaSalle Academy on the lower east side of Manhattan. I spend my day as a support to the students of La Salle academically, with special care for their college prep, spiritual and community needs. At about 4:30pm (sometimes later depending on the crowd of students), I head back to the Bronx and my own community, on the jam packed rush hour subway making it home at about 5:45pm.
If it’s my night to cook and physically nourish my community, I instantly walk in and prepare our meal. If I’m responsible for community prayer and our daily spiritual nourishment, I prepare for our evening prayer. If I’m not leading on any given day, then I usually have time to check my e-mail and say hello to my community members before gathering for prayer and dinner. Living in an intentional community, we don’t often “eat and run.” We are the “lingering” type. Dinner is a time to break bread and share our challenges and successes from the day. Being truly present to one another over the course of a meal often brings us close to 8:30pm. I am then able, if still up to it, to interact and spend a little time hanging with my community, checking in with my boyfriend and family, and taking care of other personal aspects of life. By the time 10pm arrives, I am in bed resting to begin it all again for the next four days.
My discernment experience over the course of the Lasallian Volunteers Discernment Retreat weekend was amazing. I was so engulfed in the, confusion, peace, worry, fear, anxiety, and joy of discernment. Of all of these yo-yo emotions I experienced while at the discernment retreat, I found myself aware that I was in the holy presence of God and feeling okay. Being reminded that I am always in God’s presence is a Lasallian tradition which is a daily repeated mantra in our prayer. In serving, it’s easy to be aware that I am in God’s presence as I complete the selfless task of giving of time, prayer, and attention to my students, fellow staff, and community members. However, it is often the forgotten task that alone in God’s presence we are able to receive the strength, guidance and refueling that is needed for the next part of our journey.
On retreat, I came to see my alone time in prayer and journaling could be likened to that of Jesus. Jesus is continually found in scripture to be taking time away from his serving to be alone with God. What he could not do with the disciples could be related to the fact that “He himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray” (Luke 5:16). This retreat, focused on discernment, allowed me to experience the blessing of having an intimate community to converse and pray with about discernment – the process, the resources, the real lived experiences. I found the time in which Jesus spent praying and conversing with the disciples could easily be related to my one on one sessions with staff of the Lasallian Volunteers and the community time with other LVs. My time at the Discernment Retreat gave me the refueling, encouragement, support, alone time and community time I needed in order to decide what God’s will is for my life in this current season.