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Q&A: Alumna finds meaning in serving her Louisville community
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This article appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of Voices from the Vineyard, a e-magazine published by the Saint Meinrad Alumni Office.

 

Click here to see the full issue. 

 

Q&A: ALUMNA FINDS PURPOSE, MEANING IN SERVING HER LOUISVILLE COMMUNITY

 

Janet Millen is the parish and community engagement volunteer coordinator for Catholic Charities in Louisville, KY. Her job is to connect those who want to help with the needs of the Louisville community.

Catholic Charities of Louisville serves refugees, the elderly, new moms, immigrants, the unemployed, the trafficked, the imprisoned and the homeless.

 

What attracted you to your current position at Catholic Charities of Louisville?

 

I realized that the work of Catholic Charities, the charitable arm of the Catholic Church, is the fulfillment of the Gospel. The word “volunteer” is really the call to the baptized into a life of discipleship.

The work of the staff of Catholic Charities, while professionalized due to the nature of some of the work, is the work of each one of us to care for our families, the stranger, the lost and the imprisoned, through subsidiarity, accompaniment and the corporal works of mercy.

 

It sounds like Catholic Charities does a lot of great work in the community. What have you enjoyed most about your job?

 

The greatest joy is to witness a person who possesses the gifts that are needed and gives them freely. I continue to be amazed by those who step outside themselves to meet the needs of the stranger – whether that stranger is one of our refugee clients from across the globe or the elderly Louisville resident who needs a ride to a doctor appointment. I literally pause in awe of these people and thank God for them!

 

Another joy is talking with people who have been profoundly touched by their experience of working with our clients. They express their surprise and gratitude for having the opportunity to give of themselves in ways they didn’t expect. Often, a person thinks they have gifts to bless the marginalized when, in fact, they discover the marginalized bless them.

 

I imagine working in this position also comes with its challenges. What challenges have you faced in your work and what lessons have you learned from them?

 

The greatest challenge for me is the magnitude of the unmet needs of the poor and marginalized in our community and world. Working at Catholic Charities, I experience firsthand the individual human suffering that results from the systemic shortfalls of institutions, government, families and society in general.

 

Coupled with that challenge is the arduous work of communicating these human needs to others to inspire their participation in alleviating the suffering. It’s frustrating to know that resources are out there, but making the connection between the two seems impossible at times. This is when our staff must step back, hit pause and realize that our role is to be patient, knowing that each encounter and each effort, no matter how incomplete, is enough.

 

You graduated from Saint Meinrad in 2014. What did you learn during your time at Saint Meinrad that helps you in your current work?

 

My education at Saint Meinrad was invaluable – academically, spiritually and personally. All but a few of my classes were on the Hill. Traveling to Saint Meinrad once a month for the weekend provided time and space for me to process what I was learning in the context of my personal life and my desire to serve in the Church.

 

Conversation with classmates over meals was enlightening, as we discussed the topics we learned in class. The spiritual formation that came from time in prayer with the monks, particularly at Sunday liturgy, was a gift that brought full circle my reason for being at Saint Meinrad in the first place.

 

Through the Saint Meinrad community, over a five-year period, I also grew in self-knowledge, which is a key element for successful ministry. Saint Meinrad provided me a strong foundation to minister to those on the margins.

 

What advice do you have for other alumni who have ministry work on the margins?

 

I encourage my fellow alumni to practice daily prayer and to find support through spiritual direction or a small faith community. I completed the Certificate in Reflective Practices at Saint Meinrad and that process provides invaluable support through self-awareness, which is essential to effective ministry.

 

Without the opportunity to verbally articulate and express our challenges in ministry, we quickly become overwhelmed, lose perspective and, ultimately, become a detriment to those we serve, rather than fulfill our purpose to be a source of compassion and hope.

 

 

 

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Janet Millen MAPT’14 (’08-14) is the parish and community engagement volunteer coordinator for Catholic Charities in Louisville, KY. She graduated from Saint Meinrad in 2014 with a Master of Arts in pastoral theology. She lives in Louisville with her husband, Ralph. 

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