BSVM is highlighting different alumni in our recurring series, listening to the ways in which they are living into the charism and mission of the Sisters of Bon Secours years after their time with BSVM concluded. Each alum has been marked by stories of compassion, healing, and liberation from their community and ministry placements, and their lives now reflect aspects of their growth and transformation, from informing how they build community to decisions related to neighborhood placement, family life, and more. We are grateful for their continued faithfulness in being Good Help wherever they find themselves.
Living the Mission: Developing Community and Growing Spiritually in Richmond
By Mikayla Haefele, BSVM 2020-2021
A graduate of Middlebury College
“Is it just me…or is our group a little dysfunctional?” I asked my best friend Eliza as we left a recent small group gathering at our church. “We are certainly a strange bunch of individuals, and I think the dysfunction is a particularity of our age,” my friend replied. I felt relieved that I was not the only one who felt that sometimes our Bible Study meetings were somewhat tumultuous and chaotic. I laughed a little to myself as my mind ran through each of the quirky individuals in our group. Each person was someone I had come to know not more than three years ago, yet now I consider them all to be good friends. Developing a close circle of friends in one’s twenties is difficult, and growing spiritually is perhaps even harder. Nevertheless, whenever I find myself surrounded by the folks in my Bible Study, I remember that I am blessed to be doing the work of both of those difficult tasks.
My time in Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry taught me the importance of building relationships in an intentional manner and committing to growing in my relationship with God. I learned a lot about intentionality from my community member, Destiny, in particular. She taught me the importance of digging deeper and being vulnerable because it is only by sharing the authentic parts of ourselves that we can truly come to love ourselves and learn to love others. When I find it hard to love some of the members of my current community, I think back to the grace that Destiny regularly extended to me during my volunteer year, and I am better able to adjust my attitude and show a similar grace to others.
Each member of my Bible Study has a different life story and brings a unique perspective to the group, which brings beauty and challenge. Some of us have health conditions, which allows the other members to practice compassion and hospitality. Some of us are rather progressive politically and theologically, and some of us are more conservative, which allows us to practice offering grace and respect in our discussions with one another. Some of us have struggled with or through alcoholism, divorce, depression, homesickness, job termination, the loss of a loved one, and other challenging events. The diverse combination of our various life situations and personalities does make our group dynamic a bit dysfunctional from time to time. Tying us together, though, is a love for each other that is rooted in our love for God. Even when our time together is challenging, it is fruitful because we continue to honor the image of God that we see in each person who joins us. Some people visit us and move on, and others find a home with us and stay a while, but regardless of who comes and goes, we carry on, just trying to foster a community that offers a little bit of light to its members in a world that is so often fraught with darkness.
We believe that our group serves as a space for community building and spiritual growth, which has allowed us to hang on and maintain some kind of rhythm, even if it is stilted due to the various obligations that pop up and keep us from being as consistent as we’d like. Twenty-somethings need a place to grow together, ask questions about God and life, share the burden of hardships, and celebrate positive milestones. My commitment to spiritual growth is partially a result of my time in BSVM. As a community, we routinely checked in with each other to ask about what joys or challenges we were experiencing in our spiritual lives. I grew accustomed to checking in with other people about how they are doing spiritually, so checking in with people in my Bible Study feels more natural and genuine now that I have experience reflecting on my own spirituality and asking people about theirs. I am so grateful to build on all that I learned through BSVM by walking alongside my close friends as they explore and uncover new meanings about God and life on their spiritual journey.
Mikayla was hired at Cristo Rey Richmond High School after BSVM and continues to teach there, now in her 3rd year.