Memories from the 2015-16 Dominican Volunteers

This past week , the 2015-16 Dominican Volunteers completed their ministry. As they prepare for closing retreat in California this week, some volunteers and staff members share their favorite memories of the year and their upcoming plans in the months ahead.

“One of the best memories I have from this year as a Dominican Volunteer was preaching at the commissioning mass for Dominican Colleges Preaching in Action Conference at Siena Heights University in Adrian, MI. It was a beautiful celebration and I was very lucky to be a part of it. I couldn’t have written my preaching without the experiences and relationships I’ve had in my ministry and community. Every person I’ve gotten to know during my year in Chicago provided me with inspiration to preach to new members of the Dominican Family.
Over the summer, I will be home on Long Island, NY and working with Sr. Gina Fleming and the Dominican Youth Movement USA. Come September, I will be living at the Dominican Volunteers Alumni house in Chicago with two other alumni, Luke Sullivan and Becky Paruszkiewicz. I am still looking for a full time job, but I plan to restart the Dominican Young Adults chapter in Chicago consisting of DVUSA alumni, current Dominican Volunteers in Chicago, Dominican University alumni in the area, and current students at Dominican University. I would like to create a space where we can all share our Dominican faith with members of our Dominican family.”
Francesca Pisano

“One great memory: One time, I was visiting one of my elders. She has advanced Alzheimer’s and lives on the locked floor of a nursing home. As we were talking, she realized that she had never invited me over to her house, so she led me around the floor and showed me the different rooms of her house. They were actually just the rooms of some (rather confused) other residents, but to her, they were her kitchen, garden, living room, bedroom… everything that made up her home. When we had finished our tour, she approached one of the nurses and announced, “This is my friend!” In the next six months, I will move to Boston and begin my first year in the Economics Ph.D. program at Harvard University.  
Liz Engle 

Favorite memory: planning and overseeing various retreats and school Masses, and seeing them come to fruition. I am getting married at the end of July and beginning work at Immaculate Conception Academy as a full-time teacher in Academic Literacy & Freshman Religion.

Hannah Abalos


“I have many great memories with my community this year but the one that stands out is our community trip to Americus and Plaines, Georgia.  It was a weekend long trip that included a tour of Habitat for Humanity’s “global village”, a chat with the founder of a fair trade coffee company, and Sunday school with former president Jimmy Carter.  We also stayed at Koinanea farm which is an intentional community that played a role in the civil rights movement.  On top of all this we shared the eye-opening experience of visiting with detainees at an immigration detention center.  As you can see we stayed quite busy during our trip and it was a wonderful weekend of bonding and learning.  For me it has been so fulfilling to spend a year in a community with similar interests as mine and who I have been able to share numerous new experiences with.  As I have been packing my things these past few days I am sad to leave them but am happy to be taking these memories with me.  I am also looking forward to making new memories as I will be doing a second year as a Dominican volunteer with a community in Adrian, Michigan.” 
Holly Sammons
“A favorite memory is when I walked into my job as an English tutor for the Interfaith Committee for detained immigrants and someone yelled, ‘the professor is here’. I loved my time as an English as a second language teacher and the relationships I have built with my students. I have grown from listening to the perspectives of people from many countries with lives so different from mine. I hope to continue doing nonprofit work in the Chicagoland area.”
David Gayes
“My favorite memory from this year is from opening retreat when we played the game rock, paper, scissors evolution, and how into it everyone got. Seeing all of the volunteers posturing like dinosaurs was hilarious.”
Margaret Gorman, Executive Director

There isn’t an easy way to break down the good memories in employment in refugee resettlement. I think the overall feeling of being able to help client out to obtain their dreams and their life goals was the most important to me and how special those moment were. I’ll always remember them.
As for the next 6 months, I actually got a job at JVC Baltimore as a Program Coordinator and I’ll be moving there right after retreat, so I’m really excited about that.”
Chris Bargeron

“My favorite memory would be when I discovered the Lasallian Volunteers and really gotten to know them. In the fall, I will be attending Dominican University for their Master Program in Social Work.” Brian Manjarraz

 “My favorite memory is sitting along the Hudson pier and watching the sunset with fellow DV Julie!
 I am going back to Ohio to find a job and begin applications to law school! “ 
Alandra Scott

“One great memory I had from this volunteer year was celebrating my birthday at Saint James School with my students. They each had made me cards and written about how much they appreciate me. It was such a joy to receive their love. That same day, I went on a field trip with the Kindergartners to the local fire station, which was totally adorable.

Next year, I will be teaching middle school religion at St. Matthew’s Catholic School in San Mateo, CA. I’m excited to be staying in the Bay Area, and I am so thankful that Dominican Volunteers has led my life in this direction.” 
Grace Urankar
“My fondest memory from this past year was getting to see the Dominican Volunteer community come together for the annual event. I loved hearing our current DVs sing and preach, meeting many of the Dominican Sisters and former Dominican Volunteers, and then dancing with joy all together. It was a great night!”  
Alison Beyer, Program Manager

“As for me, I think a fun memory has to be anything that I did with Alandra…. I think it was a rainy day in February, I always love New York when it rains. Anyways, I just heard back that I was accepted into grad school at BC and I really wanted to take a day to relax and celebrate. So Alandra and I went to yoga in the morning, then to Chelsea Market in the afternoon. We wondered through a book store, and ate gelato and cake! It was such a simple day, but I think that made it all the more magical. It was just another day where I could celebrate how amazing my life has been since I decided to give it all to God, and how grateful I have been for Alandra in my journey as a second year of DVUSA.” 
Julie Iuilano