Though I have always been involved in volunteer work whether at nursing homes, through Girl Scouts, on a service trip to Quito, Ecuador, or as a tutor, during my senior year of high school and this past first semester at Marquette University, my passion for volunteering has expanded tremendously. I volunteered weekly at Milwaukee Rescue Mission’s Joy House Nursery; Marquette University’s Campus Kitchens and Noon Run programs; Repairers of the Breach homeless shelter. I also regularly volunteered at St. Ben’s meal program. Over break, while in Denver, I also began volunteering at the Joshua Station, a homeless shelter in downtown Denver. My motivations for volunteering are multifaceted. Not only am I able to become a more compassionate and knowledgeable member of my community, but I am also humbled to learn from the stories of those with whom I work. Further, I volunteer because service to the community helps me to live out the heart of my Catholic faith. Attending a Jesuit university has, of course, instilled in me the tenets of Ignatian philosophy toward serving others, but one of these tenets, the ideal of living as a “contemplative in action,” forms the foundation of why volunteer work is so important to me. Through volunteer work, I am able to reach out to others in a new way, a way that encourages friendship and justice on a level commensurate with Jesus’ Gospel message. This ideal truly defines why volunteer work is an important part of my life; it is the most concrete way in which I can fulfill God’s personal call for me.
Brittany WhiteAge: 19
Parish: Gesu Parish, Milwaukee (through Marquette University Campus Ministry), and Nativity of Our Lord, Broomfield, Colo.
Parish involvement: Cantor/member of MU Liturgical Choir
I am one of seven children. The others are: Bob, 21; Katie, 17; Jack, 14; Maggie 12; Michael, 9; and Erin, 5.
School and/or Occupation
Marquette University, Milwaukee, freshman
What’s on your iPod?
First, I love music that creates a positive message or a message of hope for the listener. Some of my favorite artists are Casting Crowns, Five for Fighting, Brett Dennen, Jack Johnson, and Michael Bublé.
If you could dine with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
If I could dine with anyone, I would pick Mother Antonia, a woman (born with the name Mary Clarke) who, at the age of 50, left everything she knew in comfortable suburbia to dedicate herself and her work to caring for the poorest inmates in one of Mexico’s worst prisons. She moved into one of the cells to live among the prisoners and she still lives in that cell in Tijuana more than 28 years later. After reading “The Prison Angel” this past summer and learning about her journey from Beverly Hills to La Mesa, I became both intrigued and inspired by her incredible story. She exemplifies the Catholic ideal of living our faith fully - her dedication to serving the poorest of the poor is profound. I would love the opportunity to hear more of her perspective on her decision to give up everything out of service and love and what eventually led her to see this as God’s plan for her life.
Who has made the biggest impact upon you?
Though this is a difficult question because I come from such a large family and have an incredible support system that extends beyond my immediate family to my friends, my service advisors, and my teachers, at this point in my life I recognize that my life and my goals relate directly to my mother’s influence. She faced incredible hardships as a child and from these experiences has instilled certain values and morals in me. She taught me the importance of having faith in the face of detrimental circumstances. Further, she instilled in me the importance of love and support. Without her example of unconditional love and support to both our family and to those in our community, I would not have developed a similar compassionate, dedicated spirit and attitude toward my service work. Finally, she has inspired me to have a positive, hopeful attitude toward my day-to-day work. She always says that the only thing we can control is our attitude, so we must do our best to have a positive attitude and focus on the things we can do, things we can change, or places in which we can have an impact, rather than on the places and things in which we may fail. I have tried to implement this same philosophy in my life and work.
What does your normal weekend look like?
On a typical weekend, I wake up early on Saturday and head to a service sight or volunteer project until around noon. Then, I go for a run or head to the gym. After that, I will hang out with friends; maybe attempt some homework; or Skype my family. I don’t particularly enjoy “going out,” as they say on college campuses, but I find other fun and equally entertaining activities to do with friends or even by myself on Saturday nights. On Sunday, I am up early for Mass at Gesu (if I am at Marquette) or, if I am at home, then I am up early for Mass with the entire family, whether or not I am in the choir or cantoring that day. After Mass, I usually go for a run, then head back to watch football (one of my favorite things to do) and catch up with friends before tutoring some of my peers. After my informal tutoring, I work on some homework, do laundry, call my family at home, or proofread my dad’s weekly message to his sales team. I try to get to bed pretty early on Sunday nights (at least, early for a college student), because I have 8 a.m. classes every day.
Favorite Bible story/Scripture passage/prayer
My favorite prayer is a quote from Jesuit Fr. Pedro Arrupe, “Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is than falling in love in an absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what gets you out of bed in the mornings, what to do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you will read, who you will know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love,” Mother Teresa
What was your confirmation name?
My confirmation name was Marie. I chose it to reaffirm the name with which I was baptized as a sign of my choice to be fully initiated into the Catholic Church.
What do you enjoy most about going to Mass?
Because my parents took us to Mass every week when I was growing up, and still do to this day, Mass became routine for me when I was younger. Now that I am on my own, my Catholic faith is my choice. I love that I have made the decision to humble myself and enter God’s house to pray, sing and receive his greatest gift to us. Going to Mass enables me to put my trust completely in God’s hands and to remember that which is truly important. Though I enjoy singing and the wonderful music at Mass, I realize that singing helps me to enter more deeply into prayer and to ready myself to receive the gift of Jesus. The Eucharist and the fellowship, both with those around me and with Christ, that I feel while participating in communion is such an incredible blessing and is the core of what brings me back to Mass.
A challenge in life that has strengthened your faith
One of my biggest challenges in life has been accepting the things that I cannot change, whether about myself or about the community or about the world; that is, accepting that I am not fully capable of handling everything by myself. Yet, in learning to accept circumstances as they happen and learning to rely on others, I have become more reliant on God and more willing to trust him to provide for me as he always has. Because my family has moved 10 times, I have had to face circumstances and issues that are difficult and have pushed me to my limits. Yet, through these relocations and “new kid” experiences, God led me to become more trusting in his plan for me and helped me to find solidarity with those with whom I interact while doing service. I know that my faith and trust in God have become stronger through my family’s moving because I have seen the ways in which God, through our moving, has brought us to the people and places that needed us. Further, the moving experiences have brought new dimension to the idea that through God all things are possible; he never ceases to find some way of leading me to what I really need, even if it is not what I thought I wanted.
I love to read and I love to solve puzzles, both of which are very “contemplative” activities. Yet, running and playing volleyball are close seconds, which, of course, capture the active side of my personality. When I volunteer or even just live my life day to day, I try to combine my intellectual, contemplative nature with my passion and determination to act against injustice.
Favorite meal; dessert
My favorite meal is my mother’s tortilla soup. She has shared with me her passion for cooking and for fellowship through food and I love to incorporate that into the service work that I do. Whether at meal programs around Milwaukee or Marquette’s Noon Run where we provide meals for the less fortunate, or at Campus Kitchens where we cook meals for certain shelters, I have found such an incredible connection to the community through the meals and discussions I’ve been privileged to share with those present. As for dessert, I really enjoy ice cream – any flavor!
What’s the most important thing you want to accomplish in life?
My answer to this question continues to change every day as I become more involved in my service work, my faith life, and my search for a career. But, my ultimate goal is to combine all three of those elements of my life. I hope that my career will be founded in some social goal or purpose and will enable me to continue living as a strong, passionate Catholic dedicated to helping others and learning how to bring a little more of God’s kingdom to our community and our world. So, right now, my answer to this question remains undefined, but ultimately, I hope to work with others to fight the injustices plaguing our world.
One thing that makes you unique
My family has moved 10 times in the United States and abroad. I have never lived in any place longer than four years consecutively and I have lived in every time zone in the U.S. (except for Hawaii and Alaska). Some places I have lived are: Twinsburg, Ohio; Connecticut; Paris, France; Atlanta, Ga.; Encinitas, Calif.; Solon, Ohio; Hartland, Wis.; Westminster, Colo.; Milwaukee, Wis.
How do you live your faith every day?
I try to live my faith every day by focusing on what it means to be a Catholic “contemplative in action.” While prayer and reflections bring me closer to God and help me to develop my personal understanding of my Catholic faith, I also find that the daily actions I take to fight injustices, even small injustices, are an important part of my faith. My service work, which usually amounts to a daily occurrence, is also an important part of my attempts to act on the faith and prayers about which I reflect. On a simpler note, I find that by helping others through random acts of kindness is an easy way for me to live the life Jesus expects us to live. When I think about what God expects of me and what I expect of myself as a Catholic on a daily basis, I focus a lot on love. If we act with good intentions and focus on loving others as children of God, then we are living out a central part of our faith. It is as Mother Teresa said, “People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”