“Volunteers are …..” Fill in the blank. How you finish that sentence probably reflects experiences you’ve had of either being a volunteer, or relying on them. In the years before I became a Missionary Servant, I had a normal day job, but on nights and weekends, I was having epic adventures. I was a “Big Sister,” I sang in the church choir, and best of all I had both a Brownie troop and a Girl Scout troop of inner-city girls to keep me busy.
So back then, I might have said, “Volunteers are busy!” or “Volunteers have more fun!” In fact, I was having so much more fun after hours than I was at work that I finally figured out I needed to find a more personally fulfilling day job. Which eventually led to my vocation, but that’s another story.
As an MSBT, I have been on the other side of the question. I have been the one recruiting, training, scheduling, guiding, supporting, and collaborating with volunteers in many different ministries over the years. At different times along the way, I might say, “Volunteers are a lot of work!” Or, “Volunteers are unreliable!” Or, “Volunteers don’t really get the big picture here!” It is undeniable that sometimes it would be more effective or more efficient to do a particular job myself than it is to recruit, train, schedule, and guide someone else to do it.
But whenever I find myself thinking that, I remember a few things I’ve learned as a Missionary Servant. One of them is: “Jesus is Lord.” And therefore, I am not! I really can’t do everything. The mission is not my mission, it is God’s mission. In that sense, I am “just” a volunteer myself.
Another thing I’ve learned is: “Don’t worry, it’ll get done.” I have to learn that one over and over, all the time. I know what needs to be done all too well, but … what would happen if it didn’t get done right away, or didn’t get completely done, or didn’t get done quite perfectly or efficiently? Wow, maybe nothing bad would happen! Maybe (because, after all, Jesus is Lord) everything would work itself out somehow despite the lack of excellence! Hmmmmm.
But the most important thing that I’ve learned is that recruiting, training, and working with volunteers is in our DNA as Missionary Servants. It’s just what we do. It’s part of our earliest identity. We started as volunteers, and we have continued to include volunteer laity as an essential method in carrying out our mission. Our mission is not to accomplish tons of work, and accomplish it as efficiently as possible. Our mission is the preservation of the Catholic Faith and to develop an apostolic spirit in the laity.
We don’t develop an apostolic spirit by giving speeches. We do it by handing folks a shovel, or a spatula, or a computer, or a camera, or the keys to the meeting hall, and then stepping aside. We don’t work with volunteers as the means to an end, to get the work done. We work with volunteers because they are called by God to do this work, and hopefully find fun and fulfillment doing it. After all, it’s not our mission. It’s God’s.
Blog writer Sr. Deborah Wilson, MSBT is currently serving on the MSBT General Council in Philadelphia, PA.