Mary Staten, recent participant of the Bolivia Mission Trip and volunteer at her local St. Vincent DePaul, meets with the Office of Young Adult Ministry and shares her experience in participating in service opportunities.

Mary graduated from SLU and started teaching directly out of college. Over the last 7 years she taught 3rd grade at Incarnate Word Parish School in Chesterfield. However, this fall she will begin her new job as Incarnate’s Learning Consultant assisting with students who have special needs.

Called to serve

What inspired you to continue your work outside teaching and go into service?

I did a lot of service in high school and college. The first couple of years after college I was focused on my job and grad school and during that time I knew that something was missing. I’ve always felt a desire to serve and I think a lot of the motivation came through prayer. I was trying to look at all the service opportunities, especially the ones advertised through the young adults, and I had to decide what I should try out. The hardest part of getting involved in service is just going to an event for the first time. But when you do it once then you realize that it’s not that big of a deal.

So, you work with St. Vincent DePaul; How did you initially get involved, and what do you do there?

Most of my service when I was in high school and college was working with kids, whether I was tutoring or reading at a school that was understaffed. But more recently I’ve been drawn to help people who are homeless or living in poverty. I liked how St. Vincent DePaul focused on that person-to-person relationship. So I got involved in the SVDP chapter at Immaculate Conception in Maplewood. We go to people’s homes and ask them, “How can we best help you?” so that we know how much money to pledge them to help with an electric bill, food, a water bill, rent, or other things. We end the meeting in prayer just so we can expose them to the faith if they haven’t been in a while. I am amazed by the gratitude that the people express – their humility and openness to share and be vulnerable inspires me.

“Bolivia reaffirmed my desire to serve.”

You also just got back from a mission trip to Bolivia. What did you do there?

I went with the Young Adults in Mission through the Archdiocese’s Missions Office. We got to interact with the people at the parish where we were staying. One day we went to deliver food to people on the streets and the young adults from that parish were able to join us. We spent time at some orphanages and got to help out with a before and after school program. The kids loved to learn English words so we taught them the months of the year and the colors. A majority of our trip was about one-on-one interaction with people and just spending time with them. We helped them know that they are loved despite the hardships that they have gone through.

What was your reaction to all of those hardships in Bolivia?

We experienced times of great joy, but there was also a lot of heartbreak included in each encounter. A sister working at one of the orphanages could tell that we felt for some of the kids and she said that she called these children “the lucky ones” because some have it worse on the streets. There are so many people living in Bolivia and it was sad to see how many of them lived on the streets. You see that to some extent here in the United States but the magnitude of the problem in Bolivia was unreal.

How were you inspired after your trip to Bolivia?

I think that’s something that will take time to fully see. One thing that definitely struck me about the people was how they expressed their gratitude to such a great extent. No matter where we went, the people were thankful for everything and we were welcomed with love. The selflessness of the workers was inspiring – it must be a calling for them because we were only there for a couple of days and this is their full-time job! This all reaffirmed my desire to serve. The people of Bolivia reminded me that I’m not called to save the world, but just to make a difference in at least one person’s life. I can serve anywhere; there are always opportunities. This mission trip really helped me ponder, “What else can I do?”

What would you say to someone discerning the Bolivia mission trip?

Definitely pray about it! You should ask questions to people who’ve gone on a trip like this before and get their advice. Be sure to have an open mind because there’s only so much that you can prepare yourself for. If it feels right and you feel called to the trip then I say just GO FOR IT! Consider money and time, of course, but don’t be afraid to say yes to a mission trip like this!

Learn more about the 2018 Mission Trip here.

Answering the call to your personal apostolate

What is your personal apostolate?

As a teacher and learning consultant, I recognize that I’m called to help all those students recognize their gifts, support them, and give them the self-confidence and reassurance they need. Bolivia taught me how to let people know that they are seen. Even just through smiling, laughing, hugging a child, or holding their hand, you can help someone. I try to focus on sharing Christ’s love even in the smallest of ways.

Do you have a particular saint that inspires you?

I think that I have moments of inspiration from different people. Lately, I have been praying to St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. Therese of Lisieux. I love St. Therese’s message of her “little way.” I take after St. Teresa of Calcutta because of all the work that she did with the poor and homeless. My biggest inspiration is probably my parents. They are the most selfless and giving people that I know. They call me to a higher standard so that I’m inspired to go out and serve the least of these. My father actually served on mission in Africa for a while which inspired me to go out of the country on a mission trip. I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by people who live out their faith.

How would you recommend to someone discerning their personal apostolate?

Again, pray about it! Even I’m still figuring out my personal apostolate. We can’t always control everything; we need to let go and let God handle things. Be open to new experiences – this was my first international mission trip so it was definitely out of my comfort zone. Be able to have conversations with your family and friends about what you feel called to do right now. And above all: Trust God! Even by going to one of the events that the young adults host, you can get your foot in the door to discern what’s right for you.

What else can I do?

You are also involved in some other young adult activities; Could you explain those?

I think it’s important to not just sign up for service opportunities, but also for activities where you can surround yourself with people who have the same desires and goals as you. I participated in the Contemplative Leaders in Action group where young adults meet once a month to grow in faith and leadership that’s based on Ignatian principles. In this group, we read books about Ignatian spirituality that helped us reflect on how we can be a person for others. I also started a small book study with a friend. It was just her and I then we’ve been slowly inviting people to join us and it became a good little group! It was just another way to get involved and grow in friendship with young adults in the area.