University graduate Maureen Paley works alongside Sacramento’s homeless community as a member of Mercy Volunteer Corps (MVC). Paley graduated from The University with degrees in English and philosophy in 2002. She acted as The Aquinas’s assistant news and Royal Life editors and was a member of the Special Jesuit Liberal Arts Program (SJLA).
After graduating, Paley pursued her Master’s degree at Trinity College in Dublin and spent seven years in the corporate world before she felt drawn to something different.
“Service wasn’t even on my radar before,” Paley said, “but then I found myself contemplating a year of service at the end of 2013. I started Googling and researching some things.”
Paley’s age and stage in life played a role in her decision-making process, which she called “gradual discernment.” Many service organizations, like Jesuit Volunteer Corps and MVC, publicize specialized service programs for recent college graduates, rather than young adults who have already established careers. Paley, however, felt an ineffable attraction towards MVC.
“I can’t quite explain it,” Paley said of her decision. “It just kind of came together naturally with Mercy Volunteer Corps, and I kind of went with what was unfolding in front of me.”
MVC works alongside the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas to “cultivate mercy and justice in the world by embracing compassionate service, social justice, spirituality and a simple lifestyle in community,” according to mercyvolunteers.org. Paley explained that both groups act in accordance to the Sisters’ charism, mercy, by keeping the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
Quinn’s cottage at Sacramento Cottage Housing Inc., Paley’s station, embodies this mission by serving and working with single individuals recovering from homelessness to “create an environment which promotes and stabilizes [the participants’] wellbeing, their sobriety and the management of their mental and physical health,” Paley said. Her position as a “personal development coach,” provides many of the community’s needs.
“My job is to work one-on-one with the residents here, who we call participants … helping them with everything from refilling their medications to trying to get them in touch with various community resources, to making sure they get their bus passes, to helping them explore what it’s like to get the GED to setting up an anger management group. So, it’s basically a whole hodgepodge of direct service to these individuals,” Paley said.
Since her arrival on Aug. 13, Paley has faced several challenges, including adjusting to a less structured environment and managing boundaries and fear. Paley said she must ask herself, “Is this a healthy boundary or am I just scared?”
Conquering that fear does prove rewarding for Paley. She often learns from participants. she said.
“Sometimes I have this moment where I’m like ‘Whose helping who here?’” Paley said. “They surprise me every day, and they teach me probably much more than I could teach them.”
Through the service process, Paley has felt the impact of the Ignatian values learned at The University in ways she has never experienced before. Their significance in her MVC journey thus far has taken her “by surprise,” Paley said. She advised anyone with a spark of interest in a year of service to look into the unique opportunities that MVC can provide.
“I would say for anyone thinking about a year of service … explore it, ask questions. Don’t be afraid to say ‘it’s not for me.’ Don’t be afraid to say ‘it is for me’. Don’t be afraid to consider some type of meaningful service 10 years from now. Don’t forget that you can do it at some other point in your life as well,” Paley said.