Cathleen Flynn: Students shouldn’t overlook opportunities
Cathleen Flynn began her senior year at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College with a more knowledgeable perspective about eco-justice and taking care of earth.
That was due to her experience with the Sisters of Providence Volunteer Services program, which landed her at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
“I knew that there were volunteer opportunities with the Sisters of Providence because I had participated in a ‘Come and See’ weekend,” Cathleen, who hails from Mitchell, S.D., said. “That weekend was when I learned the most about [the sisters’] ministries and the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice.”
White Violet Center is a ministry of the Sisters of Providence. Through organic agriculture, eco-justice education and social advocacy, White Violet Center strives to promote awareness and a way of living which supports all life.
That appealed to Cathleen.
“[White Violet Center is] a cool program,” she said, “but before volunteering there I didn’t have a full context for eco-justice and how it affected me. In my last few years of college, I have learned more about how living unjustly against the earth contributes to other social justice issues. I was drawn to learning more about it.”
It was last summer when Cathleen knew she would have time to volunteer so she contacted Sister Rebecca Keller, who coordinates the Volunteer Services program. “I knew I wanted to do something outdoors and to learn more about the environment,” she said.
On and off, for a five- to six-week period, Cathleen volunteered at White Violet Center and was assigned various tasks. “I got to help plant, harvest and do a lot of weeding,” she said. “I also learned about seed saving and about the various types of seeds, and a little about how to structure gardens.”
Cathleen also assisted White Violet Center some at the Downtown Terre Haute (Ind.) Farmers Market, a popular destination for people looking for local produce and foods, in addition to homemade craft items.
Her volunteer experience was indeed something different for the music therapy major, but one she will treasure and recommends to other students.
“I would definitely say that regardless of what someone’s major is [volunteering] is something to consider even if it does not seem overtly related to a desired career,” Cathleen said.
She advised students interested in volunteering to be realistic about their schedule and “the amount of time they can devote.”
In addition, Cathleen suggested students make themselves aware of the opportunities at “the Woods” and also within the Terre Haute community. “There is a wealth of opportunities out there that students may be overlooking,” she said.
Meanwhile, the SMWC senior couldn’t say enough good things about the campus and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, which is located five miles northwest of Terre Haute.
“There is a sense of community here,” Cathleen said, “and a strong sense of identity. That’s what drew me to first come and visit. Of course, the physical surroundings are beautiful. But there is definitely a sense of peace that I can feel, and you don’t often find much peace and tranquility on a college campus. After I came here and talked to the students, I found out that people really feel a connection to the place.”
When Cathleen graduates from SMWC in May, her father Sean, mother Deborah and two older brothers, Sean Jr. and William, will be on hand to see her receive her diploma.
As graduation ends Cathleen’s college career and kicks off a new chapter in her life, she says her volunteer time at the Woods helped her grow.
“I was surprised at how much I learned about myself,” Cathleen said. “I wanted to learn more about organic agriculture and during that process I learned more about myself … my strengths, my life and how I want to live.”