Faith At Work
Faith At Work
After graduation alumna Michelle Fitzgerald '06 followed her faith and desire to serve others when she volunteered for the Congregation of Holy Cross in Santiago, Chile. "I had the option of going to law school but really felt called to spend a few years of my life working for God and serving with others," says Fitzgerald. "Also, I wanted to learn Spanish, something that I knew would be useful in whatever career [I chose]. I heard about the Holy Cross Associates program through campus ministry at Saint Mary's and it was a perfect fit for me: international service in a Spanish speaking country with a focus on spirituality and simple living."
Fitzgerald spent two years of international service placement as part of the Holy Cross Associates post-graduate service program. According to their Web site, the service program offers participants an opportunity to integrate their Christian faith though service, community living, spirituality, and simple living. As part of her service, Fitzgerald was the creator and coordinator of the student exchange program (International Student Program) at two Santiago high schools. She was a weekly visitor at the Orphanage San Jose, the creator and director of the Saint George's College high school English Debate Team, the creator and coordinator of the 1st and 2nd grade English workshop at a local school, and the creator and coordinator of the homework helper program at a local parish.
This list of successes did not come without challenges such as "speaking another language, facing poverty on a daily basis, feeling lonely and incompetent or that what you are doing really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things," says Fitzgerald. How did she overcome them?
"I know that I relied upon my friends and mentors who provided support and helped me talk through what I was feeling," says Fitzgerald. I also relied heavily on my faith, knowing that I was doing work for God each and every day despite how hard it was."
No stranger to hard work, the political science and religious studies major was active as a student at Saint Mary's, where one of her favorite classes was "Aquinas's Search for God: Faith Meets Philosophy," taught by professor Joe Incandela. "It combined my love for religious studies and applying my studies to my personal spiritual life and beliefs with my natural abilities for analytical reasoning," says Fitzgerald. In addition to her classes, she participated on the University of Notre Dame Debate Team, created and coordinated SMC-TV, and served on Saint Mary's College Board of Governance. She was a member of the political science club, and Friends with Sisters. She also studied for a semester in Washington D.C., an experience that she says "enhanced my desire to work towards the public good in some type of public service field."
Fitzgerald will be completing her service in Chile this May and plans to pursue graduate school and work as an international non-profit consultant. For now she leaves her mark in Chile with the work she has started there.
"I thoroughly love understanding that I am part of something much larger than myself. That what I do each day may not be much and may not solve all the world's problems, but it does contribute to God's world and enhances the lives of the Chilean people, even if it is just lending a listening ear," says Fitzgerald. "And at the same time, these experiences improve my life. I have learned so much about myself and actually believe that the Chilean people have provided me more than I could ever give them in my lifetime."