Learning to be Present

Natalie Reynoso
March 4, 2014

Before even beginning my internship, I must have thought of a million reasons why doing it would prove to be entirely too overwhelming and too time consuming. Fortunately, Simona, the internship coordinator at IES Roma, did not let me make a final decision without visiting my internship site first. And surely enough, after my first visit, during which I met the director of Casa Famiglia, I somehow felt and knew that I needed to do this.

Thus, last Monday I began my social action placement at Casa Famiglia,which is a group home for teenage girls who have physical and/or emotional problems. Up and until this point I was given no description of what I would be doing there; I only knew that I would be expected to spend time with the girls and occasionally help them with their English. When I opened the door of the apartment I was greeted by two young girls who seemed so excited to meet me. They immediately invited me to have lunch with them and then gave me a tour of the facilities. I learned very quickly that these teenagers have lived so much life. It is difficult to gauge the extent and the nature of their issues, but it is evident that they are all struggling, albeit in distinct ways.

There is one girl who angers very quickly, but ironically enough, she is the one who is always asking me to join her in whatever activity she may be doing at the moment. And then there is this other girl who is probably the most mature teenager I have ever met. We have spent hours talking about life and social justice issues;  she continues to surprise me by how great of an analytical and objective thinker she is. One of the other teens in the home craves attention, and she’ll scare you or tickle you to get it. But her infectious smile and laugh prevents you from getting mad at her. And then there is a young lady who I like to call my teacher because she is always making me practice and learn Italian. The first day I met her, she said (in Italian), ‘you help me with my Spanish and I will help you with your Italian.’ “Deal,” I said, forgetting that she did not speak English.

To put it simply, my main task is to be present. But that is not a simple thing to do, in fact, it is one of the hardest things about my social action placement. At the end of every day that I spend at Casa Famiglia, I am emotionally exhausted. There have already been moments in which I have doubted my ability to serve these girls in the way that I have been called to do so. But then I remember that it’s not about me, it’s about them. I find that my days at Casa Famiglia pass by way too quickly, and when it’s time for me to leave I’m never quite ready to go. This feels right. I am exactly where God intended me to be. And whenever I do feel like I have taken on more than I can handle, God has a way reminding me that He hasn’t left my side. I absolutely love my internship, and I am grateful that it is pushing me beyond my comfort zone. By the end of a week, I am absolutely exhausted, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

Now, on a different note, I feel obliged to share with you what has probably been the most spiritually moving experience of my time in Italy. Last Friday, I went on a day trip to Assisi, Italy and I fell in love!  As I was walking up one of the many hills I encountered on Friday, I thought to myself, “this [Assisi, Italy] must be what heaven looks like.” Assisi is by far the most enchanting, charming, and magical place that I have encountered while in Italy. The entire time that I was there I felt as if I was in God’s kingdom. There is a certain sense of peace and stillness that seems to fill every ounce of space in Assisi. But aside, from this town’s beautiful landscape and unique character, what I loved most about this day trip was being able to visit the places where St. Francis and St. Clare once lived, walked, and prayed.  It was quite surreal to visit the tombs of St. Francis and St. Clare and to see the convent where St. Clare once resided, the prison where Francis’ father once locked him in, and the original cross through which Francis received a revelation from God.  By the end of the day, I felt spiritually empty and whole all at the same time. This trip was the perfect way to unwind from what was a great yet difficult week. And now, I am preparing myself to go to Poland for what I imagine will be a very life-changing and formative experience. I can’t wait to share it with you! But until then, pace e bene (Assisi’s motto)!

This is a view of Assisi from the very top of the castle! Me climbing up a castle in Assisi. Assisi, Italy

Natalie Reynoso

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Natalie Maria Reynoso and I am currently a junior at Wheaton College, Norton, MA where I study religion and psychology. I am a passionate Catholic and an avid reader and writer. I have always loved writing because it provides me with a way to better understand the world and my place in it.</span></p>

Destination:
Term:
2014 Spring
Home university:
Wheaton College (MA)
Major:
Religious Studies
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