By David Ceponis
Originally published in the Issue 24, Fall 2017 edition of The Companion
David Ceponis, father of Sarah Ceponis (BSVM 2011-2012), has been a faithful reader of The Companion for years. Below, he reflects on his daughter’s year of service. He beautifully articulates how BSVM impacted, and continues to impact, the life of both Sarah and her family. We are extremely grateful for this thoughtful reflection.
As Sarah progressed through her volunteer year with Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry, Peggy (her mom) and I became increasingly aware of the depth and breadth of her work. This was not merely an extended high school mission trip. Sarah’s work in a challenged, inner-city, Baltimore neighborhood, was truly a labor of love, sacrifice, and enduring commitment. Along with the other Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry community members, she and her peers lived out the Gospel message by immersing themselves in the lives of the people that they served.
This exercise was not a “we-they” interaction—“let’s get our hands dirty and help out for awhile”—it was a deep-rooted, personal collaboration with disenfranchised families living in poverty. She lived, worked, and shared in their lives. Sarah’s stories about her work animated my understanding of her emerging convictions and commitment to real social justice. She not only taught the children under her care and in her classroom; she became part of their lives, visiting their homes, befriending their mothers, finding books, crayons, and multiple resources to help them. Her efforts reminded me that compassion is best lived out by sharing in the trials and challenges of those in need, not merely intervening and then leaving.
As Peggy and I observed the Bon Secours year unfold, our own sensibilities about the poor and underprivileged expanded. We recognized the pure joy Sarah was experiencing in her work. I learned to laugh as Sarah related the fun of weekly shopping expeditions in which the volunteers learned to live simply. I also enjoyed hearing her stories of the volunteers sharing one aging car. This amazed me! Sarah’s moving accounts of the many children in her life (and their mom’s) shook my understanding of life in an underprivileged neighborhood to the core. I contemplated how little I knew about the day-to-day difficulties people routinely face in a low-income, inner-city, neighborhood. I wondered out loud why God gave me and my family so many privileges and advantages relative to Sarah’s “children” and their families. But most of all, I thanked God for the special year my daughter was going through. It was cathartic for her and us. Her work with Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry reminded me that life’s greatest lessons are not taught in a classroom, but played out in how we live our lives. Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry was and is the perfect starting point for a life-long journey of service and commitment to serving the underprivileged.