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Be Not Afraid and Offer Your Yes



Editor’s Note: DC Service Corps member Ali Sentmanat reflects on the road that led her to a year of direct service with Franciscan Mission Service and the anxieties she overcame along the way.

If you are overcome with fear all the time, will you get anywhere?

At the same time that I was looking into and applying to colleges in my senior year of high school, I also looked into doing a year of service abroad. I even started applying to NET in Ireland, but, I ultimately decided that going to college was important to me.

The summer before my senior year of college, the idea of service was still in my heart, so I started applying to different year-long service programs. In April of 2016, I heard about Franciscan Mission Service and was impressed by their values of faith, hope, and charity. I applied shortly after and was accepted into the DC Service Corps program in July.

The summer after I graduated college, I worked as a hostess at a luxury hotel restaurant where I served people who were very financially well-off. A part of me thought about  staying at the hotel and working my way up, but I followed through with my commitment with FMS.

Through an interesting string of events, I didn’t know which organization I would be working with until July. There was not a whole lot of time to make a decision when I was offered the job at the Father McKenna Center, a men’s homeless shelter in Washington, DC.  However, for whatever reason, I could feel God pushing me in that direction so I said yes.  

I had several anxiety attacks before and after my decision to join FMS; the doubts kept running through my mind: “You are not going to make any money.” “Is this going to give you actual work experience?” “You are leaving your family.”

The fears piled up and I wanted to  just go home and recover from the stress of four years of college. But, despite my feelings, I drove to DC.

The first night I got to Casa San Salvador, our volunteer house and my home for the next year, I went straight up to my room and I cried. I felt alone, and lost; I was starting a year full of unknowns.

I made it through orientation and when I walked into work on the first day, the first thing they asked me was, “Will you help serve breakfast?” I immediately replied, “Yes! Of course!” without even thinking about it.

Signing people in to go shopping at the food pantry at the Father McKenna Center

Signing people in to go shopping at the food pantry at the Father McKenna Center

Within two weeks I already had goals of what I wanted to accomplish at the Father McKenna Center. As Walter Anderson said, “Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action.” I’ve been at the Father McKenna Center for  two months now and in that time I’ve reorganized the mailing system, I continue to fight with the clothing closet, and I get to know the guys at the shelter better each day.

The shower closet which Ali reorganized

                                                                                                        The shower closet which Ali reorganized

I am beginning to see glimpses of God’s incredible beauty in each and every person here. In my heart, I realize that God has a plan for me and He knows how much I can handle. Living in the present keeps away my fears. Some days it is hard to get up, but I know that I am supposed to be here.

Reflection Question: In the face of uncertainty, how do you remind yourself to trust in God?

During her year as a DC Service Corps member, Ali serves at The Father McKenna center, a Catholic social service agency serving men experiencing homelessness and very low income families. In this role, she provides direct assistance through the daily food pantry and listens, responds to, and encourages the men to engage with the case management team at the center. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Ali graduated from the University of Dallas where she studied Drama.