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Connecting with the Continent


Editor’s note: FMS Communications Manager Kim Puchir looks forward to the 2017-2018 DC Service Corps year by reflecting on new beginnings.

Starting this week, FMS has welcomed a new class of DC Service Corps volunteers, including Alessia Catena, a new Graphic Design Associate in the Communications Department. Establishing a relationship with a new coworker means a chance to get to know Alessia’s talents and personality. She’ll keep FMS looking good in print and on the web, in addition to maintaining our social media and countless other tasks that arise every day in a busy nonprofit. Just as I did last year with Associate Kathleen Strycula, we’ll sweat together over the details of a print job and share a high five when we make the deadline. We’ll learn from each other and finally look back, wondering how we did it all.

At this point in my life, I have had many beginnings¬—new schools, new jobs, new cities. Sometimes these points were marked by a definite transition that I took consciously, such as when I moved to New York City to start Mercy Corps. Other times, I didn’t recognize the start of a new era in my life until it had already happened. Returning to the Church was one of these events that came to me slowly. I had lived right near the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception for several years. The bells from the Basilica tower were background noise.

A few times, I stopped in one of the small chapels in the Lower Church looking for a quiet place to think. Only after I began going there regularly after work did I realize that there was something that kept drawing me to the particular stillness I could find in the cool passageways of the Lower Church.

Now I pass through almost every morning walking to work, sometimes for Mass but always to say a prayer. It’s a way of checking in to the order of things.

A well-known poem by the English poet John Donne begins,
“No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.”

Interconnectedness is something I have been thinking about recently. What is the difference between the mornings on which I slouch down the street noticing nothing but my worries, and the days when I see the dew resting on the spider webs resting like fleeting cathedrals on the bushes? How can I court that feeling of being like part of a continent?

Being alive means remembering, as the poem says, “I am involved in mankind.”

All the time that I heard the bells chime from the Basilica it was an invitation to feel a connectedness with the spirit that runs through the world and beyond. A connection to a wisdom beyond our fleeting awareness.

Donne’s poem is usually taken to be a rather morose reflection on mortality, but I see it as the lesson I remember in my morning check-ins at the Basilica: we are constantly being called to a greater connectedness if we can only hear it. Each event that moves another life moves in us. This joyful noise invites us to rejoin our splintered selves to the one body that is Creation, so I take the ending of the poem in the same note:

“Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.”

Reflection question: How do you seek a deeper connection with the rest of the world?

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Kim grew up in NC and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Warren Wilson College in Asheville. Her first job out of college was working in a state psychiatric institution, and this interest in people living with mental illness carried through to later positions as a psychiatric social worker at Fountain House and a job with the National Alliance on Mental Illness. In between, she spent a year of service with Mercy Corps in the greater New York City area, where she developed an interest in people experiencing homelessness or poverty.

Always interested in people’s stories, Kim later turned her attention to communications work, but it’s at FMS that she has found a way to combine her spiritual journey with writing and editing. Kim is very inspired by the Franciscan charism, as well as inspiring others about FMS programs. link