The Catholic University of America

May 15, 2009

Fifteen CUA Graduates Commit to Volunteer Service

  From left: Brian Niemiec, Katie Davis and Leah Sedlacek

For months graduating seniors at Catholic University have been polishing their resumes, going to numerous interviews and crossing their fingers hoping to get the job of their choice or placement in graduate school.

Meanwhile, at least 15 students have been competing for placements of a different kind. Placements in jobs that pay little - if any - salary, but reap benefits that these students might argue far outweigh the paychecks of their peers.

"I always had the inclination to do something radical," says Leah Sedlacek, from Rapid City, S.D., who graduated May 16 with a violin performance degree and, beginning in August, will spend two years volunteering with FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students).

Sedlacek will spend half her time on a college campus and half her time working to raise funds to support herself. She doesn't even know yet where she'll be posted.

Since 2000, approximately 200 graduates of CUA have decided to devote a year or two to volunteer service following graduation.

Sedlacek was very involved in her music studies but realized it wasn't fully satisfying. She went to Honduras on a mission trip with the Office of Campus Ministry and took part in many service opportunities on campus. Those experiences, she says, "opened my heart up to an authentic love - to meet a person where they're at and to share your differences and grow."

Katie Davis, from Morton, Pa., who graduated with a degree in musical theatre, also felt the call to service after a Campus Ministry mission trip.

After going to Jamaica following her junior year she realized she needed to "step back to focus on total self giving and focus on spirituality," Davis says. "You get so much out of giving. Once I got back from Jamaica I knew that."

In August, Davis will start volunteering with Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Houston, Texas, where she will work at a new Catholic high school for underprivileged students. She will work in campus ministry organizing service projects and music ministry, and will help with extracurricular tutoring, music and theater programs. 

Christina Williams

Like Davis, Christina Williams from Havertown, Pa., will put what she learned at CUA to use in her volunteer position. With a degree in nursing, Williams will volunteer with Vincentian Service Corps West in Los Angeles, Calif., where she will work in the birthing center of a hospital for a year.

"I've had a long desire to use the gifts and talents I have to help the less fortunate," Williams says. "I can't imagine not having insurance and not being able to get the care I need."

While she had a strong desire to volunteer, Williams didn't want to take a year off from practicing her nursing skills, so she looked specifically for a volunteer opportunity in a hospital setting. Additionally, she really wanted the opportunity to live in community with other volunteers.

At the beginning of 2009, Brian Niemiec, a politics major from Cranford, N.J., was filling out law school applications. But he soon realized he didn't really know what he planned to do once he got to law school. He had enjoyed the time he spent at CUA as a student minister, so he began looking for an opportunity to do something similar after graduation.

Niemiec will spend a year volunteering with Capuchin Franciscan Volunteer Corps, Youth and Family Ministries in Garrison, N.Y. There, he will focus on retreat ministry to youths in eighth grade through high school. He will also be in charge of youth ministry at a parish.

Through volunteering, Niemiec hopes to find some clarity in what he should do in life. "Hopefully this year will give me a chance to find out where God wants me," he says.

In addition to the students who have committed the next year or two to volunteer service in the United States and abroad, at least six students have also decided to join the military service and three will pursue vocations to the priesthood.