Thursday, September 15, 2016

Bethany's BWSC Experience-First Day in Bristow, VA

Benedictine Women Service Corps (BWSC), an outreach of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn., invites College of Saint Benedict alumnae to join the monastic community in deepening relationships that support justice and service in a new location. Volunteers strive to live out the Benedictine Gospel values that were formed during their undergraduate education in a capacity that will challenge them personally, spiritually and professionally.

(Bethany, Mo and Erin) Photo by Tammy Shoemaker, OSB
Mo Shannon, Erin Carey and Bethany Purkapile are the Benedictine Women Service Corps volunteers for 2016-17. On September 1, they began a year's service at Benedictine monasteries in Bristow, Va., and Erie, Pa.

Three Thursdays a month we will feature a blog post by one of these volunteers. These women will share a bit of their experience within the BWSC ministry and we ask that you pray for them as they extend Benedictine values to the world during their year of service.

Today, we introduce BWSC volunteer blogger, Bethany Purkapile, to you.

Bethany Purkapile

“Change can be scary, but you know what’s scarier? Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving and progressing.” -Mandy Hale

Leaving Saint Benedict’s Monastery and getting to the airport, I was terrified. Besides going on a weeklong college visit on the east coast, I have never been east. However, my first week in Bristow has been one for the books! I absolutely love it here, besides the humidity. The sisters are so welcoming and the grounds are breathtaking. The birds, hummingbirds, deer, gophers, squirrels and deer are endless on the grounds. In addition, the monastery has cats and three dogs that they care for (I am absolutely loving that aspect)! The community is very similar to Saint Ben’s, but much smaller in numbers. I have my own room right down the hall from Mo and the “live-ins” (women who are living here and discerning about joining the monastery). It is pretty small, but I don’t spend much time in there other than sleeping and getting ready for my day. Even though I was terrified, I think this year will be such an incredible experience where I will grow and evolve in so many instances!

For the first half of this year I will be spending my time at Beacon, where I will be teaching English to adult language learners English in the classrooms using technology, both familiarizing students with English, and giving immediate
feedback on their work and technology.

For my first week at Beacon, I mainly observed how classes are taught. As I sat observing my first class of Adult English Language Learners on Tuesday, I was amazed at what I witnessed. I saw adults, many of whom are older than I am, sitting in a classroom preparing for just another day of learning English. One student from Afghanistan came to the United States in search of a safer environment, leaving behind his entire family and a high paying, governmental job. He is learning English to be able to communicate better with his customers at Walmart where he is a cashier. He is strong in his passion to learn English to better himself, but he’s doing that by leaving everything he knew, everything he was back home in Afghanistan. There was no doubt in my mind that this student, in particular, was being asked to handle a situation that I would deem unjust.

An old silo that the monastery turned into a prayer space
Later in the week, I was asked a question regarding my experience in this class: “Do you think immigrants who come to the United States should be required to learn English before getting a job?” I think my answer would have been different prior to sitting in on these classes. How could we require individuals who come to the United States seeking safety and care to learn English prior to getting a job? Is it solely so that we can easily communicate with them? Simply so that they can understand us? Just so our jobs are easier? These students sit in class for approximately 4-6 hours a week so that they can better communicate with us by learning English and “American culture,” but what am I doing as an individual to learn about them, about where they come from or about their culture? They are required to learn about American culture and our ways of living, but we disregard their culture, the troubles that they have overcome. We disregard everything they have come from and ask them to follow who we are without any attempt from us to learn about them.
Monday morning, September 12th, I start my first official day in the classroom,
A deer out on the monastery lawn
leading class all by myself! I am a bit nervous and feeling a little underprepared, but I think after my first time of just doing it on my own I will start to get the hang of it.
With all my love,
Bethany Purkapile

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