My name is Magdalene Drohan, and yes, named after Saint Mary Magdalene. I was raised Catholic but as I got older, I drifted away from my faith — I felt like there was a disconnect between God and me. Then, in my junior year of college, I met a group of FOCUS missionaries at my campus and became involved with my school’s Catholic club, which led me on a journey that reignited my faith. It was at the SEEK23 conference where I first learned about the VIM program.
I prayed about it and asked friends to pray for me. I went back and forth in my head about whether or not I could do this. In the end, I sent in my application and got accepted.
Roles, responsibilities and contributions
I wear a lot of hats at Deo Gratias, and have to be able to switch between jobs as the situation requires. When I’m not working in the café, I’m helping out in the food pantry. I help guests with food selection and bag up their food for them to take home. I help stock shelves and wash produce tables. On Monday and Wednesday afternoons, I tutor a boy in reading. When people bring donations, I help unload and sort them. I make sure bathrooms are stocked and do odd jobs that pop up.
A major aspect of the Felician Sisters’ identity is community. By serving at Deo Gratias I am serving the local community. I even find myself welcomed through friendships I have begun to form with some of our regular guests. By helping maintain a clean environment and pleasant atmosphere, I am contributing to the provision of a place where guests can form community with one another socializing in the café.
The charism of the Felician Sisters calls them to “surrender to God’s will in compassionate service, and live in total availability and concern for the salvation of all people,” which pretty neatly sums up what I feel I am doing here:
God called me to dedicate these ten months of my time to full-time service of the people of Detroit, and at Deo I give myself wholly over to the task of doing the best I can to meet the needs of the people.
Rewards of the work
Obviously, it is wonderful to witness what a positive impact the work we do at Deo has on the people we serve. Seeing someone come into the building in despair and leave with a smile on their face is such a blessing, especially when it’s the result of something I myself had a hand in. It’s also been incredibly rewarding to recognize my own strength through taking on this endeavor. I can be a pretty anxious person, and I worried that when I got here and realized just what I’d gotten myself into, that I would freak out. Well, it’s been over two months and that hasn’t happened. I am proud of myself. It’s a testament to how much I’ve grown as a person.
One of our regular guests at the café is a middle-aged man with a somewhat gruff demeanor. My early interactions with him were short and to-the-point: he’d order two black coffees to-go, pick out two snacks, then leave. Over time, our interactions grew friendlier, but I still wouldn’t have called him a particularly effusive man — until one day, as I was getting his coffees he started thanking me over and over for “the work we do” at Deo. I could tell he was very emotional, it even sounded like he was getting choked up, which took me by surprise. If you had asked me which guest I thought would provide such a display, he wouldn’t have been in the running at all. It was a good reminder for me that everyone feels things deeply, even if they don’t — or can’t — show it. I’m grateful that he was willing to share such honest emotion with me, and I’m happy to say that since then, he seems livelier — more chatty, making jokes, and sometimes he even comes into the café singing.
Working in the café, it can sometimes feel like I’m not having the greatest impact. After all, how much of a difference can chips and lemonade really make in the face of the poverty that many of our guests experience? But like St. Mother Theresa said, “not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love,” and his heartfelt gratitude reminded me that a simple act of kindness can be all a person really needs. I can’t erase their struggles, but I can provide a port in the storm, so to speak.
To anyone considering volunteering with VIM
Just let go. Whatever doubts, or worries or fears you have, give them all to God. Come with an open heart and open mind, and be prepared to give of yourself more fully than you have ever been called to before.
Interested in learning more about our VIM program? Find more information here.