by Skye Diego, Cap Corps DC 2021-22
My senior year of college was filled with uncertainty. I had vague ideas about what I wanted to do after graduating but no “real” plan, and I felt unprepared for the “real world.” Yet amidst these doubts, a few things were certain: my passion lay in service and advocacy, I wanted to serve, and I was ready for a new adventure.
But whom and where to serve? When? How? I didn’t have the financial means to move somewhere new and not having a job wasn’t an option. Then, I remembered how year-of-service programs were modeled- it was the perfect solution! Completing a year of service would allow me to work with underserved communities, live somewhere new, gain practical work experience in a non-profit, and provide me with both an intentional community and an opportunity to grow in my faith. So, I did some research for the perfect program. I came across a couple of programs and even applied for several, but when I first spoke with the Margaret, Program Director on the phone, something just felt right. I knew at that moment that if I were to be accepted, I would choose Cap Corps.
God taught me to let go, relinquish control in my life, and surrender to Him even before I arrived in D.C. for the start of my year of service. The week before I was supposed to leave, my entire family tested positive for COVID. I had to change my flight last-minute and worried that God was giving me a sign to not go through with this. How could I leave my family and move so far away? Who would take care of them if their condition worsened? I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if something happened after I’d left. After much prayer and reflection, I decided that if my family did not get better, I would stay home. I found peace in the fact that only God could determine my next step. Thankfully, my family recovered quickly and Margaret and my service placement worked with me to start at a later date. Next thing I know, I’m leaving Guam and moving to D.C. without knowing a soul!
I’ve only ever lived on islands — growing up in Guam, college in Hawaii — I’ll admit I was a little intimidated by the prospect of D.C.. How was I supposed to navigate this new environment? And on top of that, for the first time in my life, I was living in an environment where I was now the minority. I’m not going to lie and say that it was an easy transition; as expected, there were highs and lows. However, I was blessed with an incredibly kind, encouraging, and patient support system.
The year of service also allowed me an opportunity to grow in adaptability. I considered myself a fairly adaptable individual, but this year showed me that I still had much to learn. In the workplace, my supervisor changed three times. Furthermore, we were seriously understaffed, so I learned lots of lessons by trial and error. I took on agency-wide events within my first three months, spearheaded projects, and overall gained foundational skills that I hope to continue developing throughout my professional life.
Our household was also a year-long lesson in adaptability. Our house was the first to combine Cap Corps volunteers and non-volunteer residents, so we had to learn what we wanted our unconventional relationship to be. The arrival of a new roommate in the middle of the year presented another change; we all considered it to be one of the best things to happen to us, but it nevertheless required integration of an entirely new person into our already established community. On top of that, our house friar discerned out of the Capuchins so several more filled in for the remaining months.
Cap Corps also taught me a lot about myself. I learned to live with people from different cultures and how to define my own boundaries while respecting those of others. I learned how to build a home away from home, how to navigate living in a new climate, and that the seasons can legitimately affect one’s emotions. Losing my grandfather and being unable to go home and with my family for the funeral, I learned to cope with loss while simultaneously staying motivated and focused. All the constant change taught me how to work with whatever I was given, make the best of the situation, and adapt. But most of all, it reinforced my first lesson of surrendering to God. I found peace in knowing that while I may not be able to control a situation, I can control how I react and trust that the result is how God intended it. As someone that prefers to have some semblance of control, this lesson was a hard pill to swallow.
Overall, my experience wouldn’t have been what it was if it weren’t for the people that I met and the relationships that I built. I truly believe my previous roommates and the Capuchin friars are modern-day saints. Prior to living in D.C., I never knew there were young people actively trying to grow in holiness and live out their faith, much less discerning religious life. I had never even heard of young people who went to daily Mass! Yet, my roommates were living proof! In the beginning, I was intimidated; I thought I was not at their “level of faith,” but they reassured me that we are all on different paths. Growing up, I thought people in religious life were similarly intimidating because they seemed to possess an unattainable level of faith. However, spending time with the Capuchin friars taught me that holiness is our common human vocation. The friars are just regular people who have discerned God’s specific vocation for their life and are now living out their faith and building their relationship with God in a powerfully intentional way, leading others to Christ by their joy. Rather than intimidate me, both my roommates and the brothers gave me something to work towards. They inspired me to redefine what I thought my faith and relationship with God “had to be” and showed me instead what it could be.
It was an absolute honor to learn from them, walk alongside them in our own respective journeys, and merely be in their presence. They might never know the impact they’ve had in my life because I’m still reflecting on it myself. However, I can confidently say that I am a better person because of them and everyone else that I met during the year. Looking back at my year, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the people that I met, as well as all the lessons, blessings, and opportunities that it brought.
If I had to sum up my year in two words it would be: blessings and opportunities. Every single up and down of the year was a lesson and an opportunity to grow, which I consider to be a blessing. Ask Jack, one of my community members, so eloquently put it — this is not the end; it’s the beginning. I am so excited to take every blessing and opportunity from this past year as I begin the next adventure of my life.