Patience is a virtue for volunteer discerning with religious order

Oliver Avaritt, 23
Oliver Avaritt, 23

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Oliver Avaritt
Who he is: Teacher at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School, discerner with the Brothers of the Sacred Heart
Lives in: Maspeth, N.Y.

Sr. Camille: Oliver, Sr. Breige Lavery very much appreciates your contributions as a volunteer at the Brooklyn-based Dorothy Bennett Mercy Center. Please tell us how you became involved in this after-school program.

Avaritt: As part of my volunteer teaching experience, the brothers that I am currently discerning with wanted me to have the opportunity to work with children who may be underprivileged. So they found the Dorothy Bennett Mercy Center and thought it would be just the place.

Please say something about the children you interact with at the center.

The children at the center are a blessing to work with, especially since my commute to the center can be long some days. When I greet the kids at the school, they light up with joy and energy that make my commute worth it. The children range from 4 to 12, and most come from a lower socioeconomic background.

Are many of them children of recent immigrants?

I would not know for sure, but many have mentioned that they have relatives in countries such as Honduras, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

What do you see as their needs?

The children attend a public school that has a record of students who perform poorly academically. Therefore, a lot of the children are struggling in certain subject areas such as math, science and reading. So they need someone to help bridge the gap from learning the classroom material and the standardized tests they have to take at the end of the school year.

What do you think the center has to offer them?

We have a compassionate and enthusiastic team of counselors and volunteers who do their best to assess the needs of the individual student and then devise a plan to help the student succeed.

What do you get out of your involvement?

I get a lot of fulfillment from my work at the center. Some days can be really hard when I don't feel like I am getting through to some of the children. However, if I am explaining something about homework or just having a simple conversation with one of them and they understand the homework or feel better about their day, then I feel like I have achieved something good that day.

Do you learn anything from the children and their parents?

Yes. The children especially make me see things from different perspectives, and I have learned to be more open and understanding of each child's situation.

When you were a child, did you have any similar experiences yourself?

No. I grew up in a small town that was a suburb to a city, so my school had lots of resources, and I was very fortunate with all the opportunities I had growing up.

Where and with whom did you grow up?

I grew up in Loganville, Ga., with my parents and younger sister. My sister is currently working and planning to attend college soon.

Please tell us where you went to elementary and high school?

I went to Loganville Elementary School, Youth Elementary School, Loganville Middle School and Loganville High School.

Where you are currently enrolled?

I just graduated from McDaniel College in Westminster, Md.

Do you belong to a Catholic parish?

I live in a Brothers community at St. Stanislaus Kostka in Maspeth, N.Y.

How do you think the children see you?

I think they often see me as the strictest counselor or the one who makes them follow the rules the most, because I try to hold them accountable a lot in different ways. Not to be punishing, but to have a positive impact on their education and upbringing. I also think they appreciate that a lot too, even though will never say it to you.

How do you perceive them?

I see the children as looking for a positive role model in their lives. I hope that I provide a good example of what happens when you have goals in life and take education seriously.

What do you consider your best gift to them?

Patience. Some days it takes more than others, but I always try to be understanding and compassionate when they challenge me in many ways.

Did you grow up with any role models or heroes?

My parents. When I was a child, I guess I didn't always see them that way, but looking back at my childhood now, they definitely set a good example for me.

How do you pray?

I pray in the community with the brothers every day with the Liturgy of the Hours. We also have Mass every day at Monsignor McClancy. I also like to take time throughout the day even if just for a minute to offer up a prayer to the Lord.

Do you have any favorite Bible stories or lessons?

No, I couldn't pick one story in particular, but I do have two favorite verses or passages: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and Matthew 9:37-38

Have you chosen a profession for which you are preparing yourself?

I have given thought to many different careers, but lately, I have instead been trying to search my heart and see what gifts God has given me to offer the world in hopes that if I do what God is calling me to, it will bring the greatest joy. And the profession will appear with time.

Where do you envision yourself living and working 10 years from now?

I think I might be living as a religious brother or priest, but in what capacity, only God knows right now.

How do you relax?

I enjoy being outdoors. If it's a perfect day outside, I love a good hike through the woods.

What makes you sad?

Seeing others who are unhappy.

What makes you happy?

Helping people and seeing God in the little things in our busy world today.

Are you involved in any sports or other recreational activities?

I was involved in a lot as a college student. I helped raise assistance dogs for Canine Companions for Independence, which has a campus on Long Island in Medford. I am a member of the national service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega and an Eagle Scout.

[Mercy Sr. Camille D'Arienzo, broadcaster and author, narrates Stories of Forgiveness, a book about people whose experiences have caused them to consider the possibilities of extending or accepting forgiveness. The audiobook, renamed Forgiveness: Stories of Redemption, is available from Now You Know Media.]

Editor's note: We can send you an email alert every time Sr. Camille's column, Conversations with Sr. Camille, is posted. Go to this page and follow directions: Email alert signup.

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