From August 2015 through July 2016, the five of us spent a year living in Billings, Montana, committed to living out the values of community, simple living, spirituality, and social and ecological justice as a part of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest. We were each full-time volunteers at different agencies throughout the community, and each lived on a limited stipend that we pooled to pay for food, house supplies, utility bills, rent, and whatever else we needed as a community.
From left to right in the photo above, who we are and where we served:
- Ellen or El – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Yellowstone County
- Julia (current writer) or Juj – Northern Plains Resource Council
- Caroline or Carol – St. Charles Mission School
- Laura or Lo – Center for Children and Families
- Mary Kate but mostly MK – St. Charles Mission School
In Billings, we were in solidarity with four other communities of Jesuit Volunteers (JVs) throughout the state, called the “Big Sky” region; in turn, us Montanans were in solidarity with communities of JVs throughout Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. All of us, committing a year of our post-grad lives to those giant, daunting, ambiguous, open-for-interpretation, incredibly meaningful values. Something like 58 years of JVs had gone before us, and now a whole new crew is settled into their own year. Of course, we all come into our year from different places and spaces, carrying different fears and expectations, weighing some values higher than others, and thus, we all had what I would call uniquely meaningful years. Even within our own community, we faced different challenges, we claimed different victories, we drew different lessons, and undoubtedly, we tell different stories. But wait, there’s a catch! Is it really “just a year,” just the social experiment that we sometimes joked it was, or is this going to be one of those pivotal moments in our lives that we point to and say that’s where it changed – referred to by JVC(NW) as being ruined for life.
Now, we have each dispersed to different corners of the country, setting off on our next adventures. This blog is a space for my community, the Billings Babes, to reflect on the year we have just left behind, and to document our encounters with those precious, challenging four values in our post-JVCNW lives, wherever we meet them, whether we struggle with or embrace them, however meaningful or mundane. We hope this will help us unpack the year behind and empower us to continue living out these values in the moments, days, months, and years that lie ahead. Thanks for reading!
Want to read more about our year in Billings?
- El kept a wonderful blog: A Billiken in Billings
- I kept a blog too: Billings Biddie
- Oh, and Carol also had a lowkey blog for a couple months (betcha didn’t think I’d dig this up): When In Big Sky