|Nicole McDonnell (right) and her sister Colleen.|
By Mary Houser
Ask Nicole McDonnell what her passion is, and
she’ll tell you: cooking. Chef and baker from a young age,
this Philly native and second of four children worked last
year as the star baker at her local Cheesecake Factory. Yet
she decided to leave aside the good pay and the
food she loved to volunteer for a year with the
Regnum Christi Mission Corps.
Why? It was her sister’s example
that sparked the idea. When Colleen returned from volunteering a year
with the RCMC in Atlanta, Nicole could see how much
she had grown as a person.
“Her example of self
giving and love for Christ sparked an interest in me. I
was at a point in my life where I wanted
to do something for Christ and for others. I really
wanted to experience what it really meant to ‘give until
it hurts and when it hurts, keep giving,’ as Blessed
Mother Teresa once said.”
Learning to Love
Nicole had two expectations
for her volunteer year. The first: to do something for Christ
and others. The second: to be sent to a faraway place. The
second expectation didn’t really come true, because she was sent
to Rye, New York, only two hours away from her
home outside Philadelphia.
|Nicole with some Challenge girls.|
But the first expectation did, many times
over. Through her work with the local Challenge clubs, Leadership Training
Program, and parish youth group, Nicole had ample opportunity to
do many things for Christ and others. But more than that,
she has learnt what it means to love.
it to be easy to connect with the people I
was working with,” she says, “but it was a constant
effort to show charity and generosity. I really learned a
lot about self-giving. Just to accept people for who they
She also continues cooking cheesecake and other specialties for the
team of fellow volunteers and consecrated women she lives with. They’re
sure glad to have a star baker in the house!
Nicole loves her work with girls’ clubs and youth groups
because she is able to build relationships with the kids
week after week.
“I love bringing them closer to Christ
and giving them something I wish I had when I
was their age… which is a friendship with Christ.”
from the youth group was the “Midnight Runs”: a nighttime
trip to downtown Manhattan to give food and clothing to
the homeless where they all come together to sleep. Nicole
describes this experience as “fulfilling and eye-opening.”
“We work with
privileged kids from a very wealthy area and to see
them all come out on missions and do a Midnight
Run was a beautiful thing. Watching them give themselves and
really respect and show kindness to the homeless made all
the effort we put into to making it happen worth
The Better- that is, Best- Part
One great part of
being an RCMC volunteer is the team outings. With the other
volunteers and consecrated women on her team, Nicole has gotten
to spend days mountain climbing and kayaking across the New
|"Being a volunteer requires a lot of hard work and determination, but is it also extremely worth all of the effort."|
York Sound, among other things.
But what she likes most about
being an RCMC volunteer is forming a deep relationship with
Christ through daily prayer and mass. She started out this
year not really knowing Christ at all, but that has
“During this year my relationship grew into a friendship
and Christ became someone I could really count on and
Her pilgrimage to the Holy Land with the other
RCMC volunteers helped make that relationship grow by helping her
see Christ as a real person.
“To see Christ love
through his ACTIONS really made an impact on my life,”
Nicole says. “Seeing how far he walked from place to
place and seeing the places where He liked to pray
and where He grew up made Him come alive for
Admittedly, volunteering this year has not always been
easy. Nicole compares it to riding a roller coaster.
your hands might be holding on tight because you are
nervous and scared of what’s to come and scared to
let go of yourself, but towards the end your hands
are up waving in the air, wanting more”—in this case,
wanting to give more. “You feel like you can do
anything at the end!”
As Nicole knows well, you don’t have
to have superpowers to work for God; you just have
to give him what you have.
“He took my nothingness
and transformed it with His love. All I had to
do was be open and work at it every day.
It wasn’t easy but it was totally worth it. Christ
showed me the biggest gift this year and that is
that He does everything with a lot of love… He
gives us struggles and difficult situations because He loves us
and wants us to become better than who we are.
He wants to stretch our hearts so He can fill
“Being a volunteer requires a lot of hard work
and determination, but is it also extremely worth all of
the effort. When you put in the effort Christ will always
Learn more about the RC Mission Corps and view
the downloadable flyer and application at this link.