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More than Cheesecake
U. S. A. | MEMBERS | NEWS
Nicole McDonnell on her year in the RC Mission Corps

Nicole and her sister
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
Nicole and girls
Nicole with some Challenge girls.
home outside Philadelphia. 

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. 

“I expected 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 are.”

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!

Midnight Runs

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.”

One highlight 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 it!” 

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
Nicole McDonnell
"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 changed. 

“During this year my relationship grew into a friendship and Christ became someone I could really count on and trust.”  

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 me.”

Worth It

Admittedly, volunteering this year has not always been easy. Nicole compares it to riding a roller coaster. 

“At first 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 them.”

“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 repay it.”

Learn more about the RC Mission Corps and view the downloadable flyer and application at this link.


PUBLICATION DATE: 2010-05-26


 
 


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Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.


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