What Cortina Was To Me: Querencia

Cortina is a loom, a framework holding loose threads together to weave into a fabric. In Cortina, I met different people bringing stories and ideas from around the world and around their hearts.  Cortina guided the shuttle that helped make those threads cross: service trips, time at Metro tutoring, conversations in the NZ at hours that can charitably be described as irresponsible. It flung my friends and I to protests and into the gritty reality, into contact with the real and the pure, into vulnerability.  We learned the stories of our neighbors, our sisters, and our selves.  Each invitation and opportunity helped make the fabric we work together stronger, seamless.  Each conversation, hug, tear — the words and punctuation of a story we are still writing.  They’re the rhythm to our perplexing dance.

My physical time in cortina is over now, but it is an indelible tattoo on my life.  Cortina was normalizing for me: it taught me that these strange ideas weren’t so strange.  That people are sacred, that love is the most powerful force in the universe, that stories are all that matter.  In the wildly tumultuous years of college, the warm embraces of friends’ words and arms made the journey down new roads holy and exhilarating. That doesn’t mean our journeys weren’t and aren’t scary.  But we know we don’t walk them alone.

In the end, Cortina’s lasting impact is the human fabric it helps weave.  My best friends came from those years, as did my first love.  Those people are sacred beyond words and are the true pages on which our stories are written. They are friends for life, friends who all tell each other “I love you” and mean it. In the time since Creighton, they are what gets me through the hardest challenge I’ve ever faced, depression. In this time, it is they who challenge me to do ordinary things extraordinarily.

The way we choose to make the threads of our lives cross shapes how we will go through life. The ties created there are sacred, unbreakable, and everlasting.  Those ties, paraphrasing the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, help us to see what is essential with the eyes of our hearts.  Those ties, to use a favorite phrase of Jon Cortina, help us put little feet to the gospel.

Buen Camino.

One word to describe my Cortina experience: Querencia.(the word querencia means a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn, a place in which we know exactly who we are, and from which we speak our deepest beliefs.)

-Tim Nendick, A Cortinian in 2009-2010, A Cortina RA from 2010-2012

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I Am Exactly Where I Need To Be.

This summer I signed up and prepared to go to Detroit to serve in the amazing Covenant House Michigan as a live in volunteer.

Through a few weeks of phone calls and broken connections, I realized I was the only volunteer who had signed up to live in this intentional community house. So, I had to let Detroit go, hope for next summer, and plant myself back home.

I am now doing the same job search I have done since I was sixteen. I am running on the same streets I grew up running down. I am homesick for Omaha, and Detroit, and Cortina. I don’t really know what I’m homesick for. I am bored and frustrated.

I hung a picture on my wall that reads “You are exactly where you need to be.” (Yes, sometimes when I am feeling down I print out inspirational Pinterest quotes). It has hung there for three weeks now, but I was bored and frustrated so I never really believed it. I believed I needed to be in Detroit, or Omaha, or anywhere but here.
That’s beginning to change now. I made a pledge at the beginning of my year in Cortina to “Vocalize Gratitude”. When I started to do that, I started to think about my summer differently.

I am becoming involved with a campaign that I care deeply about. (If you live or are registered to vote in Missouri, check out Missourians for Equality or send me an email at SarahPeraud@creighton.edu).

I get to see my little brother become a man and drive him to tour colleges. I got to watch him vault thirteen feet and be here as he trains for the junior Olympics. I get to love him as something other than a snot-nosed little brother, but as a friend.

I get to train for our 5th triathlon with the most amazing woman, my mom.

I got to see my favorite band with my best friend.

I’m rediscovering the reasons I get homesick for St. Louis.

I found Covenant House St. Louis and get to spend some of my days there.

I fell in love with living in community this year and was so discouraged that I didn’t get to find a new one this summer.

But I’m realizing, every community is an intentional community if I work and love with intention. I think being a part of an intentional community is a call for inclusion. Entering into intentional community does not and should not isolate me from my engagements in the rest of the world. Community creates people motivated by peace, intention, love for others and reminds me that when I take those values into the wider political and social arena, I am not alone.

Detroit isn’t the only place where I can love. Cortina is not the only place where I can love. If I am not a loving person where I am then I cannot be a loving person anywhere.

Mother Theresa once said that we all “belong to each other.” We cannot do harm to one without harming the very integrity of ourselves and our entire existence. Fortunately, it works the other way as well. We are all so intimately connected. It is impossible to affect just one person. We are constantly transforming. I have to be constantly thinking of that transformation and do my best to transform with love, rather than greed or selfishness or boredom. There is no savior or victim. Rather, there is a need to for us all to be transformed. The way I want to do that is through radical, unabashed, extravagant love.

I can do that in Detroit. I can do that here.

So yes, there are days when I lay in bed, watching Netflix and wallowing about how I don’t get to serve, how I don’t get to be in community, and how I am soooo bored. But, then, I have to shake myself up a little bit. I smile, think about all the things I can possibly do tomorrow and think of all the music and experiences and beautiful lives I still get to be a part of this summer. And I am starting to maybe truly believe—this is exactly where I need to be.

–Sarah Peraud, Cortinian 2012-2013,  Live-in Formation Group Leader 2013-2014

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What Cortina Was To Me: Galvanizing

The Cortina experience gave me a very real and human perspective on some of the most pressing social justice issues facing our world today. Most notably, my experience focused heavily on immigration. Through a half-week service trip and weekly volunteering at Pixan Ixim in south Omaha, I was presented with a salient example of the plights of modern immigrants in my own backyard. Relaxing around a dinner table and swapping stories in quasi-Spanglish was the best context for learning about individual immigrants’ decisions for coming to the U.S.,  their unique struggles within our own city, and their hopes and dreams for their lives. Nowhere in textbooks or newspaper articles could I find stories like I heard through immigrants firsthand. Combined with the information I was presented from the Cortina ethics class and conversations with fellow students, the valuable experiences in Cortina gave me a balanced view of the multi-faceted nature of immigration, as well as many other topics such as gay marriage, human trafficking, sustainability, the death penalty, etc.

Though my Cortina experienced has long since ended, the critical lens through which I view social justice issues continues to hone itself within the context of my education, my career decisions, and my political views. As a future dentist, I am cognizant of healthcare difficulties facing immigrants. My aim is to one day provide low-cost dental services to various under-treated populations. As a citizen, I try to be aware of current events affecting unjust practices in our world by listening to NPR, voting, and engaging with people of different worldviews than mine. Truly, the Cortina experience has shaped the way I approach my life. I live with greater gratitude for the opportunities afforded me. However, the concept of social justice mandates more than mere reflection. Social justice demands action, just as love demands action.  And it is through my actions that I hope to continually live out the values I acquired through my time at Creighton and in Cortina.

One word to describe my Cortina experience: galvanizing
-Theresa Greving, A Cortinian from 2009-2010

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