Good evening/morning. My name is Matt Aujero, and I would like to thank Fr. Ken, the Diocese of Trenton, and you fine people here at Jesus the Lord for letting me speak to y’all on behalf of the Office of the Catholic Volunteer Network based out of Washington, D.C. This is my first time in Keyport, New Jersey. I looked you guys up before I came here. Apparently you’re “The Pearl of the Bayshore.” Wow. I’m from Durham, North Carolina and we’re known as the “City of Medicine.” I don’t know about you but I’ll take “The Pearl of the Bayshore” any day.
Now, to tell you more about Catholic Volunteer Network, I feel it’s appropriate to start with today’s Gospel. Father Kenneth just beautifully read the famous story of Jesus multiplying the loaves and the fish for five thousand. Anybody remember how many loaves and fish Jesus started with? (Pause) Five loaves and two fish. For five thousand. For the parents out there who feed a family of five, I’m sure that’s enough, right? Try five thousand.
Nowhere in the reading we hear Jesus saying, “Um, guys, I don’t have enough.” Maybe in the fine print somewhere but not in the version we read today. But let’s think about that phrase, “I don’t have enough” and how often we say that phrase in our lives.
“I don’t have enough time for this.”
“I don’t have enough money for this.”
“Honestly, I don’t have enough patience for this.”
But Jesus never says that, does He? He takes what God has given Him, five loaves and two fish, and He multiplies it. He makes it work.
I’d like to share my own five loaves and two fish story with you. In Costa Rica, I used to visit this old folk’s home, and I remember my first visit in September I met this 75-year-old blind woman named Flori. She sat in her wheelchair in the back from everyone else, and she just didn’t look like a happy person. Well, optimistic me, I made it my goal that day to cheer her up, get a smile out of her. I tell you what she was not having it.
I tried telling stories, joking with her. I told her, “Flori, even though you can’t see me, you’re looking at the most good-looking Filipino you’d ever known.” No response. She probably knew I was lying to her.
She asked if I had a girlfriend, and I’m thinking “OK, this is my chance.” I tell her, “Nope, don’t have a girlfriend. Just you, Flori, you’re my girlfriend.” She tilts her head and looks right at me, dead serious, and says, “Mateo (that was my Spanish name, Mateo) I have a husband.” OK, jokes that work, still zero.
It was getting towards the end of my visit that day, and I happened to have brought my guitar, and I decided I wanted to feel good about myself wanted to end on a good note and play for everyone there. I took some songs that I had translated to Spanish and I started to sing and play away, teaching as I went. It was fun, I had some clapping their hands, some even singing along, and some…straight up sleeping, but in the middle of it, I catch with the corner of my eye, Flori, in her wheelchair in the back of the room. And she’s smiling. My guitar (not my singing), but my guitar, my five loaves and two fish, what God gave me, was enough to make Flori smile.
It was at that moment when I realized that service is not about changing the world. It’s about changing the day of one person at a time. For me, it’s about making people like Flori smile.
And that’s the mission of Catholic Volunteer Network. It’s about the 14,000 plus volunteers who are currently in our member programs, who take the five loaves and two fish that God has given them, to change the days and lives of people like my friend Flori. Five loaves and two fish to literally feed the stomachs of hungry children, or feed the minds of those we teach, or in reality feed the hearts and souls of those we touch. Schools, health clinics, construction, youth programs, the list goes on of every type of service imaginable happening in our programs in all 50 states and more than 100 countries worldwide.
Who are these volunteers? It’s lay men and women like you---high school, college, single, married, older, retired. Our volunteers are people who want to use their skills in areas of health care, education, engineering, management, community outreach, poverty relief, the list goes on and on, all to serve the poor and those who need it. Answering the call to serve, taking a step of faith into the unknown for those in need. Some take a few weeks, some a summer, others like me, take on a whole year or two to immerse themselves among the people they serve.
And why do people choose service?
I know quite a few people parents who like to use their vacation time to not only see the world, but also help those they see, too. Both my parents, for example, are Registered Nurses and are retiring, around the same age as some of the early retirees in this room, and they have a lot more time. The other day my dad calls me on the phone, “Matt, do your programs need nurses? Maybe you can find us something with your CVS job.” “Dad, it’s CVN, Catholic Volunteer Network, and yes, our programs need nurses. I’ll find you something.”
Lastly, for those graduating college, it is the perfect time to take a year or two and immerse yourself in another city or country to serve. You can defer your loans, you get a living stipend, full room and board, insurance, the works, and a chance to see a different world and find the person you are outside of college. A mentor once told me that the year after college is the most forming year of our adulthood. It’s so true. I graduated from the Catholic University of America out of D.C. last year with a Business Management degree and still wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. I did my year of service in Costa Rica, and I fell in love with teaching English to my juniors down there. Now I’m so sure of what I want to do, and it’s become a high school English teacher. It’s not as important in what we choose to do, but how certain we are with full confidence with what we want to do. I came back with that. How many college graduates do you know have that kind of confidence in what they want in their future?
All of the details of our programs are organized and listed right here in this Response book. These books are available for free to take home, and share this with your children, grandchildren, grandparents, neighbors, coworkers, your mailman and your dog. We have a toll free number to call us if you want one-on-one assistance. And we can also be reached on our Web site at I’ll be available after Mass if you’d like to see me and talk about more about service. I’ll be the good-looking Filipino in the back.
Before I end, I would like to come back to the metaphor in the Gospel, and ask you, what are your fives loaves and two fish that God has given you?
Maybe that’s five days, you and your spouse, on a summer mission trip in Guatemala. Or five months for your son or daughter who’s graduating college to spend in inner city New York working an after school program.
Maybe your five loaves and two fish is five dollars and two zeroes after it in today’s collection. Talk about a multiplication miracle, right? But really, for forty years Catholic Volunteer Network has remained faithful to its mission because of the generosity of the good people in our parishes, parishes like Jesus the Lord. Your contribution today will help us to continue recruiting volunteers and serve the needs of all our mission programs. It will also help pay for my gas money back to D.C. Kidding.
Lastly, and most importantly, maybe your five loaves and two fish is five minutes and two seconds of prayer for us. We ask that you pray for our mission, our volunteers, and the people we serve. And the smiles we create for 75-year-old blind women.
Five loaves and two fish. Is it enough? Jesus said it was. Now let’s make it multiply.