Volunteer Stories - Beth Sheehan

A Volunteer Experience of Trust and Surrender
"Do not be afraid. The Lord is with you and He will do wonders in you.”

Beth Sheehan was into everything while she was a student at Assumption College: crew, campus ministry, mission trips to Mexico, academics, mentoring, running a food pantry at the Refugee Apostolate, etc. She’s into even more now. Her interest in people and service has led Beth to live and work as an AMA with developmentally disabled adults in a L’Arche community in Bognor-Regis, England.

Here she shares her reflections on her time as an AMA/L'Arche volunteer:

"I had always known that doing a year of volunteer service would be a time of challenge and growth. For me, when I left for England to begin working in L’Arche, a Christian community for developmentally disabled adults, I figured that the greatest challenge of the year would be related to the work I was doing. 

However, the greatest challenge that came my way was something completely unexpected. In October, my usually very healthy boyfriend and partner in crime became ill, and by November, it was clear that something was seriously wrong and that he would need to return to the States for testing and treatment.

For Matt, his family, and I, this was something that came completely out of left field. The decision to fly home to be with Matt during his testing and recovery was clear to me, it took only a day for me to realize. Although I felt badly for the other assistants in my house that I was leaving behind, I knew that home with Matt was where I needed to be at the time. I think it was a time of real growth for all of us, though. In particular, getting to see his family rally together at such a difficult time helped me get to know them on a completely new level.   

Once Matt’s condition became more manageable, I made the decision to return to L’Arche to continue the work I enjoyed doing. I was nervous about returning to L’Arche, this time not because I was afraid for Matt, as he was doing better and I knew that he was in the hands of his family and friends. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it alone, if the community would be mad at me for leaving, if I would remember all that I had learnt.

In the days before I left, I received a card from my friend and co-director of the AMA program, Sr. Mary Ann. She wrote to me, “This will be an experience of surrender and trust for you…Do not be afraid. The Lord is with you and He will do wonders in you.”

L’Arche welcomed me home with open arms. The first few days were filled with visits, cards, and hugs. It’s only been about a week since I’ve returned, but so far things are going well. I have had some struggles, and I’m sure I will continue to – but I feel at peace about my decision to return, and it’s helpful to know that I have such a supportive community around me, and many friends praying for me back home."

—Beth Sheehan


Volunteer Stories and Reflections:

Chaparral, New Mexico
Kristen Penkala, 2007-08
Andrea de Castro, 2006-07
Maggie McCormick, 2005-06

Worcester, MA
Liz Supple, 2011-12
Pierre Tardivo, 2007-08
Liz Clayton, 2006-07

Mexico City, Mexico
Brendan Carey, 2009-2010

Bognor-Regis, England
Matt Collins, 2006-07
Beth Sheehan, 2006-07

Newcastle, England
Kathleen Gardner, 2011-12
Rebecca Ickes, 2009-10