Alumni Reflection by Ilana Blattner

To say that the faith I discovered in college did anything other than change me entirely would be a lie. It was as though I had merely been wandering before, and now there existed something at the center of my being to guide me home, much like a lighthouse on the sea. The saints became heavenly friends, my earthly ones became family, and it was as though all of a sudden I had rediscovered something integral to my life that I hadn’t even realized I’d been missing. I stood hand in hand with Christ, with Peter, and with all of the saints before me, and suddenly I wasn’t so alone. This remained the case, even as I in fact became physically alone.

            At the beginning of March of this year, I had a clear path to follow upon graduation: A job lined up, a parish to fall into, and even a place to live. As my time at DePaul was cut short, however, and everything fell through all at once, I found myself back in Michigan at square one. Suddenly being so far from the community that I had cultivated with such intentional care over the past four years was incredibly painful. It was during this time that I realized I would need to find new ways to practice my faith in the midst of a global health crisis. I have still yet to attend in person Mass since March due to my own anxieties, and it remains one of the greatest personal sacrifices I have made in an attempt to keep others safe.

            In spite of my in-person presence diminishing, however, I have discovered new outlets for myself. The young adults at Saint Vincent de Paul Parish were waiting to greet me with open arms (albeit virtually) and I soon found myself reunited with friends and alumni from across the past four years. We are all in different stages of life now, compared to when we first met, but we still share the same common thread of CCM and our Catholic faith. It is familiar and comforting, and when my friend Ben asked me to become the social justice and advocacy chair of the young adult group, I had little hesitation in accepting. It’s been wonderful, and my friends remind me each and every day what the heart of our faith is: Radical Love.

            Though I have once again found a home at Saint Vincent’s, I’ve also since branched out. Upon returning to the city, I reconnected with my roots at Catholic Relief Services, an incredible organization I spent a great amount of time with during undergrad. I learned about CRS Chapters, a division of volunteers that commit their time to supporting the mission of CRS on a local level. Furthermore, I discovered that there is a chapter right here in downtown Chicago! I joined without a shred of uncertainty and was met with a wonderful spread of other young Catholics striving to make a difference in the world. Together we take tangible steps towards aiding vulnerable communities in our country and around the globe, and I can think of no better way to live out the faith I love so dearly.

            This year has not gone according to plan – for me, or for anyone else. I still wish things had gone far differently. Yet in the wake of it all, I find myself clinging to the same bit of light that has kept me going all the while. When I pray at night, I still ask God to provide the strength for my same vocation: For Him to teach me how to love better. Through joining hands with my brothers and sisters in faith, new friends or old, I pray that I am able to continue living out my mission with everything I have. Until we are able to physically join hands again, I will allow the invisible signs of our incorporeal love to sustain me for however long that may prove to be.

Class of 2020

Anthropology/Catholic Studies

Catholic Relief Services Chapter Member

Ilana Blattner Class of 2020