The Catholic University of America

September 8, 2011

Service Leads to Life's Work for Graduate

Five years since her year of service, Catholic University 2006 graduate Katherine Mierzwa is well on her path, spiritually and professionally.

In her senior year, Mierzwa, a politics major, was unsure what graduate studies would be most practical. Instead she chose long-term service.

“I thought volunteering would be a happy medium because I’d be doing something good for the community, and I was hoping that my time volunteering would kind of lead me to my career path. I was hoping it would lead me forward.”

Through Catholic University, Mierzwa knew of a number of established long-term service programs. But she developed her own, close to home.

Mierzwa offered a year of unpaid service to Birthline/Lifeline Pregnancy Care Centers, a program of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Palm Beach. The centers provide free pregnancy tests, counseling, material support, limited obstetrical ultrasounds, and other assistance to help pregnant women choose life for their unborn babies.

Mierzwa assisted the program administrator, performed computer work, scheduled day volunteers, and counseled clients.

After her year, Mierzwa enrolled in the social work program at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, earned a master’s degree, and then returned to Birthline/Lifeline to work as coordinator of counseling services and in-service education.

Now she is on her way to a second master’s — in nonprofit management — to do even more for the charity.
“My volunteer time at Birthline/Lifeline really helped to form the rest of my education and career choices,” she explains.

And it has helped her “continue to form” her faith, begun at home and nurtured at Catholic University.

In particular, Mierzwa says that her supervisor — the program administrator — served as a role model and mentor. Seeing faith expressed in “words and actions” encouraged Mierzwa to delve more deeply into her faith. That’s especially necessary, Mierzwa notes, when facing issues like abortion and contraception.

But the women in need whom she served also helped Mierzwa grow spiritually.

“I saw very quickly and I still see, that as a Catholic, as a Christian, as a human being, I’m called to help those less fortunate, the ignorant, those who’ve fallen down on their luck, who are in difficult situations, who are at a crossroads. I know that each of us is called to help those who need our help.”

As to next steps, Mierzwa is engaged to marry, and she looks to further serving her neighbors in need — in whatever way possible.

“You never know what God’s plan is for you,” she muses.

This year, charitable works — including those performed in long-term service projects — may be logged in Catholic University’s Cardinal Service Commitment, a service campaign marking Catholic University’s 125th anniversary. In thanksgiving for more than a century of God’s blessings at Catholic University, students, alumni, faculty, and staff are striving to perform 125,000 hours of service by next Founders Day, April 10, 2012. For more information and to log hours, visit http://www.cua.edu/125/.