Young adult invites others into a relationship with those on the peripheries.
Carlos Villagomez found the true meaning of the joy of serving as a volunteer with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and at soup kitchens and other local service projects in Seattle, Washington.
“It’s coming into a relationship with a stranger or someone you just met, and lending them a hand during their time of struggle,” Villagomez says. “It’s important for those of us who have more privileges to share our time, talent, and treasure with those who don’t have much.”
Villagomez, 25, an engineer working at Microsoft, is a member of the Maryknoll Young Adult Empowerment (YAE) Community in Seattle. He joined the YAE program in 2020. There he learned about and discussed Catholic Social Teaching. “Maryknoll really allowed me to take the next step and ask why there are differences of opinions, and find a common ground to help uplift the community and elevate the voices that aren’t normally heard,” he says.
Last year, he was given the opportunity at his job to form a team to do service in the local community. The month of October at Microsoft is dedicated to giving back to the community, which includes not only financial donations but also spending time in service. Villagomez was passionate about putting his faith into action and sharing what he learned at YAE community.
He jumped to the occasion and put a small team of people together to serve the community and at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic non-profit organization helping people in need in Seattle and the surrounding King County. Villagomez, who has been serving as a volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul for more than three years, says, “I want to show them something I live by and what brings me joy.”
The group of volunteers were eager to help, open to learn and grateful for the opportunity to serve, Villagomez says. They pack lunch bags and decorated the bags to give away at homeless shelters, and provided supplies for adults and babies at the church. Part of volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul is to visit two or three families a week, most of whom are Latinos. During COVID-19 surges, the volunteers helped hundreds of people, mostly single immigrant mothers receiving assistance for medical, housing and heating and electricity expenses.
Volunteering with St. Vincent de Paul and other community service organizations has opened Villagomez to new perspectives and to sharing that with others, he says. As a bilingual speaker, he is able to communicate with the area’s Spanish speaking residents, a community in which there the need is great, especially for the single mothers he helps. In an expensive city such as Seattle, single mothers often call looking for resources, but other volunteers and staff members struggled to communicate with them. Villagomez was able to bridge that gap. He says this experience has transformed and helped him discover new things about himself in the process.
While Villagomez was born in the United States, he comes from an immigrant family; his father is from Mexico. He went to Mass when growing up, but lost touch with his faith when he was in middle school and high school. He was active in his community service during high school, but he felt that something was missing. “I was involved with community service, but I didn’t have the spiritual side to incorporate [into my life],” he says. Later in college he joined Campus Ministry and found the missing spark!
Villagomez says that was when he developed a relationship with God. When he discovered this newfound love for God, he wanted to share that love and joy with others. His faith was affirmed when he joined the Maryknoll YAE Community.
For Villagomez, being part of YAE empowers him to serve and reach out even more to people at the margins of the society. He is learning how to empathize with those living on the peripheries and utilizing available resources and knowledge to help them. “In this area there are a lot of people of color and poor, mostly from Latino and Filipino communities,” he says. “If I encounter someone in the street asking for money, I try to be more generous and be present for them.”
Villagomez plans to continue participating in the Maryknoll program and serving people in need. “I like to help, but what brings me the most joy in my life is when I learn about the families and their children and hear their stories,” he says. “I share my faith with them and I hope to build a better community around them.”
Featured Image: Carlos Villagómez, second from right, is shown with a group of coworkers from Microsoft who serve their local community doing volunteer work with such organizations as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Seattle, Washington.