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Thirteen SJU grads commit to working for Benedictine Volunteer Corps in 2023-24

Logan Lintvedt ’21 majored in elementary education and likely someday will be teaching kindergarten or first grade. For now, however, his passion is the Benedictine Volunteer Corps (BVC), a one-year service opportunity offered to Saint John’s University graduates by Saint John’s Abbey.

Lintvedt, who recently became assistant director of the BVC, was a participant in 2021-22. He spent six months each in Tororo, Uganda, and Nairobi, Kenya.

“It’s made me appreciate the little things about life,” he said. “I saw people living in mud huts and eating the same meal every day, but they were smiling cheek to cheek because they could provide for their families, and they had work. It’s a lot different from the environment most of us come from where we have so much.”

The BVC, according to its mission, is grounded in Benedictine values and spirituality. Participants have a unique encounter with the Catholic monastic tradition, the many needs expressed in such religious communities around the world, and a challenge to commit their talents to those needs. It was founded in 2003 and has sent almost 300 volunteers into service. For 2022-23, 21 alumni have been serving. In 2021, there were 20. This year’s class of 13 is smaller but recruiting is still under way and the Abbey aims to send 16-20 members this year.

Among those newly committed are Jack Doyle, Jacob Lipke and Sam Rengo.

“We’ve all spent four years studying and it feels like the future is barreling down on us,” said Rengo, a political science major from Esko, Minnesota, who plans to spend the next year after graduation at the Hanga Abbey in Tanzania. “Serving in the BVC is a way of interrupting that. I wanted to do something meaningful and this is a chance for me to do that while representing the abbey and in the interest of self-discovery.”

Doyle, an English and economics double-major from Asbury, Iowa, said his future could include working as a data analyst or going to graduate school, but first he’s looking forward to a year of teaching English to high school students in Humacao, Puerto Rico.

“This was on my radar as a sophomore, but it wasn’t until late in my junior year that I decided to do it,” said Doyle, who also will work on the grounds crew at the Monasterio San Antonio Abad. “I knew I wanted to take a gap year, and I never got to study abroad while I was in school, so that’s another motivating factor. This will be a new experience and I think I’m going to get the chance to empathize with people I never would’ve met otherwise. That’s going to make me more well-rounded, and the world will still be waiting for me when I get done.”

Lipke, a math major from Stewart, Minnesota, will be bound for Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, which has nearly 4.5 million people. It will be quite a change from his experience during a recent internship as an actuary.

“I’ll be working in a hospital that is run by the local Sisters,” said Lipke, who will be stationed at the Prince of Peace Abbey. “There’s a rehab center there that treats a lot of kids from the slums who get addicted to huffing jet fuel. Hopefully, it will be a chance to do some good, and if I’m ever going to do something like this, I’m at the right place in my life to be able to do it now.”

Doyle, Lipke and Rengo are good friends and say they know most of the other BVC members and look forward to sharing in the experience – virtually, since they’ll be spread around the globe. Often, they are sent in pairs so they have someone familiar at their next point of call. Their travel and health expenses are provided, and room and board is a function of the Benedictine monasteries where they serve. Participants also receive a $350 stipend each month. That may not sound like much, but it can go a long way in some places. Lintvedt, for example, said it made him a very wealthy man in Uganda.

“With the large Somali population here (in Minnesota), I wanted to go to Africa and teach,” Lintvedt said. “I thought it would help me and I kind of wanted to do something crazy. Given some of the remote places I went, that qualified.

“Some of the guys who decide to do this have a medical background or want to go to med school and they use this experience to work in clinics. Others may just want a chance after four years of school to step back and have a meaningful experience before they have to worry about getting a job and paying back their loans. Whatever the case, it looks great on a resume.”

To learn more, visit https://sjbvc.com/.

Here is the full list of this year’s volunteers and their majors, along with where they are scheduled to be posted:

Jerusalem, Israel (Abbey of the Dormition)

Heriberto Gonzalez, accounting (*-will serve for six months after a six-month stint at Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville)

Ryley Nelson, biochemistry/pre-medicine

Tabgha, Israel (Tabgha Monastery)

Matt Anderson, psychology

Peyton Fischer, biology

Nairobi, Kenya (Prince of Peace Abbey)

Trenton Dodds, biology/pre-physician’s assistant

Jacob Lipke, mathematics

Cuernavaca, Mexico (Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles)

Joe Dwyer, accounting

Humacao, Puerto Rico (Monasterio San Antonio Abad)

Jack Doyle, English/economics

Jervon Sands, applied physics

Barcelona, Spain (Saint Mary of Montserrat Abbey)

Sean Fisher, environmental studies

Hanga, Tanzania (Hanga Abbey)

Sam Rengo, political science

James Siems, environmental studies/economics

Undecided

Liam Miller, economics

SJU BVC members in Tanzania

Saint John’s graduates Matthew Gish ’22 and Griffin Scholl ’21 are teaching math, English and science to 6th-, 7th- and 8th-graders in Nairobi, Kenya. A new class of Benedictine Volunteer Corps members will succeed them later this year.

Joseph Luedke serving in the BVC

Joseph Luedke ’22, a current member of the Benedictine Volunteer Corps, works with a young boy at an art workshop in Mlango Kubwa, part of the Mathare slums in Nairobi, Kenya. Luedke is one of 21 BVC members this year and Saint John’s Abbey has sponsored nearly 300 since the program began in 2003.