Meet GSV Rachael Brugman

Rachael Brugman was on a quest for enlightenment when she discovered Good Shepherd Volunteers (GSV). She had graduated in 2013 from University of Nebraska at Omaha with a degree in Child, Youth and Family Studies; however, she didn’t know how to focus her career.

Rachael Brugman
Rachael on the playground of the domestic violence shelter where she teaches.

After graduation she volunteered for a year with Amate House in Chicago, a ministry of the Catholic Volunteer Network. This allowed her to gain practical experience before diving headlong into a job. She worked with toddlers in a structured day care facility at Amate House.

The year of service helped Rachael get closer to her vocation, but she still wasn’t ready to settle. She felt she needed another year to discern.“I got my degree in a very broad career field,” Rachael said. “I need to keep narrowing my focus and find the niche that fits my calling.”

Rachael said she wanted to serve in another Catholic ministry with a different population to learn new techniques for working with children, youth and families. She turned to the internet to see what she could find.

Online search

“I went online to the Catholic Volunteer Network (CVN). The CVN website led me to Good Shepherd Volunteers, which directed me to Good Shepherd Shelter.

“If I hadn’t known to google Catholic Volunteer Network, then I wouldn’t have ever found the volunteer opportunity at the Los Angeles Shelter because the position wasn’t listed on the shelter’s website.”

Rachael wishes more agencies would post opportunities online so people could find them. “You don’t know what you don’t know if you can’t find it on the internet,” she said.

Rachael ended her online search for volunteer openings once she discovered the GSV teaching position with Good Shepherd Shelter. The position sounded like the opportunity she was looking for, so she applied for it.

“I had never been to California, and I had not worked with elementary school-aged children or children who had experienced trauma. I thought volunteering at the shelter would help me grow while allowing me to serve others,” she said.

Today Rachael teaches history at the accredited school, which is located inside the secure grounds of the shelter. Her students range in age from pre-school through 5th grade. She says she likes having the creative freedom to target history to the various grade levels.

“Before coming here I had only been a teacher’s aide or assistant. Now I am able to make my own decisions about how I teach and run my classroom. Having the flexibility and freedom to teach a subject like history is very exciting,” she said.

Challenges and growth

The teacher/leader role is what Rachael loves most about the GSV position, and it’s what challenges her the greatest. The role is forcing her to stretch and gain new skills.

Three Good Shepherd Volunteers
Rachael lives in community with two other Good Shepherd Volunteers.

“It’s the opportunity I was looking for the day I ran a Google search online and found Good Shepherd Volunteers,” she said.

“I am getting more at ease with being a teacher/leader and I’m learning the ropes each day. I feel like I’ve got the materials and  support I need. Now what I need to do is build my own confidence and belief in myself that I can handle a classroom as both teacher and leader,” Rachael said.

Rachael said the class sizes are small and everybody at the shelter school works together for the good of the child and family. This spirit of cooperation and teamwork makes it easier for her to face her challenges.

Rachael was born into a family of teachers, giving her an edge when she needs ideas for handling a classroom situation or history topic. She leans on her family support network and keeps in close touch with them through telephone and Skype calls, emails and occasional cards and letters.

Contrasting views

Rachael hails from Osmond, Nebraska. It’s a small town in the northeast corner of the state, where open space and miles of corn fields dominate the landscape. Osmond’s pastoral scene contrasts with the gritty streets of LA and gated fortress that surrounds the shelter.

“Living at Amate House in Chicago for a year accustomed me to city life. I got pretty used to it, but living in Los Angeles is different because we live and work in a secure compound to protect the families. It’s important for me to occasionally step outside the gates to keep perspective,” Rachael said.

Rachael Brugman
Rachael with LA Shelter staff at the monthly staff Mission Effectiveness training to learn more about the mission and core values of Good Shepherd and its Foundress St. Mary Euphrasia.

On weekends Rachael ventures to the beach, movies and other points of interest with her two GSV community members. She views her relationship between work and home as a growth experience that will further help her define what she is looking for in life. For example, Rachael said she likes living next door to her work environment so she doesn’t have to commute. She also likes eating dinner every Tuesday night with the Sisters at the convent because it makes her feel like she’s part of a larger community.

Community is important to Rachael. She said the whole idea of Good Shepherd Volunteers is to live simply in an intentional community while going deeper into spirituality and social justice.

The GSVs have weekly discussions about topics that are relevant to their volunteer experience, like what it means to live a simple lifestyle, what it is about their job that inspires them, or how they want to grow as young women and how they can support each other so they can achieve their personal goals and fulfill their dreams.

Fulfilled by GSV

Rachael feels that GSV is a dream come true for her. Though she began her volunteer year just three months ago, she said, “Being a Good Shepherd Volunteer is giving me the perfect opportunity to grow.”

Rachael believes everyone can benefit from a year of volunteer service with a Catholic agency or ministry. She said, “I wish more people would consider it. Being a volunteer allows you to experience new places and people while gaining knowledge and maturity.”

Rachael turned 24 on November 5. She isn’t sure what her next step will be when her one-year commitment with GSV ends in August. She is taking each day as it comes, exploring new opportunities and learning from them.

“I’m not sure what will be in store for me when I leave LA, but this will probably be my last volunteer year. At some point I need to start paying back my student loans,” she said.

The niche group of Good Shepherd Volunteers is a joint ministry of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd Province of Mid-North America and New York Province.

Jeanette McDermott

Jeanette McDermott

Jeanette is the Communications Coordinator for Sisters of the Good Shepherd Province of Mid-North America. She is a career photojournalist who has served in various capacities of print, broadcast, and corporate communications. Jeanette is devoted to creation and is particularly focused on saving pollinators and other wildlife species and their habitat. She is an ethical vegan and created the website