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Alumni and Friends Making an Impact

Farming Faith

Having faith means trusting divine guidance when the destination is unknown. That’s what Sarah Brightfield ’22 learned when an Ethos immersion steered her from corporate America to a West Virginia farm where she can blend vocation with service.

“I didn’t know where I was going to be a year ago,” Brightfield said. “It’s been really beautiful to see how life can be so good and meaningful. It doesn’t have to be just about serving myself and making money; it can be about loving other people.”

Brightfield spent her Ethos immersion in fall of 2021 in West Virginia with Bethlehem Farm, a Catholic community of employees and volunteers living and working together under the tenets of service, prayer, simplicity and community. They provide housing repairs for people who are low-income or otherwise unable to do the labor.

Brightfield was a civil engineering student who was naturally drawn to Bethlehem Farm's mission and work. She sought service in all that she did, from participating in Campus Ministry programs, to living in a Marianist Student Community, to blending engineering and community through this Ethos experience.

But her expectations of work and service after college looked different from these experiences. She envisioned working a “traditional” corporate job and volunteering outside of work hours. She received a job offer from a construction company before her Ethos immersion, which she planned to accept when she returned to campus for the spring semester.

“One week at the farm, we were sitting and listening to the director and an employee talk about the mission and vision and history of the farm, and I had a Holy Spirit moment where I thought, ‘OK, this is what I need to be doing with my life; this is what my next step should be,’” Brightfield said. “But I didn’t know what that would entail or that I would be doing it so soon.”

That Holy Spirit moment clarified the job offer she had in hand wasn't for her. She declined it and began searching for employment that could fulfill what she felt during the Ethos immersion. By the end of the semester, she couldn’t ignore the calling any longer; she went back to Bethlehem Farm where she now is a project manager.

In her new role, she and a team of volunteers recently worked on the home of an elderly woman with Alzheimer's disease. They fixed leaking gutters and broken porch steps. While working on the repairs, Brightfield also enjoyed “taking the time to get to know the community members” and teaching the volunteers the value of community engagement.

"I see this work and this lifestyle as a fulfillment of my Catholic faith; it’s my way of living it out."

“I see this work and this lifestyle as a fulfillment of my Catholic faith; it’s my way of living it out,” Brightfield said. “I believe that Jesus calls us to love and action, and to take that faith and go into the world and work for justice, human dignity and peace. I see my work at the farm, in the community and with volunteers as living out my Catholic faith, building community and sharing that love of my neighbor that Jesus calls us to. It reminds me a lot of the Marianist charisms I learned about at UD, building and fostering community, and Bethlehem Farm embodies that.”

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