Montini recently welcomed back former student, Julien Milcent '10. Julien is currently a volunteer with the United States Peace Corps and visited Montini Theology students to talk about his experiences with the organization.
A graduate of North Central College in Naperville, Julien is serving in Indonesia where he teaches 7th, 8th and 9th grade English in an Islamic school of approximately 700 students. He and his wife, Emily, who also volunteers with the Peace Corps, live in Lumajang, East Java (also known as 'Banana Town').
"The Peace Corps is not missionary work," Julien told the students. "We are not there to convert others to Christianity. We can, however, talk about our faith if asked." While acknowledging that he is not an expert in Islam, Julien told the students that his experience in Indonesia has helped him to see its similarities to Christianity, as opposed to the differences heard about so often.
Julien's volunteer work began with ten weeks of intensive training and learning in language, culture and technical relating to his assignment in Indonesia. Teachers with the Peace Corps are teamed up with a 'counter-part' teacher - each learning from the other about the customs and traditions of their countries. He is currently working on a project of helping to build up the school's library and shared a video he made of his students enjoying a typical day of school in Indonesia. "I hope to bring back drawings and letters from American students to share with them," he said.
The Peace Corps began in 1961 under the direction of President Kennedy. Over 225,000 volunteers have served in 141 countries since its inception. "We currently have over 7,200 volunteers working in 65 countries," informed Julien. "We go oversees to show America's best side," he continued. "Our goal is to help people better understand America and our culture and to help Americans better understand the people in the countries we visit." The Peace Corps strives to improve communities through a variety of projects that include agriculture, medicine, youth development, and education.
"Peace Corps wasn't really on my radar until after I met my future wife, Emily," said Julien. "We met while studying abroad in Ireland and she planted the seed in my head. My education at Montini Catholic as well as North Central College, introduced me to a life filled with service. So when I'm asked about why I joined Peace Corps I always say that I wanted to do something selfless for God and I wanted to feed my desire to meet new people and experience new cultures."
"I have many memorable moments in Peace Corps. The ones that really standout and the things that you don't expect to enjoy. One such occasion was Islam's second biggest holiday: Eid Al-Adha. This holiday celebrates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his own son. To commemorate this, Muslim's around the world sacrifice bulls and sheep just as Abraham did. The slaughtered animals' meat is then shared within the community and the less fortunate. My school slaughtered three cows and three sheep which was incredibly difficult to watch. I then joined a convoy of cars to carry the massive amounts of meat to the poor. When I asked about what this event meant to one individual he replied saying the it was the only time of year he ate red meat."
He and wife, Emily, shared American customs with with their new friends as well, including cooking a traditional Thanksgiving meal for them last year.
Julien wrapped up his talk with Monitni students by giving those who expressed interest a little insight into becoming a volunteer. "Peace Corps is often touted as 'the toughest job you'll ever love' which I full-heartedly agree with," he told them. "It may be a tough job but it is so incredibly rewarding. I would highly recommend it. Peace Corps works in all sectors and no two volunteer experiences are quite the same. Because of this you will learn valuable skills like independence, coping mechanisms, leadership, and empowerment."
Peace Corps service is typically a 27 month commitment. Julien, (from Villa Park, attended St. Alexander Catholic School), started his service in March of 2016 and will finish in June 2018.