Santa Clara University

Santa Clara Magazine

Briana K. Hussey '08

Two generations of SCU and JVC

Brianna Hussey ’08 and Patty Houts-Hussey ’73

Brianna Hussey has been serving since last year the Downtown Chapel as a volunteer assisting the low-income and homeless populations of Portland, Ore. But the JVC community has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. You might even say that she was born, as the unofficial Jesuit Volunteer Corps motto puts it, “ruined for life.”

For that, her mother, Patty Houts-Hussey, takes some credit. After completing her undergraduate degree at Santa Clara, Houts-Hussey served with JVC herself, in the rural, largely Hispanic community of Cornelius, Ore. Working alongside four fellow volunteers, Houts-Hussey felt the experience opened “my heart, mind, and spirit to better understand we are all on the same journey of life, whatever path one takes,” she says.

Houts-Hussey also fell in love with the Northwest. After a stint in Portland and graduate school in Seattle, she found a community organizing job in Yakima, where she met her husband, Pat. With the help of local Jesuits and Yakima community members, she spearheaded the effort to establish a JVC community there in 1984. JVC has been a presence in the community ever since.

“The JVs were always over for dinners and birthdays,” Brianna recalls of her childhood. “They would babysit my sister and me.”

Though when Brianna arrived at Santa Clara, she didn’t take it as a given that she wanted to serve in JVC after graduation. An immersion trip to West Virginia, organized through SCU’s Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, changed that. Brianna learned about mining processes that involved mountaintop removal and saw firsthand the poverty that is a part of communities in Appalachia.

“It sparked something,” Brianna says. “And I was intrigued by what I could do to change things and be more actively involved.”

When JVC Northwest offered her a position in Oregon, she jumped at the chance. As food pantry coordinator at Portland’s Downtown Chapel, she primarily works with the city’s homeless. And she has learned to embrace the challenges she and her fellow staff members face each day.

“There are a lot of situations that none of us quite know how to handle, but we handle them anyway, because we have to,” she says. “We just put one foot in front of the other. And that’s a lot easier when you have a staff that’s got your back.”

As a volunteer, Brianna lives in a house with seven other volunteers. “It’s an adventure to say the least!” she says. “But a good one. It’s just huge, this built-in support.”

As for the JVC motto and the bit about being ruined, Patty Houts-Hussey might put it another way. “I’d rather say ‘released for life.’ It’s a positive thing!”

—Annie Wilkins

Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest—predecessor and model for many national and international volunteer organizations—was formed in 1956, when the Jesuits of the Oregon Province and the Sisters of Saint Ann came together to open a school for native Alaskan children in Copper Valley, Alaska. Today, volunteers across the Northwest and across the country live in intentional communities, working to address issues of social and environmental injustice. The program is based on four core values—community, simplicity, spirituality, and social justice—which volunteers strive to incorporate into their daily lives.