Living Christ’s Teaching in the World
Newman CCHS grad shares her faith at home and abroad.
By Louise Brass, Observer Correspondent
October 10, 2019
The message that we all belong to “one human family regardless of our national, racial, ethnic, economic and ideological differences,” was not lost on Rachel Hermes as a teenager at Newman Catholic High School in Sterling.
Hermes says that Catholic social teaching has had a profound effect on her career choices.
And that has taken her far and wide.
After graduating high school in 1999 and later Harvard University, Hermes decided to set out to garner firsthand experiences far beyond northern Illinois. 
As part of Peace Corps and then Catholic Relief Services for a decade, she worked abroad as a program manager of interventions.
Her work was aimed at increasing access to quality education for marginalized groups, such as girls living in rural parts of Afghanistan and children living as refugees in Jordan or Lebanon.
“It was while living in Muslim-majority countries, such as Sudan and Afghanistan, where attending Mass was not an option, that I experienced the Catholic social teaching of solidarity as I hadn’t before,” she says.
Despite the lack of Mass availability, Hermes has maintained her faith, she says, and has learned to understand the Church’s teachings more deeply.
Hermes has worked in such distant places as Delhi, India with the Missionaries of Charity at Mother Teresa’s Center for Children with Disabilities. 
Hermes’ trip to India was after the death of St. Teresa  so she didn’t have a chance to meet that world-famous saint. But that work was especially close to Hermes’s own heart because one of her brothers also suffered from disabilities, she said.
The daughter of Jim and Ann Hermes (Ann died in 1997) is a longtime parishioner at St. Mary Parish in Sterling. She attended St. Anne Catholic Elementary School in Dixon when the family lived there. 
At Catholic schools, Hermes says, she learned a lot about the bravery of various saints and their adventures around the globe, but she never envisioned herself traveling so far afield herself until she was out of school.
“My Catholic education and up-bringing motivated me toward a service-oriented career in international development.
“I didn’t share a culture, religion or primary language with the majority of my Sudanese and Afghan colleagues, and yet they welcomed me into their homes, shared their families and lives with me, and we delighted in each other.
“My colleagues demonstrated over and over that we are one human family,” she said.
Hermes has attended numerous Indian and Muslim weddings and other celebrations at the communities she has worked in, and said being from another country did result in her being invited to attend family functions with many open-hearted people.
Upon returning home to America it was actually good to feel anonymous again for a little while, she said. 
Now after a rest she is back at work at Rotary International in Evanston. She attends St. Gertrude Parish in Chicago.
“My faith helps me today as the Catholic social teaching continues to be the framework through which I see the world. It is the lens that helps me know that we have a duty to welcome and assist those fleeing violence and poverty in search of a better, safer life,” she said.
“Over and over, I am reminded of the words of Pope Paul VI: ‘If you want peace, work for justice,’ ” she said.
Hermes believes that every day provides many opportunities to do just that, whether at home or abroad.