The Hannigan Sisters: Finding a Path to Careers in Service

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Lily Hannigan, FCRH ’11, and her older sister, Margaret (Meg) Hannigan Domínguez, FCRH ’08, GSS ’12, have always shared similar interests. They both majored in English (though Meg doubled in sociology), love their native New York City, and have a quirky sense of humor. But it wasn’t until they arrived at Fordham that they found a shared passion for service.

The sisters credit Fordham’s Global Outreach (GO!) cultural immersion and service program for giving them “the chance to find and develop new passions and skills,” Meg says, “and then find ways to channel these into careers that align with our values.”

Meg was entering her sophomore year at Fordham in late August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. A few months later, she was helping with relief efforts through GO!, gutting destroyed homes to see what was salvageable. “It was really raw,” she says of the experience. “It was one of my first times working alongside social workers and people on the front lines of racial inequity and social justice.”

Meg went on to complete four more domestic and international GO! projects. She was a senior when Lily entered Fordham, and Meg urged her younger sister to look into the program for herself.

Lily participated in GO! Mississippi during her very first year at Fordham. The community-building nature of the program particularly attracted her, and she went on to complete two more projects before she graduated. “Going through those eye-opening service experiences with people with different perspectives really helps you get outside your bubble,” she says.

After graduating, Meg went on to earn a master’s degree in social work from Fordham and join the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC), which places volunteers in one- or two-year positions with communities tackling challenges like homelessness, hunger, mental illness, and poverty.

Though many GO! grads go on to JVC, Lily was initially wary of following in her older sister’s footsteps yet again. She applied to the program in secret, but finally decided that “it didn’t matter if I was following Meg again,” she laughs. “She makes good life choices.”

What started as volunteer positions are now full-time jobs for both sisters. Meg, a licensed clinical social worker, is a senior clinical case manager at Miriam’s Kitchen, a nonprofit that aims to end chronic homelessness in Washington, D.C. Lily is a development manager at an HIV/AIDS transitional housing facility in New Orleans called Project Lazarus.

While Meg works in a clinical setting, Lily focuses heavily on communications and event planning. “It’s cool having similar but unique perspectives on social services,” says Meg, “because we can keep each other in check, and remind each other why both sides are important.”

For Lily, one of the most rewarding aspects of her job has been seeing the difference between Fordham and some of the other volunteer groups that assist at Project Lazarus. Fordham’s students are “not just people who sign up for a trip to New Orleans,” she says. “They make a conscious commitment to service. It makes me really proud.”

That distinction is also one of the reasons Meg is excited to speak at this year’s GO! Gala. The timing is particularly poignant for her. In early March her mentor Joseph Currie, S.J., JES ’61, GSAS ’63, former associate vice president for mission and ministry at Fordham and the speaker at last year’s gala, died suddenly.

“He was a chaperone on my first GO! project to New Orleans and encouraged me to apply,” Meg says. “I’m lucky he called to give me tips on my speech before he passed, so I got the opportunity to show him my gratitude for everything.”

It was that first trip that got Meg interested in social work, and that put both her and Lily on the path they’re on today.

“You can’t forget or unsee the realities of systemic injustices, privileges, and oppression that you’re exposed to,” Meg says. “We both chose to build on what bothered us most. It certainly struck a chord with me. It tied into my faith and also into what feels right for me in giving back and fitting into this world.”

 

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