Tuesday, September 30, 2008

How We Serve

As mentioned in class, coming to Loyola has taught be to align my passion for service with a greater appreciation and veneration of God. I will admit, coming to Loyola I knew that the Jesuits were a liberal order of priests and that they have had a long and sometimes unfavorable track record with the Catholic Church as a whole, but my understanding of their mission was somewhat nebulous. Now, after successfully completing three years here, I can say that Loyola has grounded me in the Jesuit ideals and reinforced my role as a student within our greater University community. When I think of my Jesuit education the first thing that comes to mind is AMDG, “Ad Maiorum Dei Gloriam” the Latin translation of “For the Greater Glory of God.” While Kolvenbach does not explicitly use this phraseology until the very end of his speech, it is clear that this notion of giving glory to God is behind each and every poignant articulation that he poses. I have tried to incorporate this idea into my service experiences and have come away significantly more fulfilled and pleased with my work.
There are numerous traditional ways of learning about immigration in a university setting. Courses like economics, linguistics, sociology, all display the theoretical application of immigrant behavior as represented in our American society. As Kolvenbach would say, this is the process of learning through “concepts” (34). My service has taught me, that these concepts cannot accurately. Kolvenbach argues, “solidarity learned through ‘contact’ rather than through ‘concepts’…when the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change,” (Kolvenback 34). I will admit, when I agreed to start teaching at the Esperanza Center, I wanted to help, but I didn’t realize how taxed I would be mentally and physically. My Spanish vocabulary was stretched far beyond the bounds of what I thought possible and I was consistently tired from jumping around and acting out the words rather than just relying on strict translation. Yet after coming home with my head ringing with verb conjugations and my throat stinging from unknowingly shouting at my students, I understood the “contact” element that Kolvenblach stresses. Learning about an immigration policy from a textbook, or even a powerpoint bears no resemblance to actually meeting families who struggled physically and emotionally, against all kinds of adversity for their piece of the American dream.
My student Jaime last Wednesday, for example, is eighteen years old, was educated until he was sixteen in El Salvador, but is not eligible for any state funded educational opportunities since he is a legal adult. Using Kolvenbach’s quotation as a model, my heart breaks for this young man who wants so desperately to learn English and whose only opportunity is to sit with me once a week to practice the past tense, and this injustice sparks my desire for policy reform. Why shouldn’t there be adult education operations run through the public schools? Why can’t Jaime have access to better schooling, especially considering the fact that he and his family came to the United States legally? These essential questions, I believe, stem from my discernment of the issue at hand, something that I might not have been heightened to consider had I not had a Jesuit background.
While I understand that requiring service becomes logistically garish and morally questionable, Kolvenbach believes that such contact and direct relationships with the marginalized is essential in the mission of the Jesuit University, “These should not be too optional or peripheral, but at the core of every Jesuit university’s program,” (Kolvenbach 35). I could not agree more with this statement; I believe that I have learned so much more about my faith and the way in which we serve that has only been possible through my physical connection with the Hispanic community of Baltimore. I am hopeful that such experiences are possible after my time here at Loyola, and I am grateful for the Jesuit foundation that has been provided for me in these three short years.

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