Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I came to Loyola with an entirely public school background, and I will admit that my connection to my faith was shaky at best. Many of us with similar experiences can probably agree that “CCD,” the only form of religious education that I had, was mostly a waste of time. These weekly classes, held at church in the evening, also required a certain amount of community service hours each year, but most people really did not push their boundaries to complete this. I remember babysitting for my siblings was considered service, because I was not paid for it. Overall, these tasks were completed both begrudgingly and in the easiest way possible. To arrive at Loyola and see how so many people were involved in and enjoying their service to the community was very eye-opening for me, especially the service-learning that was offered as part of a class. It is through service that I have really learned the meaning of the Jesuit values, “the service of faith and the promotion of justice” (23).

Kolvenbach writes of “the intersection of the mission and the microchip” (31). This metaphor really relates to Loyola. On the one hand, this is a state of the art, prestigious, highly rated university, committed to higher education and the success of its students. This means it is modern and in touch with current issues, but also that Loyola educates and prepares its students so that they are capable of going out into the world and finding important and sometimes high-paying careers. It would be all too easy to graduate and become just another man or woman whose only focus is to support his or her family. The Jesuit aspect of Loyola is what makes us different. We have the mission to think about as well. The “promotion of justice” aspect invites us to get involved in the community so that we can become men and women for others, and many of us do.

Also mentioned in the article is the “rift” between communities that have and those that have not. Kolvenbach writes that the rift “has its root cause in chronic discrepancies in the quality of education” (31). We are probably all aware that this is so true of the city of Baltimore. We can look at Loyola, or even one of the nearby private schools, and then consider the Baltimore City public schools. I have volunteered in a few different schools, all of which cater to children who come from families of low socio-economic status. This year I happen to be involved in a school that serves children with emotional disturbances and severe behavioral problems. It is run by the state and Catholic Charities, and many of the students live in the school’s residence. I have only been there three times so far, but what strikes me most are the relationships I have already formed with some of the students. In class we discussed how some people will refuse help, because they don’t want to admit their need, and I have seen this as well. When this happens it is usually because a student is embarrassed or because they don’t know me very well, and therefore don’t want my advice on their work. Even when direct help is refused, I still sit and talk with the children, because I know they may need a friend, or even just individual attention. Their teacher told me that two girls in particular have already been asking for me each week, and it really feels great to know that they look forward to Wednesday mornings as much as I do. Even though I am only one person and can only effect and hopefully better the lives of these few students, it does make a difference. According to Kolvenbach, injustice requires “a spiritual conversion of each one’s heart and a cultural conversion of our global society” (33). It is important that he includes “each one’s heart,” because the promotion of justice has to begin somewhere. It is the individual that can begin to spread the roots of the "cultural conversion" that Kolvenbach desires.

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