What does service look like for USMC?
Joshua De Jesus – CONTRIBUTOR
In the spring of 2016, 10 students and four teachers departed from Pearson Airport to Guatemala with a mission to help the poor. Over 10 days, they built a house for a single mother and her family, painted schoolrooms for impoverished children, and brought food to the inhabitants of a local dump. I was one of these students, and in those 10 days both my life and worldview were changed radically.
Now, as a new member of the St. Mike’s family, I am expecting some division. Be it with regards to politics, culture, religion, or what have you, I am expecting students to divide themselves. Yet, as I witnessed in Guatemala, among our own divisions, we students were bound together by a strong willingness to help those in need. Our mission to come to their aid was what kept us focused on what needed to be accomplished. And through that experience, I learned that when one is suffering and crying out for help, a desire is felt to do anything to ease their pain and restore their dignity. After my Guatemala experience, my reaction to any related circumstance is more instinctual than anything. Gender, age, culture, or creed doesn’t matter in such a moment; it is purely an innate expression of the kindness which each one of us inhabits.
I will here use the word “service”. Service was the main factor behind our unity during the Guatemala mission; it was the most profound expression of our care and concern for the community we were trying to build up. Service itself is the laying down of oneself to help another in need, and in our world that has seen endless suffering, this desire to serve ought to claw at our soul. Should we then not feel compelled to help our brothers and sisters in need? Should we not drop everything right now, including this article, and venture around downtown Toronto distributing food to the poor? Well, not necessarily.
Service is an action that varies in practice and size. It may be as small as holding the door open for a stranger or as big as starting a global movement. It may keep us busy in our local communities or take us away to countries like Guatemala. Service is a dynamic, ever- changing action that humanity is constantly rediscovering through each generation. Moreover, it is an action that requires nothing more than love for it to be meaningful. St. Teresa of Calcutta (whose image can be found in Brennan Hall) said, “We must love until it hurts,” as she recognized that a true act of service is devotional, and at times painful. Yet, if motivated by love, its results are both timeless and purposeful.
Through a Catholic context, the University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) strives to co-inhabit service with faith, as service is a useful tenant of the Catholic faith. This institution presents the opportunity to claim a radical meaning of life. Contrary to social norms, yet committed to Catholic teachings, St. Mike’s calls upon each person to lay down in service, and to be risen up in faith. As a first-year student, I have already seen this service take many forms. I’ve had upper-year students guide me in times of personal doubt, faculty who’ve helped make my transition from high school to university seamless, and clergy who’ve directed my spiritual path in unsettling moments. Each of these are testimonies to St. Mike’s commitment to service and faith.
As we embark on this new school year, I challenge you readers to take part in the spirit of service at USMC. I challenge you to rediscover yourself in a new and exhilarating way by laying yourself down for your neighbor. Get involved in the many student clubs and social initiatives on campus. Each of these simple acts will transform you, your community, your campus, and the world around you into a brighter and loving place. All it takes is for you to be prepared to serve and to do so lovingly.