Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Men and Women for Others: Jesuit Style

The Jesuit tradition is one that is based on the belief that through service, one gains a voice for others as well as for oneself. The definition of service is an act of helpful activity, in other words it means getting involved in the community through the process of helping others. Up until coming to Loyola, I had a very vague perception of what exactly it meant to be a Jesuit. After attending the dinner “Men and Women for Others: Jesuit Style,” I gained a much clearer understanding and perspective of the Jesuit mission and tradition, in both education and the world.
In Father Federico’s speech, he proposed that “the hallmark of a Jesuit education is faith, and to learn to use that faith to critically think and express yourself in the world.” Father Federico went on to say that it is important to keep in mind that although we are all different people, we are all similar in that we are united through God. As God’s children, created in his imagine and likeness, we are each given gifts; it is our job to figure out what these gifts are, and furthermore to share them with others. We each individually choose how to apply these gifts to our everyday lives, and make decisions based on what we know.
The Jesuit tradition challenges us to think not only about what we are learn in the classroom, but also to read into what is going on in the outside world, and then to make a connection on how this applies to us as individuals. Jesuits invest themselves in the things that they love, and spend their lives sharing this passion through teaching and helping others. These teachers require that students to get involved and help others, not because they have to, but because it’s something that they believe in.
During this evenings dinner we watched a video on The Center for Community Service and Justice. This video contained multiple clips in which students shared their experiences in service, and in most cases said that it changed their lives. These students, started off fresh, just like me, and in the end all agreed on one thing: to encourage all students to get involved in service and help others, because it will not only help others, but also yourself. Many said that they received a large part of their education through service, and that this was when they also learned the most about themselves. If we are first educated on the world and its problems surrounding us, we should then challenge ourselves to find out where exactly it is that we fit in to help, and to then advocate this new belief or cause to the rest of society.
Once you participate in a service, it is said that you can then incorporate it into your life and moreover, the choices that you make. One of Loyola’s main mission statements is “men and women for others,” and we were asked to draw upon this quote during tonight’s event. Experiential learning is what makes a Jesuit education, and through this learning we are called to act towards finding what it is that we are destined to become. In the process of searching for this calling, we are not only asked to look within ourselves, but rather to allow others to assist us in opening these doors. As students in a Jesuit institution, we are urged to pursue our passions, while helping to serve others; we are asked to give back to the community, but reminded that it is the little things in life that really matter.
Different speakers came up and described their individual experiences at Loyola involving service, and each seemed to have one thing in common, service helped to mold them into the person that they are today. One speaker recalled an experience where he taught in an inner-city school system, providing GEDs to the poor and uneducated. A high school education is something we all share here at Loyola, and may or may not have taken for granted. As we continue our educations in comfort, these people ranging in all ages, were placed in an environment where bullets were in the school’s walls, and drugs controlled most of the population. Although each person who attended the class had problems of their own, they all shared a common goal, to receive a degree, and to further better themselves. The speaker was a Loyola graduate, and said that he wouldn’t have traded that experience for anything in the world, claiming that it touched him in a deeper way than anything else ever has, and helped him to decide on his current career.
The tradition of serving others was prevalent in our recent class reading of Ihimaera’s, The Whale Rider. The main character in the novel, Kahu, is destined to carry on the tradition of the Maori tribe. The main conflict for Kahu in committing to her destiny is simply that she is a female in a predominantly male environment. Kahu’s gifts are therefore ignored, and it is not until the end of the novel that she finally shows society her to abilities to communicate as the chosen “whale rider.” This novel reveals the Jesuit tradition, in that Kahu was given a gift and in choosing to pursue this gift, she saves the fate of society and her families’ tribe. Kahu sets an example for the way we should model ourselves to live our lives, we should not boast or brag, but rather we should take what talents and passions we are given and apply them to the world around us.
A community can be defined as a locally inhabited environment or group. As students at Loyola, we are called to establish communities within Loyola for ourselves. These communities may be formed through organizations such as athletics, community service or academics. As we are placed in new environments, we are challenged to make Baltimore our own. In making Baltimore our new hometown, we begin service in the community outside of the safe walls of Loyola, and if we are lucky we leave a mark in this outer community. A mark can also be defined as a footprint; each individual then leaves their footprint on the hearts of others along their journeys to discovering themselves.
The major point of tonight’s discussion was to show students how to apply the Jesuit tradition to their lives at Loyola, and to therefore better themselves through the process of serving others. We each are born with a calling, and we often spend most of our lives trying to find out what exactly it is, and once we have figured this out we can apply it to our lives and share it with others. As students of Loyola, we are not only encouraged to apply these principals to our time here, but also to hopefully carry them on and apply them throughout the rest of our lives.