The week before school started I was given the opportunity to be one of the leaders for the pre-orientation group that is run by Campus Ministry. Connections helps introduce many different aspects of Loyola to the incoming freshman, and of course this includes a day of service and reflection. Just this one statement embodies the Jesuit mission that is explained in Peter-Hans Kolvenbach’s The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education. By giving the first year students a chance to serve others we are giving them a taste of what Jesuit education is all about. In the article it explains how the Jesuit schools aim to educate the whole person because they are all about who their students become. Besides educating the whole person in obvious ways, the Jesuit mission emphasizes that students “cannot be whole without an educated awareness of society and culture with which to contribute socially, generously, in the real world”. Another reason states that when students’ hearts are “touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change” During my first year I can say I have been graced with many experiences that have helped to develop me in bigger and better ways. Therefore this is why I am so proud that the Connections kids are given this opportunity.
The specific place I volunteered at, during Connections was GEDCO.GEDCO stands for Govans Ecumenical Development Corporation. GEDCO is a wonderful society in Baltimore and it deals with many different aspects of the community. When I went, I played Bingo with the senior citizens living in the houses that are provided for the poor. Many people find it hard to connect with old people, but this experience just proved again how open they are. All they want is for someone to listen to their story, and many do have incredible stories. In the article something spoke to me, it said “Dogmatism or ideology sometimes led us to treat each other more as adversaries than as companions”. If you are thrown into service, which Jesuit education is all about, you will be able to see that people who have slightly different economic or educational backgrounds are just like us, and can be companions. We are all human. At GEDCO that day I made various relationships with the women playing BINGO. I was definitely not helping these people or even serving them, I was just being their friend.
The other part of our day dealt with service, but before we all headed back to Loyola for the planned service reflection, the director of GEDCO suggested we walk to the labyrinth that was created on the grounds. First off, Rosemary the director was the perfect example of “men and women for others”, but besides that I cannot thank her enough for guiding our group to the special labyrinth. When I think of a labyrinth the only thing that comes to mind is minotaurs and mythology, but on that day I encountered the most beautiful maze of prayer I have ever seen. After spending the day with the residence we were able to walk through the maze and pray all together. It truly was a beautiful escape in the place you would least expect it. If its beauty and peacefulness was not enough Catherine and I found a special prayer book left on the bench for everyone who witnessed the labyrinth to write in. The name of the book was Connections, and I couldn’t have been filled with more excitement and joy. Our group read some of the special prayers aloud and wrote our thoughts as well. It was so unique and powerful, and just helps reinforce the idea that promotion of justice walks hand in hand with reflection and prayer. I will never forget that place and always will try to take myself back there when I need to reflect.