Last year, I served at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in downtown Baltimore. For those of you who do not know, Cristo Rey is a newly founded high school that helps to educate disadvantaged kids in low income areas. The students at Cristo Rey, which is co-ed, work at an internship one day a week to both pay for their tuition and also to gain experience in the corporate world. These students, by nature of the Cristo Rey program, are highly dedicated. They come to school, Monday-Friday from 8 in the morning and stay until well after 5 at night (because of sports or after school homework help). On top of this, the students also work a job on Saturday, which adds another 8 or so hours on top of an almost 45 hour school week. Cristo Rey teaches students that they must prioritize, work hard, and most importantly believe in themselves in order to succeed. The school provides the tools, but ultimately it is up to the individual to capitalize on this tremendous opportunity.
The main Jesuit ideal that Cristo Rey, along with any other true Jesuit institution, strives to fulfill is the idea of cura personalis. This is the Latin for “care of the whole person” and is translated today to mean development of the whole person. At Cristo Rey, the teachers and volunteers set the bar high for these students. They expect that they will compete at a high level, a level on par with any other college preparatory high school in the country. They are constantly encouraging students to do all they can inside and outside of the classroom to fully participate in their education. Another thing that Cristo Rey tries to impart on their students is the Jesuit ideal of striving for the magis, or the more. Again, the school tries to get these men and women to be actively participating in their education, in their life, and they will not let the students sit by and be content with an effort that is not their very best. This is not the Cristo Rey way, this is not the way a true Jesuit institution goes about educating.
In the three readings for Wednesday’s class, the one that I feel closely ties with my experiences at Cristo Rey was the Fr. Kolvenbach article. This article speaks directly to the kind of volunteer work that I have done in the past at schools like Cristo Rey, and also that I hope to do again this year as both a tutor and an assistant coach for the soccer and basketball teams. In his article, Fr. Kolvenbach says that “The overriding purpose of the Society of Jesus, namely ‘the service of faith,’ must also include ‘the promotion of justice.’” This quote seems to drive home the hallmark of Jesuit service, which is not only to serve those who need it but to also empathize with them and with their situation. People with the “Jesuit spark” are not content with just serving and going home, but they want to do this magis, strive to get more out of their service. They want to become educated about the problems facing our society. They wish not only to help one overcome but to help all overcome. They cannot idly sit while they know the injustices that run rampant in our society.
Fr. Kolvenbach goes on to say that “Our educational standard is to ‘educate the whole person of solidarity for the real world.’ Solidarity is gained through ‘contact’ rather than through ‘concepts.’” This is probably one of the cornerstones of a Jesuit. The Society of Jesus is one of the only organizations that truly lead by example in today’s society. The Jesuits preach about serving the disadvantaged in our society, but they do more than that—they truly “get their hands dirty” by getting out into their community and serving those who really need it. They talk about social justice and try to impart wisdom on their followers, but at the end of the day they take it upon themselves to make a difference in their community. The Jesuits truly are wonderful men for others, always looking to help where it is needed and never turning away from an opportunity to see Christ in all that they do.
In closing, I truly am excited to start up working at Cristo Rey again this semester. I cannot wait to begin to work yet again as a man for others in the true Jesuit tradition.