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Pacem in Terris

Nicole Simon | Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Everyone reading this article has helped someone in some way – maybe by volunteering at a homeless shelter or maybe just by helping pick up those papers you saw someone drop. However you helped, you felt good about it. Sure, you might have felt somewhat frustrated, but you definitely weren’t thinking, “That was the wrong thing to do.” Why? Because it’s what we’re supposed to be doing. It’s like eating well and exercising. You feel healthier and have more energy because you’re doing what’s good for your body. In the same way, if you periodically take that little bit of time to do a good deed, your soul will feel better. That’s not to say that you should forever do good out of a purely selfish motive, but I strongly believe the more you serve humanity and the more relationships you build, the more you will come to love the people around you and genuinely long to do whatever you can for them.

As a Catholic Social Tradition minor, I am learning what Catholicism means in terms of society, social interactions and relationships. I am also learning how to incorporate those lessons into my own life. I am not the perfect Catholic, or even near perfect, but I make an effort to do what I can. This past summer, I travelled to northern Uganda through the International Summer Service Learning Program (ISSLP). My primary goals were to become an active participant in the global community and to use my engineering skills to serve others. I managed to design a solar panel fixture for the community and help set up some internet access sites, but I gained so much more. I came back molded by the beautiful Acholi culture and immeasurable experiences. I learned that helping is never one-way – we all learn from each other. And only by working together can we make any real change in the world. The Catholic Church teaches, “Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with his brethren, man develops his potential,” (CCC 1879). It is an innate human characteristic to build relationships, to serve each other and to learn from each other.

One of the great things about this university is that there are always opportunities to serve. The Center for Social Concerns is dedicated to making those opportunities such as the International Summer Service Learning Program available. This year the theme for the Center of Social Concerns is “Pacem in Terris: Raising Voices.” Pacem in Terris is an encyclical written by Pope John XXIII that promotes peace through Catholic Social Tradition, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the document. It says that we are all called to “establish with truth, justice, charity and liberty new methods of relationships in human society,” (163). That doesn’t mean everyone needs to be the next Mother Teresa, it means do good with the talents you’ve been given. Every person has a specific role to play because each person has been given a unique set of gifts. Find something that feels right to you. Try tutoring, volunteer at Dismas House, vote in the upcoming election, pray for peace, attend Higgins Labor Studies Program events or participate in a Center for Social Concerns seminar. There are lots of opportunities. Respond to your calling.

“We … conceive of it as our duty to devote all our thoughts and care and energy to further this common good of all mankind. … It is an order that is founded on truth, built upon justice, nurtured and animated by charity and brought into effect under the auspices of freedom,” (Pacem in Terris 167).

Nicole Simon is a junior with a major mechanical engineering and a minor in Catholic Social Tradition. She is a student assistant in the Center for Social Concerns. She can be reached at nsimon@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.