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Volunteer house to be dedicated to Seeberg

Kristen Durbin | Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The legacy of former Saint Mary’s student Lizzy Seeberg will be kept alive when a volunteer house in Chicago is dedicated during a ceremony Sunday.

The Lizzy Seeberg Jesuit Alumni Volunteer House, located in Chicago’s West Side Austin neighborhood, will become a permanent home for seven recent college graduates who serve as Jesuit Alumni Volunteers (JAV) at Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School in Austin.

Seeberg, who passed away in September 2010, was a committed volunteer at Christ the King, and a memorial fund established in her name raised $250,000 for the school and its programs in 16 months, her father, Tom Seeberg, said.

“After [Lizzy] died, someone involved with the school came to [my wife and me] and said Lizzy inspired them to do more for the school, so they said they would establish a fund in her name at Christ the King,” he said. “We were unrestrictive in saying the money could go wherever there is need, and there was a need for housing for the JAVs and an opportunity to buy a three-flat across from the school.”

Seeberg said the house was purchased with money from the memorial fund in spring 2011, and additional funds were raised to pay for the renovations that began that summer.

“There’s been an incredible outpouring of generosity in people wanting to [donate to the fund],” Seeberg said. “For us, it’s really neat that her name is connected to something she cared a lot about, but the fact that it’s connected to other young people who serve is really nice too. We could totally see her living as one of the volunteers in this house.”

Incidentally, four of the 10 JAVs working at the two Cristo Rey schools in Chicago are recent Notre Dame graduates, including 2011 alumna Lauren McCallick, who will be living in the new volunteer house.

McCallick said the house is located in the same neighborhood as the Christ the King so the JAVs serving there can live near the school.

“The location of the house is intention on the part of the program,” she said. “We want to fully understand the community that we serve, and we hope that a willingness to live close to our students and their families demonstrates our solidarity.”

Seeberg said the strong Notre Dame presence in the JAV program speaks to the spirit of service instilled in students at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s.

“The Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s communities have always been associated with stepping up with respect to service to the local and global community,” he said. “Lizzy left a very positive legacy in that she was very much a giver and was connected to the needs of others. That’s something that can live on to help other kids continue to serve, and it’s rewarding for us.”

McCallick will be living in the house next year. She said her interest in service began at Notre Dame when she participated in several service programs through the Center for Social Concerns.

“I don’t think I would even be doing a long-term service program like [JAV] if I hadn’t been exposed to service experiences at Notre Dame,” she said. “I did an ACE internship the summer before my senior year and found out about the Cristo Rey model there … Two Notre Dame graduates explained JAV to me at the postgraduate service fair, and I thought it was perfect because I could be involved with a [Cristo Rey] school I cared about.”

McCallick said she became familiar with Lizzy’s story shortly after her death through a student in her dorm section who was one of Lizzy’s good friends from high school.

“I got to hear a lot about Lizzy and her commitment to service, and it was very inspiring to know her background from one of my residents,” McCallick said. “When I got into working at the school, I found out she was involved at the school, embodied service there and dedicated a lot to the school from the beginning. She was like an original JAV at Christ the King.”

As a high school student, Lizzy became interested in the Cristo Rey high school program after her parents attended an informational session in early 2008 about the plans for Christ the King to become the second Cristo Rey school in Chicago, Seeberg said. The first was Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, which opened in the Pilsen neighborhood in 1996.

“The Cristo Rey model offers disadvantaged students a high-quality secondary education as a springboard out of poverty and into college … My wife and I were talking about [Christ the King] and Lizzy displayed a strong interest in it,” he said. “She asked us what it meant to have the privilege of living in a safe environment with a great school … when other kids don’t have a chance for a decent education, and we told her those are good questions.”

Seeberg said his daughter took it upon herself to organize volunteer projects among members of her youth group at St. Norbert Parish in Northbrook, Ill. to support Christ the King, including an information session to raise awareness of the school’s mission in her community.

“She had a real sense of need in others and was always trying to reach out and help,” he said. “The lesson we take away from her is this notion of putting your faith in action and not being so passive. A lot of folks that might consider themselves privileged don’t always get directly involved, so her message was, ‘Be active in your ministry and your mission.'”

The house dedication will begin at noon Sunday  with a Mass in the St. Ignatius Chapel at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep, located at 5088 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, Ill.