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SMC Campus Ministry and OCSE collaborate in new service intiative

By REBECCA O'NEIL | Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Saint Mary’s Office of Campus Ministry officials said they anticipate many Belles will volunteer in the South Bend community during the 2013-14 academic year. 

The faith-oriented office is launching a new volunteering initiative after a successful one-year pilot program, junior Kaitie Maierhofer said. 

Campus Ministry collaborated with the Office for Civic and Social Engagement (OCSE) to provide dorm residents opportunities to volunteer in specific nonprofits and to engage in service-learning experiences, Maierhofer said.

She said Le Mans will serve Hannah’s House, Regina will partner with the Center for the Homeless, and Holy Cross Hall will work with Hannah and Friends. The freshman dorm, McCandless, is set to take on Hope Ministries.

Each of the four dorms has one or two ministry assistants (MAs) who will mediate and encourage relationships between their residents and the communities they serve, Maierhofer said.

 Haleigh Ehmsen, a sophomore and MA for Holy Cross Hall, said Saint Mary’s campus ministry appointed MAs to help students find opportunities for service and expression of faith.

“[MAs] work in collaboration with Campus Ministry and the Residence Life Staff to offer programs that engage the residents in their faith and spiritual journeys within their daily lives,” she said. “The MAs are also responsible for coordinating social outreach opportunities with their community partner. They provide a positive influence and pastoral presence as they celebrate the joys and challenges of the residents’ lives.”

Maierhofer said she is the MA for McCandless, though she originally wanted a position as a resident assistant. 

“I kind of wanted to be an RA to help others – especially the freshman getting acclimated to the Saint Mary’s lifestyle,” Maierhofer said. “One of my roommates thought I would be better as a ministry assistant in order to get the residents spiritually settled. An RA is more like a parent, I feel more like a guide.”

Maierhofer said she wants to connect her dorm’s residents with their designated non-profit to help develop relationships with the communities they serve.

“We actually just set a date for the volunteer director, Emily Jensen, and one or two of the residents [of Hope Ministries] to give talks to the residents [of McCandless] about ‘Hope’ and how it’s helped them,” Maierhofer said. “Because SMC is so small, we can get a lot more intimate with this community-oriented organization.”

Ehmsen agreed that personal relationships are key to sustained volunteering.

“This year, our focus is on getting students involved in these communities by establishing personal relationships,” Ehmsen said. “Interaction is the answer. Our presence there benefits the Hannah and Friends community as well as our own. It’s really a learning experience for all.”

Maierhofer said interest in Campus Ministry’s volunteering efforts has increased, especially among first year students.

“Multiple freshman approached me the first day of classes already asking about what sort of volunteering organizations, community service they could do in the area,” Maierhofer said. “Our ice cream social had around 200 students in attendance, much more than any year we’ve hosted the event before. Plus, we are – or are very close to – running out of spots on the freshman retreat.”