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University hosts annual service project and prayer service for Walk the Walk Week

Over the weekend, the eighth annual Walk the Walk Week continued with a service project co-sponsored by student government and a prayer service at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus.

Walk the Walk Week (WTWW) is a series of University, department and student-sponsored events designed to address diversity and inclusion at Notre Dame. The week honors Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. Due to the campus-wide observance of MLK Day, WTWW programming takes place Jan. 16 to Jan. 27.

The second of this year’s keynote events was a prayer service at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, featuring reflections by the Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church.

Curry was elected as presiding Bishop in Nov. 2015, and since then, he has served as the Episcopal church’s chief pastor, spokesperson, president and chief executive officer (CEO). His ministry has focused on racial reconciliation, climate change, evangelism, immigration policy and marriage equality, according to his biography on the WTWW website.

Curry gave the sermon following music from the Voices of Faith Gospel Choir. He began with a note of gratitude to King’s legacy.

“[This week observes] his legacy by continuing the work. A legacy is nothing if it ends with the person whose legacy it is. But if there are those who continue that work and live into it, then the legacy lives,” Curry said.

One way WTWW seeks to “continue the work” is through the service project addressing housing insecurity in South Bend. Volunteers gathered Saturday morning in Duncan Student Center to sort and package donations for local organizations.

Heather Asiala, the program director for strategic initiatives with the president’s office, discussed the origins of the service project.

“The service project really started out as a way to capture this idea of Martin Luther King thinking about the beloved community. How can we make the community that we live in a more equal and just place for everyone?” Asiala said.

The president’s office worked with campus ministry and the office of public affairs to reach out to local organizations and assess the needs of South Bend. Asiala said that they responded overwhelmingly by saying that South Bend has a lot of housing insecure and people experiencing homelessness. WTWW organizers created two types of kits to donate to the community — a “welcome home” housing kit including laundry and hygiene products and a cleaning kit for people moving from transitional housing to a more permanent home.

Asiala noted the campus community’s willingness to help.

“People are hungry to do something,” she said. “We wanted to give students, faculty and staff the opportunity to give back in a more meaningful way.”

Sofie Stitt, the student body vice president, said that student government worked with the president’s office to expand WTWW this year. Student government will also host a panel on the school-to-prison pipeline and the Black Excellence Dinner on Wednesday, Jan. 26, featuring a keynote address from National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) president and CEO Derrick Johnson.

Stitt attributed much of the success of the service project to student government’s director of Diversity and Inclusion – Race and Ethnicity Eliza Smith.

“Being able to be in this position and support her and the whole [department] team has been fantastic,” Stitt said.

Asiala said that around 200 volunteers helped out Saturday morning. First-year Dorothea Watson was excited by the high turnout.

“To see all the people that are here is absolutely insane to me,” Watson said. “I think it sort of symbolizes how everybody is supposed to do the walk together, be together and band together. That’s another aspect that we’re witnessing right now.”

Curry also referenced King’s idea of the beloved community.

“I’m so thankful that [Notre Dame is] raising up students to take their place in this country and the countries of the world, for they must help us create beloved community from our jangles of discord and disharmony,” Curry said. “[King] said over and over again: ‘We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or we will perish together as fools.’ The choice is ours: chaos or community?”

Curry said that America will not fulfill this vision of the beloved community until they honor the ideals of the nation, including “e pluribus unum,” or “out of one, many.”

“When one person loves another as much as he or she loves themselves, then ‘e pluribus unum,’ then America, becomes possible,” he said. “Jesus taught us that.”

Contact Katie Muchnick at kmuchnic@nd.edu.