I’m writing to respond to an article in The Observer on Oct. 11: “Center for Social Concerns withdraws resources for community engagement.”
As the inaugural assistant director of faith and justice in Campus Ministry (beginning this new role July 1), I have the privilege of organizing service opportunities and social justice initiatives for students. Many of our students at Notre Dame are enlivened by their faith and because of it, feel called to serve the marginalized and fight for justice. I’m here to create opportunities for these encounters to happen. I organize a program called Mercy Works, which used to be a collaborative effort between the Center for Social Concerns and Campus Ministry and is now housed entirely under Campus Ministry. Mercy Works offers students the opportunity to practice the works of mercy: feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and so on. Students go out into the South Bend community to feed breakfast to homeless folks, tutor children experiencing poverty, accompany men transitioning out of the prison system and more. Not only do the students serve, but they have the opportunity to gather for monthly dinners on campus and incorporate what they have experienced with issues of social justice, spirituality, and Catholic social teaching. I set up transportation for the students as well, either by finding a driver for the group, determining a bus line students can utilize or offering reimbursement for Uber or Lyft rides to their service sites. These students are truly a force for good in our community, and Campus Ministry is here to support them.
As someone who admires the work of the CSC and the difference they have made in the lives of our students, I believe that they too desire for students here to be a force for good in the world. The fact that they are moving in a new direction and are not providing funding for transportation to service sites does not mean that they or the university as a whole has lost interest in our South Bend community. It means we have the opportunity to create new initiatives and relationships that will expand and enliven our students’ experience of service. We can take this change as an opportunity to begin again, to start fresh and to reimagine a campus where service is part of who we are and what we do.
I agree with Clark Power, who Angela quoted as saying, “…“If we want to take [our] mission [as a university] seriously, there needs to be more efforts to make service accessible to students.” But I want to clarify for you and your readers that it is not only the CSC that can offer these opportunities to our students. Campus Ministry is delighted to oversee Mercy Works, which we know from conversations with students and community partners is mutually transformative.
This program is just the beginning: Campus Ministry is excited to explore how we can continue to make an impact in our local community through both service and justice opportunities as people with hope to bring. I warmly welcome any student who wants to get involved! All are welcome to contact me at email@example.com.
assistant director of faith & justice, Notre Dame Campus Ministry