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Celebration of Service and Ministry

May 5, 2015

On Sunday, April 26 a community of people gathered in the Parmer Atrium to honor and celebrate all the many people and projects that have played a part in service or Ministry this past year. Here, we have a few of our students’ words that were shared that night. They offered insight into all that the Ministry and service teams achieve along with sharing their own personal experiences. We again would like to thank everyone who has reached out to us this past year, and look forward to sharing new experiences together next Fall.

Stephanie Zavala shares her introduction to the Celebration of Service and Ministry event. Stephanie is a senior, works for University Ministry, and is involved in Community Based Learning.

Good afternoon everyone! My name is Stephanie Zavala and on behalf of University Ministry and Community Based Learning I want to welcome you to this year’s celebration of service and ministry. We are here today to celebrate YOU and all of the ways you have offered your time, energy, and talents to create a community that encourages the pursuit of justice, knowledge, compassion, and truth. You are all truly the embodiment of Caritas et Veritas.

This past Spring Break, I traveled to Selma, Alabama with John DeCostanza and 9 other students who are here today to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. We visited Civil Rights museums, Dr. Martin Luther King’s house, the churches in which he served, and various other historic landmarks. We also marched across the bridge… alongside 90,000 other people!   2015-03-08 14.37.11-3

The streets were completely crowded with strollers, signs, people, and banners. Of course we were also carrying our own long Dominican banner in this enormous crowd and it was incredibly difficult to get through as people were shoving and there was little to no personal space. Because of the huge crowd, it took our group several hours to cross the bridge, even though in other circumstances it would have only taken about 5 minutes.  Yet, despite the difficult trek, all 11 of us managed to stick together… we held hands, pulled on each other’s shirts or book bags, and if some of us were getting left behind we patiently waited for each other. We were determined not to lose each other.

It is moments like these that reveal the real value and worth of being in a community like Dominican University – one that loves, supports, and encourages one another, especially when we all know that despite the chaos or struggle, we are all walking together through life in the name of solidarity, love, and truth. This is what each and every one of you have done this year in your own way – while walking the halls of this campus or walking out into different corners of the city, the country, or our world.  Whether you were leading retreats that allow us to grow in our faith, farming together in Iowa, building relationships with children with disabilities in Haiti, or in numerous other acts of service and ministry, we have all made Caritas and Veritas more present for others and have contributed to building a more just and humane world.  Congratulations.  We truly have so much to celebrate today!

As we begin our time together, I invite Christina Dziekonski to lead us in our opening prayer.

________

Rosie Hernandez is a freshman and involved in Liturgical Choir, SLAM, and Ministry en lo Cotidiano.

There are approximately 7.308 billion people in the world. There are 1,589,361 discovered species of living organisms in the world, 5,416 of which are mammals. We are one among many species. There are 7.308 billion of us.  In one minute, we encounter more living organisms than we can count on our fingers.

Interactions shape the world we live in. This year I was blessed with the opportunity of learning to make more meaningful interactions on a daily basis.

Being a member of SLAM, the Liturgical Choir, and Ministry en lo Cotidiano, has lead me to develop a better understanding of the interactions between my communities, my identity, and my spirituality. I have been given a greater sense of what it is to live the mission of Caritas and Veritas en lo Cotidiano, in everyday life.

My interaction with the Dominican community during my first year on campus has been directly shaped by my involvements with ministry and service. I have been encouraged to find God and prayer in everyday life. This has led to new understandings of truths, Veritas, that surround me. I have developed a new understanding of prayer. Prayer is peace. It is guided by a growth of self that can be attained by reaching a deeper understanding of our stories, of ourselves. Prayer is a peace that can be found when embracing Veritas, and recognizing our truth.

I have come to find that I can pray and find peace at any time, in any place. Prayer comes in all forms. It can be done silently or in unison. It can be sung or chanted. It can be structured or spontaneously inspired. It can be you. I have found peace in the quiet, I have found peace amongst chaos. I have found peace in singing during mass, ironing fabric in the sacristy, eating my lunch on my way to class, riding the bus on my way to my internship at Catholic Charities, and marching amongst thousands of people in the heart of the city advocating workers’ rights.

The most beautiful way in which I have encountered prayer is in conversation. I have been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of events that have broadened my appreciation of Caritas. Compassionate service isn’t only contained in the small bags we hand out during Service in the Streets. It comes from our smiles, our words, our interactions.

Ministry en lo Cotidiano is a program dedicated to training students as leaders who will help strengthen Latino communities. Being part of this ministry gave me the opportunity to build relationships with families of different stories and distinct identities, but similar cultures. In the Latino community at which I worked, I encountered a number of Latinos and Latinas who opened themselves up to love me. Their open-hearted vulnerability was radical for me. It was I who was there to make a difference, but I will argue, they made more difference in me.IMG_0778

Listening to their stories helped me come to a better understanding of my own story. I discovered a new truth.  I found that by the act of accompaniment, we learn to love others as equals and are, in turn, loved by them. Accompaniment is actively joining together to march towards new hope. It is to listen, encourage, and move forward with another person. In this march we all are one, we all are in community for a common cause. We all are carrying our baggage, our daily struggles, our feet are aching, but together, we continue marching on towards a better quality of life, towards a greater social justice. In community, more is possible.

The community I built through Ministry en lo Cotidiano strengthened my sense of identity, which directly strengthened the community and relationships I have at home. I have noticed the crossroads. The paths that connect my school, my internship, and my home all make up who I am. I have bridged a path between all three so that I can learn from them and they can learn from me.

This year, I have had many conversations that have made me re-evaluate my philosophy on life. That have challenged what I had known as truths and redefied them.  But that’s what college is supposed to do. It’s supposed to change a person, shape them to be a better version of themselves. That’s what I learned prayer is. Prayer is letting yourself recognize the chaos and learn how to find peace within it, how to shine a light through it.

As strong as I am and independent as I feel, I know I would not have developed my understanding of these truths or survived my freshman year without the support system from my communities.

We are living in a mutualistic relationship with the world around us, where organisms living together benefit from each other’s existence. As an interdependent species, it is in these frequent interactions that we find meaning to our life. That we find the peace and happiness to live fully.

________

Kayla Jackson is a senior, and this year’s St. Catherine medal recipient. She’s been involved in countless projects in both Ministry and service throughout her time here at Dominican, including being a member of SLAM.

Good evening everyone, President Carroll, distinguished guests, Mommy & Dada

I’m so very honored to be this year’s St. Catherine Medal recipient. To be recognized for my service and leadership within and outside our Dominican community is both exciting and a bit frightening. I hadn’t realized anyone was watching. Although I stand before you alone on this stage, I would like to invite you all to close your eyes and imagine a big group of smiling faces standing here beside me. Each of those smiling faces represent all the family, friends, professors and mentors, past and present, who have helped me grow into an individual capable of even being considered as a candidate for this wonderful award. In reality, this stage could not possibly hold even a portion of all these magnificent people. They have invested in me, working with me each and every day. They have blessed me with their time, presence, and most importantly, their patience.

Long before I knew how to name them, Caritas and Veritas (love and truth) were present in my life.  Caritas manifested itself in the greatest gift God could have ever blessed me with: My family. When we’ve experienced rough periods or faced times where we did not have much I always knew one thing for sure, that if everything else ran out, our love would be forever abundant. My family has always supported me, and it is because they showed me such love and compassion that I can give it myself. Because of them, I want to give it. Because of them, I feel I need to give it. You have them to thank for what many of my friends refer to as the, “Kayla hug.”

Caritas has also revealed itself to me through my second family, my Dominican family! The community I’ve found in SLAM and the liturgical choir is filled with so much love. Father Samuel Mazzuchelli said to “make school as much like home as possible”. It is because of the love my Dominican friends, professors and mentors have shown me that Dominican University has become a second home to me.DonnaCar-Kayla2

Veritas, first expressed itself to me through my favorite high school teacher, Mr. Sheridan, and his gracious invitation for me to seek truth. It was in his 8th period theology class that I first began to educate myself on social justice issues such as hunger and homelessness, issues I feel so strongly about today. Kindled by the supportive community I have found here at Dominican and in University Ministry, my love for service which sparked in high school, has grown into the passionate flame it is today. I’ve been blessed with so many opportunities to serve and seek truth, whether it be serving our homeless brothers and sisters in Chicago on a Service in the Streets or learning in class about the systems which create homeless individuals. On an Alternative Break Immersion Trip to Nazareth Farm, I learned about our country’s coal mining boom while serving communities still living with the repercussions of it in West Virginia. The most powerful experiences, however, are those where I can invite others to seek truth and serve. Whether it be raising awareness about hunger and homelessness at our annual Hunger Banquet, leading ABIs, or educating others about low wage worker’s rights tabling in the Alcove, I know leadership calls me to engage others in working together to fight injustice. Dominican has taught me the value of our four pillars, specifically community and the amazing possibilities that lie ahead of us when we act together. We are all so different, and it is beautiful when people of all different backgrounds and beliefs share a common thread: a love for justice. We are many parts, and although we are all different, it is love and truth (Caritas and Veritas) which makes us one.

It is because of Mr. Sheridan and many individuals like him who have invited me to seek truth that I seek it endlessly. Because of them, I view the world with a critical lens, and wish so much to participate in the formation of a more just and humane one through my service.

You see, I would not be here if it were not for the endless love and support given to me, the amazing opportunities allotted to me and the transformative experiences that I’ve gained from them. As I accept this award today, I have this all in mind; all those smiling faces, they receive this award as well. As the old African proverb goes, “I am because we are.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. S. Mary Ann Mueninghoff O.P. permalink
    May 5, 2015 8:07 pm

    Congratulations-your reflections were marvelous

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