Graduating seniors honored for commitment to postgraduate service

Author: John Guimond

From left, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Annie Selak, Terry Fitzgibbons, Rev. Ray Hammond, M.D., and Rev. Paul V. Kollman, C.S.C., join hands in prayer at the closing of the Center for Social Concerns’ Seniors Send-Off Ceremony From left, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Annie Selak, Terry Fitzgibbons, Rev. Ray Hammond, M.D., and Rev. Paul V. Kollman, C.S.C., join hands in prayer at the closing of the Center for Social Concerns’ Seniors Send-Off Ceremony

One hundred fifty-two University of Notre Dame graduating seniors embarking on a year or more of service in this country and abroad were honored during the University’s annual Service Send-Off ceremony on May 17 (Saturday) in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center’s Leighton Concert Hall.

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, commended the seniors for their commitment to service. Nearly a third of the graduates will join the Alliance for Catholic Education or programs that share its model to serve as educators in the nation’s Catholic schools. Some will serve in City Year, the Peace Corps and Teach for America. Others will mentor orphans in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean; work to break the cycle of child abuse; or repair substandard housing in Appalachia. Still others will advocate for the rights of workers in the Southwest, foster spiritual formation in the nation’s parishes or provide a host of other services that match the mission of Notre Dame.

Annie Selak, rector for Walsh Hall, whose postgraduate experience included work through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps at Alternatives for Girls in Detroit, and Terry Fitzgibbons ‘04, rector in Duncan Hall, whose post-graduate experiences included teaching in Uganda through the Congregation of Holy Cross Overseas Lay Ministry Program, offered the gathered students a joint reflection on how their postgrad service transformed their lives, and, if open to it, how it will transform the students’ lives.

Selak said, “We may approach service to experience new things, to earn a master’s degree or to give to others. And while all these may happen, they really are just the filler in the margins. The real point of engaging in service is transformation. We enter into service to encounter others. And if we truly allow others into our lives … we will naturally be transformed.”

Fitzgibbons reminded the students, “This service send-off is a very nice occasion, where we should definitely celebrate. However, every day in your placements and hopefully every day afterward, there will be smaller justice send-offs. Justice, which asks the questions of why there is a need for service in the first place. Not just attending to the man on the side of the road, like the Good Samaritan did, but as Martin Luther King would say, fixing the whole Jericho road.”

Jonathan Schommer ’14, who will participate in Notre Dame’s ESTEEM (Engineering, Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Excellence Masters) program, introduced Father Jenkins; Jiyeon Ahn ’14, who will serve with Farm of the Child in Honduras, introduced Selak and Fitzgibbons. Yuko Gruber ’14, who will serve with the L’Arche in Washington, D.C., introduced Rev. Paul V. Kollman, C.S.C., executive director of the Center for Social Concerns.

In introducing Father Jenkins, Schommer offered that the words of Dorothy Day, “‘You love God as much as you love the one you love the least,’ have been this pestering voice of conscience as I’ve tried to build genuine relationships. As much as I can look at my experience as one of being present to the joys in my life, I think it would also be true to say that my time at Notre Dame has been an experience of finding the things I love the least.”

In introducing Fitzgibbons and Selak, Ahn recalled an experience in Kolkata working with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity as part of an International Summer Service Program that transformed the way she understood service. “You. Did. It. To. Me. Shortened from a passage of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25, the ‘five-finger gospel’ gives meaning to the work — to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked and visit the imprisoned. It meant that the patients I served in the home for the destitute and dying, the children I danced with in the classroom every morning, the slum children who taught me Bengali — they were all Jesus.”

In introducing Father Kollman, Gruber spoke of how blessed she has been to participate in programs offered through the Center for Social Concerns and at the University. “Learning to recognize the fruits of life in community is one of the greatest blessings I have received through my experiences in the Center for Social Concerns.”

Many of the graduates became involved in service and social action through the programs and courses of the Center for Social Concerns. They join a community of many thousands of Notre Dame alumni who have chosen postgraduate volunteer service since the Center for Social Concerns was founded in 1983.

Contact: Mike Hebbeler, director, Senior Transitions Programs, Center for Social Concerns, 574-631-5779,