One hundred sixty-nine 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 18 (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 quarter of the graduates will join the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) or programs that share its model to serve as educators in the nation’s Catholic schools. Others will serve in the Peace Corps and Teach for America. Still others will mentor AIDS orphans in South Africa, cultivate sustainable agriculture in the South Pacific islands, foster spiritual formation in the nation’s parishes, or provide a host of other services that match the mission of Notre Dame.
Elizabeth Moriarty, Class of 2000 and 2007, whose postgraduate experiences included work in an addiction recovery program, in the Catholic Worker program offering hospitality to homeless families, and as a jail chaplain, offered the gathered students: “You and I are called to go out from here … to practice the works of mercy. This is not service. This is sharing life. What I mean is that these are not to be reduced to things we do for a year or two and then get back on track with the real plan. These are the first steps of the rest of your life. This is a path for meeting and loving Jesus. These choices will define who you are now and who you will become as teachers, mothers, fathers, priests, nuns, business people, community organizers, artists or doctors. It is not a retreat or a chance to take a step back for a year off from the real world. It’s a year on."
Graduating senior Gabriela Hernandez, who is undecided on her postgraduate service experience, introduced Father Jenkins. Graduating senior Carl David Jones II, who will serve with ACE in Jacksonville, Fla., introduced Moriarty, and graduating senior Abigail McCrary, who will serve with the Dominican Volunteer Corps in New York, introduced Rev. Paul V. Kollman, C.S.C., executive director of the Center for Social Concerns (CSC).
In introducing Father Kollman, McCrary spoke of how blessed she has been as a student at the CSC and at the University. “Father John Dunne, a Notre Dame professor of theology, writes, ‘The crossing over and coming back are the greatest spiritual adventures of our time.’ Service allows individuals the opportunity to engage with others in a new context and gain insight and perspective. I have been immensely blessed in my four years at Notre Dame to have the opportunity to cross over multiple times — from South Bend elementary schools to Westville Prison to India to Uganda — and these experiences have come to define me and my time at this university.”
Father Kollman, in addressing the graduates, said, “You are embarking on something that shows your openness to learn and grow, give and receive. You enter a new university, which L’Arche founder Jean Vanier calls ‘the university of the poor.’ You embrace an internship of sorts, an internship in vulnerability. And you will continue to grow, of that we can be sure. Whether you head to Tanzania or Toronto, into a classroom or a boardroom, whether you teach or learn or pray or listen or fold laundry, or all of these things, you will grow. Lonely or rich in companions, you will grow. Happy or sad, sick or well, you will grow.”
Among the service programs in which this year’s Notre Dame graduates will participate are ACE, which provides teachers for understaffed parochial schools in dioceses across the United States; Notre Dame’s Echo Faith Formation Leadership Program, which trains and provides religious educators for Catholic parishes; the Peace Corps; AmeriCorps; Nuestro Pequenos Hermanos, which cares for orphaned and abandoned children in Latin America and the Caribbean; Jesuit Volunteer Corps; and Teach For America.
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 more than 4,000 Notre Dame alumni who have chosen postgraduate volunteer service since the Center was founded in 1983.
Contact: Mike Hebbeler, director, senior transitions programs, Center for Social Concerns, 574-631-5779, Hebbeler.firstname.lastname@example.org