“Understanding the ‘with’ in ‘for and with others,'” Guest Blogger, Courtney Esteves ’19

Note: this article was originally published by “A Contest of Ideas” on 11/20/18.

CBL Student, Courtney Esteves ’19 has been published in “A Contest of Ideas.” Her article, “Understanding the ‘with’ in ‘for and with others,'” discusses the importance of mutuality in service and immersion experiences, two concepts necessary for rich, meaningful, and truly reciprocal CBL projects and placements to occur. Courtney has taken numerous CBL courses including her Montserrat course, “Identity, Diversity, and Community,” Spanish 301, “Liberation Theology,” “Social Ethics,” and “Social Justice in Context.” Courtney also spent the second semester of her junior year abroad in Argentina through the CASA program, which is rooted in Ignatian ideals and includes a praxis component. See below and navigate to the “A Contest of Ideas” webpage to read her article.

Most individuals with any affiliation to a Jesuit institution recognize the call to be people “for and with others” as a foundational part of Jesuit education. Yet few people our age are able to trace the history of this phrase back to an address given by Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., the former Superior General of the Jesuits, to the Tenth International Congress of Jesuit Alumni of Europe in Valencia, Spain, on July 31, 1973. In his historic address, Fr. Arrupe’s fervent call to action was marked by an insistence on change within and beyond Jesuit institutions. Although Fr. Arrupe used the phrase “men for others” since he delivered his address at an all-male institution, the language of his address has since been edited to reflect a more gender-inclusive message. Thus, co-educational Jesuit institutions have replaced “men for others” with phrases such as “men and women for others.” In a similar vein, and in order to move beyond gendered language to include all members of our community, I will use “people” in place of “men and women.”

The modifications that colleges and universities have made to Fr. Arrupe’s phrase extend beyond gender inclusion, though. Some institutions, including the College of the Holy Cross, have added the word “with” to Fr. Arrupe’s phrase as well, calling us to be people for and with others. Although all 28 members of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities have some variation of the Arrupe-inspired phrase as a central part of their philosophy and mission, only 12 of the 28 institutions explicitly convey the importance of being “with” others in their language surrounding this phrase.

Thus, the inclusion of “with” is not merely an addition of a common preposition. It is rather an intentional invitation to move beyond a service-only mindset and to consider how to exhibit a radical presence and a profound sense of solidarity with others. An Australian artist, activist, and academic named Lilla Watson wrote, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Watson’s insight is a critical bridge between traditional service (“for”) and interpersonal engagement (“with”). So what does being “with” others in this mutuality entail? Additionally, why is is important that we include this word in our Holy Cross mission?

I propose that at the heart of being “with” others is a willingness—an eagerness, even— to “enter into the chaos of another,” as Fr. James F. Keenan, S.J. writes. I would argue that, as Jesuit-educated students, we have the responsibility to “enter into the chaos” of everyone, from a seemingly overwhelmed student whom we get to know through a Holy Cross seminar to an individual experiencing homelessness whom we get to know through community engagement in Worcester or an immersion trip. Moreover, we are also called to “enter into the chaos” of everyone in between.

Alongside “entering into the chaos” of others is reflecting on their experiences in a manner that propels future action and engagement. A critical element of Jesuit education is the “well educated solidarity” that can come from learning both within and beyond the walls of a classroom. Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, described the goal of Jesuit education in the following way:

When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change. Personal involvement with innocent suffering, with the injustice others suffer, is the catalyst for solidarity, which then gives rise to intellectual inquiry and moral reflection.  Students, in the course of their formation, must let the gritty reality of this world into their lives, so they can learn to feel it, think about it critically, respond to its suffering, and engage it constructively.

These five elements of direct experience—a challenge to change one’s mind, personal involvement with injustices, solidarity, intellectual inquiry, and moral reflection—are ones that can undoubtedly come from interactions with all fellow members of our college community. Yet, these elements come alive in a direct way when students are exposed to the “gritty reality of this world” in marginalized and impoverished communities beyond the Hill. For example, coming into contact with marginalization and injustice in a way that permeates one’s very being can be a catalyst for the critical thinking, genuine responses, and constructive engagement that Fr. Kolvenbach pushes for. Not only is it a privilege to be welcomed into spaces that can allow for this type of formation, but it is also a responsibility to respond wholeheartedly to this call to be people “with others.”  

My firm belief in the aforementioned call made by Fr. Kolvenbach is grounded in my own personal experiences of accompanying others, which have been made possible throughout my formation as a Holy Cross student. For example, I spent last semester in Córdoba, Argentina engaging in an immersive study abroad experience called CASA de la Mateada, a program rooted in the Ignatian tradition and founded on the pillars of community, accompaniment, spirituality, and academics. During my time in Córdoba, I lived in community with students from other Catholic (predominantly Jesuit) institutions in which we enjoyed and were challenged by experiences of accompanying one another and those we met at the margins of Argentine society. We also spent our time sharing in spaces centered around spiritual exploration and taking courses centered around themes of social justice. Although several experiences have shaped my coming to understand the “with” in “for and with others,” I would like to share one in particular. There was a week of many sequential days of thunderstorms in Córdoba, during which I witnessed and experienced first-hand the devastating effects of thunderstorms in a way that I had not previously. I saw flooded streets with cars stuck, water creeping in under doors, soaked mattresses, clothes left out to “dry,” and containers strewn about in an effort to catch water leaking in. For me, thunderstorms have always been, at best, an excuse to stay inside with a good book and hot tea while listening to the sounds of the storm, and, at worst, a minor inconvenience. For the people I grew to know and love in Nuestro Hogar III, an impoverished area on the outskirts of the city in which I spent two days a week, these storms affected their entire day and had lasting impacts. For example, it was heart-wrenching to sit there on a Tuesday afternoon with six-year old Lara as she cried about not being able to go to school that day because the woman who normally drives her could not get her car out of the flooded street. It was upsetting to walk through their house with Lara’s mother Yiya and see the extreme water damage all around. Yet, I also stood in awe of how, in the face of this damage, they thanked God for having a stable roof when so many others did not. The following day, at the adult literacy center where I helped teach English, it was painful to see the empty seats where Isa and Sara normally sat and to hear from their teacher Adriana that they could not attend class because their children were sick after being exposed to the storm. Although my emotions varied from week to week during my time abroad, this week was a particularly upsetting one.

As I sat with those unsettled feelings that week, I also continued to think about questions swirling around my head. Why am I able to enjoy any more security and stability than these individuals do? How do families who have even less than my friends in Nuestro Hogar III cope with storms? At night, as I lay in my warm bed, I could not help but wonder if Yiya’s family, along with countless other families, would be able to sleep that night. Were their beds too soaked to lie on? Were the pouring rain and thunder keeping them up? Were they too worried and anxious about the damage to their home to fall asleep? As I considered these questions, I also wondered—what are the questions that I cannot even think to ask? I felt so far removed from their reality that I questioned whether my questions were even valid themselves. I can only imagine that the concerns at the top of their minds are ones that would never even cross mine…

Continue reading in “A Contest of Ideas.”

Living and Learning in Community – Mattie Carroll ’19

Living and Learning in Community

Throughout this past year I’ve learned a lot about what it means to live and learn in community. From Casa de la Mateada to Community-Based Learning, I have been both challenged and embraced by a sense of community and what it means to live and learn alongside the ‘other’. Last semester I was abroad in Córdoba, Argentina, with the Casa de la Mateada program. Casa’s main goal is to foster community building with the other students you are living with, and with the people of Córdoba, specifically those at the various praxis sites in the city. My site was called La Luciérnaga, where young adults from the streets are given the opportunity to sell magazines and are offered various support services. Finding common ground with many of these young people was challenging in the best way, and forced me to confront aspects of my own life through a new lens. I come back from Córdoba with new friendships and gratitude to have been part of a community that extends so much farther than my own Casa experience.

CBL is very similar to Casa in the sense that it promotes community building both on campus and within the Worcester community. We are encouraged to learn from each other as CBL Interns, as well as to educate ourselves on the wider world by working with community partners in Worcester. Since my first year at Holy Cross I have volunteered with Ascentria Care Alliance with the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program. This opportunity has broken down my single story of what it means to be a refugee and also has taught me the value of learning through lived experience.

Creating a sense of community that transcends societal barriers and individual backgrounds is not always easy. However, it is through these relationships and shared moments that we are able to find a sense of belonging to each other and to the human experience. Mother Teresa once said that “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” I reference this quote to say that it is so easy to get caught up in our own reality and to forget about the world beyond us and our responsibility to those that face injustice and suffering. We so often forget to look past ourselves and to remember that we hold the power to go outside of our comfort zones to greet the ‘other’ and build relationship with that person.

I am so thankful to CBL and to Casa for having given me the opportunity to do just that. To learn beyond the classroom, beyond my peers and teachers, beyond my native language, and beyond my own life experience—to forge bonds and communities with people of various backgrounds and perspectives. I am a better person because of these opportunities and I have a greater sense of myself for realizing that my responsibility to the world is really my responsibility to the people around me, no matter where I situate myself in the world.

Giving Back and Serving Others – Yesenia Gutierrez ’21

When I was a first-year student at Holy Cross, I took a Montserrat course that had a CBL component. For my CBL, I decided to serve at a high school program called Positive Directions at South Community High School. At this site, I had the opportunity to serve first-year high school students with their academics and also serve them as a friend or mentor. During the year, I was able to connect with the students since both the students and I were going through important phases in our lives where we were transitioning into a foreign place. Serving at Positive Directions allowed me to feel like I was giving back to my community because as a first-generation college student, I know how difficult it can be at times to believe that you can achieve your academic aspirations, and sometimes you need someone whom you can look up to. When I was in high school, I was part of a program called AVID, which serves first-generation college students. If it weren’t for the volunteers that came into the classroom to tutor and mentor me, I feel I wouldn’t be in the position that I am in now. Thanks to their mentorship, I had someone I looked up to, and, on top of that, I had someone who believed in me. Those emotions that I felt as a freshman in high school is what I hope I can radiate to my students when I go to my CBL site. Now as a sophomore on the hill, I continue to work with Positive Directions and it has been an amazing journey to meet new students who have joined the after-school program and continue working with the students who I also worked with last year. Observing their progress and interest in school is what makes my service worthwhile and makes me feel like I have a purpose in my community that I am residing in.