Interns Reflect on CBL Dialogue Session, “Where do we go from here? Living a life of service and justice”

CBL Interns, Paige Cohen ’21 and Christian Realbuto ’20 both attended the CBL Dialogue Session on 12/3, entitled, “Where do we go from here? Living a life of service and justice.” The session featured Assistant Chaplain, Father Maczkiewicz and CBL Intern and Holy Cross alumna, Clare Orie ’18. Fr. Mac and Clare shared about the way in which they integrate service into their professional lives. On the blog, Paige and Christian reflect on their experience of the event. Paige’s post will also be published in The Spire.

Paige’s Reflection:

On Tuesday, December 3, the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning hosted a dialogue session entitled “Where Do We Go From Here? Living a Life of Service and Justice.” The session featured guest speakers Fr. Keith Maczkiewicz, S.J. (“Father Mac”), Assistant Chaplain here at the College; and Clare Orie ‘18, Case Manager and POWIR Energy Assistance Program Coordinator at Catholic Charities of Boston. Both Fr. Mac and Clare were invited to speak to students — particularly to students who participate in service opportunities on campus through Community-Based Learning classes and SPUD — about how they personally have integrated service into their professional lives after college graduation.

Fr. Mac spoke first, starting with his one year of college as a musical theater major. He talked about how he enjoyed theater and performance, but felt that he was called to something else. After transferring to Fairfield University, he became actively involved in Campus Ministry and made his first immersion trip — his first plane ride ever, actually — to Haiti. Fr. Mac stressed how this college introduction to service work directed him toward his current life of service as a Jesuit priest, proving both heartbreaking and fulfilling. He shared how he conceptualizes service as “being present to people,” dropping whatever he is doing to be with another person, whether that be on a trip internationally, visiting a women’s prison, hearing confessions, or just having a conversation with a student. To Fr. Mac, service is at the very essence of his priestly vocation.

Clare spoke next, beginning with her time at Holy Cross. While on campus, she was an intern in the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning, working with refugee populations at Ascentria Care Alliance, and she majored in French and International Studies. During her junior year at Holy Cross, she studied abroad in France and participated in the Washington Semester program, interning at the State Department. Clare referred to many of her experiences as “the most wonderful experience of my life,” emphasizing how each of her experiences built on one another to impassion her for international service work, but also challenged her, causing her to wrestle with questions about her work and her relationship to other people in service, about how her service could even possibly be damaging, rather than positive.

Moving on from her time at Holy Cross, Clare also shared about her year serving with the Peace Corps in Rwanda. She was transparent about the discomfort of her experience: how it was wonderful to enter the Rwandan community and make friends there, but also how she felt ambivalent towards the work she was doing. Was the Peace Corps really putting Rwandan people on a level playing field or viewing them as subservient? Did the Rwandan people even want the Peace Corps there, invading their community? Was she really called to this type of work, so far away from friends and family at home? Ultimately, Clare chose to withdraw from the Peace Corps early and now works as a case manager at Catholic Charities. To close her opening talk, Clare kept stressing that she “doesn’t have it all together,” and is continuing to discern where service fits in her life, but that she is grateful for the service experiences she has had so far both at Holy Cross and afterwards.

After the opening talks, the audience was encouraged to ask questions of Clare and Fr. Mac. Students and faculty present asked thoughtful questions about concepts of service, about what it means to be in “reciprocal relationship” with someone, about the dangers of participating in service work as an ego boost or social media performance. After the talk, current CBL intern Dora Calva ‘22 offered her thoughts about the talk: “It encouraged us to step back and reflect on what we’re doing and how that actually connects to the ‘for and with others’ statement we hear so much about.”

The Donelan Office thanks Clare and Fr. Mac for giving of their time to be at this session and thanks the students who attended for provoking thoughtful discussion. More CBL Dialogue Sessions will be offered in the spring semester.

Christian’s Reflection:

Last week, I attended a talk given by Assistant Chaplain, Fr. Keith Maczkiewicz, S.J. and Clare Orie ’18, which was sponsored by the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning, titled: “Where Do We Go From Here: Living A Life of Service.” As a senior thinking about what’s next after graduation, I really appreciated listening to a discussion that touched on how service can remain in our professional lives post-graduation. Both Father Maczkiewicz and Clare highlighted the important role that serving abroad has played in forming their post-graduate experiences. In this fashion, Father Maczkiewicz noted that everything we do should work to enrich our lives in some way or another. As he noted, each relationship and job — in essence, where we choose to give our time — should be through measures that help us grow, and challenge us to become better versions of ourselves.

Additionally, the discussion after the talk touched upon social media’s interaction with service. I thought this raised an important point, especially today. Clearly, social media — and the news media as a whole — play a very large role in how we form opinions, engage with the world around us, and dispel or enhance our biases. As was shared during the talk, the same is true for service, and how we discuss service online. This got me thinking of a famous phrase we often talk about in CBL, from Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “the danger of a single story,” which I think certainly resonates here. Specifically, I think this relates to the story we wish to tell about the communities we serve in, and are served by. How can we ensure we tell a story that’s authentic to our experience in X community, informed by community leaders, and doesn’t just skim over the surface of our time there?

Ultimately, I think that social media, when used appropriately, can serve as an important medium to showcase the impact service has on our relationships with one another, and how we engage with the world around us. This can certainty apply here, on this campus.

Fortunately, Holy Cross students are well-prepared to engage with service. I believe that the service we learn about at Holy Cross, and especially in the Donelan Office, is unique in its intentionality — that is, Holy Cross does not just send students off to participate in service programs without any form of training. Everyone who participates in service programs at Holy Cross is challenged to think about a relationship-guided mindset of service. Holy Cross students strive to seek relationship, reciprocity and mutuality in service. That’s a lesson from Mount St. James that I hope to carry with me for years to come.

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