“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” - Mark 12:30-31
As the calendar turns to January, our juniors and seniors engage in what is often one of the most formative and transformative experiences of their time at Regis Jesuit–Service Projects. To put it simply, our aim is to engage our students directly with love of neighbor and to be purposeful in identifying neighbors to love who are on the margins or who represent vulnerable populations.
These first two weeks of the semester, our young women are serving in agencies that support and address issues of poverty, hunger and homelessness, mental and physical differences, elder care, at-risk youth and various preschool and elementary schools here in metro-Denver.
In addition, dozens of our students have traveled to Belize and New Orleans where they will live in community with or near their service placements and serve by restoring schools, tutoring children, engaging in post-Katrina development projects and learning about the impacts of natural disasters on the people of New Orleans, our neighbor. We call these types of service experiences immersion trips because, for two solid weeks, our students become immersed in the culture and conditions of the communities they are serving.
Inviting our students to these types of experiences is at the heart of what a Jesuit education is all about.
Today our prime educational objective must be to form men and women for others; men and women who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ—for the God-human who lived and died for all the world; men and women who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men and women completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce.
- Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Valencia, Spain, 1973
Sometimes the initial conception is that we have something valuable to give or to impart, but more often, our students describe transformational experiences of what they receive. They describe a new understanding of their own humanity and solidarity with the communities of people they have engaged. When we talk about our mission to develop Men and Women with and for Others, it’s always the “with” that leaves the lasting impression--grace-filled encounters with neighbors whom we never would have met otherwise.
This was absolutely true for me and my experience serving in a Head Start program during my senior year at Regis Jesuit some 33 years ago. Today, I recognize this experience as one of the reasons I became an educator.
The testimonials of our students and the life-changing impacts they describe, especially with immersion trips, have encouraged us to consider how we might build on these experiences. We began to imagine the impact on our students if we could find a way to ensure an immersion service trip experience for every student at least one time during their four years at Regis Jesuit.
It will no doubt take some time to identify enough opportunities and to account for all of the logistics inside of the school and out, but we are committed to doing it. Today we have set our sights on ensuring this kind of opportunity for every student by the 2024-25 school year. As a result, we are convinced that our students and our graduates will carry a deeper sense of how to ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ as well as the courage and creativity to contribute to a more just and loving world.
In the meantime, we will be excited to welcome our students back to campus later this month and next and to hear their testimonials. God is surely found in those experiences. Serve with humility and love, Raiders!
David Card '87 is Regis Jesuit's president. He writes for Inspire & Ignite once a month, usually for the first week, throughout the school year.