Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"The true center of my Catholic faith is rooted in service"

Last week, thirteen of us had an amazing week of service during our Alternative Spring Break in Appalachia.  One of our students has blogged about the trip and gave me permission to post it here.  I'm not surprised knowing her and so many of our other superstar college students here, but it's still kind of mind-blowing that the following comes from the beautiful heart and intellect of a 20-year-old!

Whenever I tell people that I’m Catholic, they usually come to one of two conclusions: either they think that I’m just a casual church-goer who only hits the pews when I feel apologetic about living a typical college lifestyle or that I’m a hardcore, Bible-thumping maniac who judges everyone in my sight. However, neither of these assessments are accurate. Over the years, my faith in God has manifested itself through a love of both the consecrated Eucharist (the actual body and blood of Christ) and a passion for service to my fellow man; while I do believe in the seemingly crazy Catholic doctrine on the life and divinity of Jesus Christ, I choose to demonstrate His love and light through my actions and service for the world around me. Cue my alternative spring break trip down to West Virginia with the GW Newman Center:

In Mount Hope, WV, lives a Vietnam War veteran named Carl Taylor whose mobile home burned down in an electrical fire a few weeks ago. Since the accident, the organization West Virginia Ministry of Advocacy and Workcamps has been sending volunteers to demolish, rebuild and clean up his home. For a week, 13 GW Catholics, including our chaplain Father Greg Shaffer and campus minister Amy West, put up dry wall, installed new windows and painted Carl’s entire home. We spent the week rolling up our sleeves and giving of our time, effort and (sad day for a particular sophomore) blood in order to restore both Carl’s living conditions and hope for the future. With only a few family members to support him, our care, love and tireless effort helped him to grab a toe-hold in the middle of this tumultuous time and know that, no matter how hopeless his situation might seem, there are people who genuinely care for him and will be praying for his and his home’s full recovery.

The heart of the Catholic Church is the person of Jesus Christ. To be Catholic means to live out His teachings and His beautiful dedication to humility, passion and above all, love. The true center of my Catholic faith is rooted in service - to Christ and to my neighbor. Saint Francis urged Catholics to, “at all times, preach the Gospel and when necessary, use words”; even though there are so many amazing passages in the Bible that speak to God’s unending love, it is infinitely better to demonstrate that love by sacrificing of yourself for the good of others and experience that glowing joy within your own heart as well. The thirteen of us were so blessed to be able to work with WVMAW and Carl this past week because it opened our eyes to this service-based approach to faith and rededicated our hearts to the humility and passion of sharing God’s love. No matter what alternative spring break GW students went on this past week, whether it be Kansas, NOLA, my beloved West Virginia or any other, I’m confident that we all, religious or not, experienced the same thing: that when our lives and hearts are truly dedicated to service, we allow our light to shine through and positively impact everyone we encounter.

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