From The Hoya: The Mutuality Of Service

Originally published on November 8th 2017, this article was taken from the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus’s rotating column in The Hoya, entitled The Round Table. The column, written by members of the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus, appears online every other Wednesday. 

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https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Psalms-23-4/

By: Nicolo Orozco

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4.

I was handcuffed by a police officer in front of my house the weekend before my high school graduation. Needless to say, I had made some mistakes. I had lost faith in myself, and I had lost faith in God.

For a while, I did not understand why I was being forced to go to a community college. I had always thought I was smart, but I was not. I may have performed well academically, but I was foolish when it counted.

I always thought I would graduate high school, continue to a four-year university and get a respectable job. Instead, I had to come to terms with the fact that I would not be moving out of my house and heading off to a university after high school as I had always dreamed.

I began spiraling into a deeper and darker depression, and I had little reason to hope things would improve. At the community college I attended, only 34 percent of students graduated or transferred after six years. I knew I could not spend another six years in my town.

One of my sister’s therapists suggested I volunteer at Camp ReCreation, a Jesuit-run summer camp in northern California that serves individuals with developmental disabilities. My sister has autism, and her therapist was once a volunteer at the camp herself.

Then, hardly a week after riding in the back of a police car toward what I thought was the end of my life, I found myself heading toward what would become a new beginning.

Yet, it did not feel that way in the moment. On the way to the camp, I viewed the week ahead as an obligation rather than an opportunity. However, it was a chance to escape, and that was what I needed.

When we arrived, I was paired with a camper in his mid-60s who has autism. Initially, I considered myself as just his helper, but he quickly became much more than a person I was responsible for — he became my friend. I was moved by his appreciation for the simplest things in life.

His profound love and gratitude made it seem like he was the one serving me, rather than the other way around.

Each camper I partnered with taught me a new virtue. The week my camper needed help in the bathroom, I learned humility. The week my partner was nonverbal, I learned patience and communication. The week my partner was in a wheelchair, I learned the importance of physical stamina; there are no wheelchair lifts in the middle of the woods.

Up to that point, I never felt God was a meaningful part of my life. But throughout my experience at camp, His presence overwhelmed me. I was originally supposed to be there for only one week of the three-weeklong camp, but I felt so rejuvenated and loved that I stayed for the full duration.

Despite not having gone in years, I found myself attending Mass at camp every day for three weeks straight.

Believers understand the Catholic Mass as the reenactment of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, in which the faithful receive his true body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.

God did not require me to ask because he knew it was exactly what I needed — spiritual cleansing and new friends who filled my life with the love of Him.

When I found myself hating humanity and myself, God called me to spend time with the most beautiful, loving humans I have known in my life. At camp, I could be who I truly am and, more importantly, be loved for who I am.

If not for camp, I would not have been able to transfer to Georgetown after a year of community college, nor would I have been moved to renew my faith and return to the Catholic Church.

In hindsight, it is clear that the campers helped me more than I helped them.

Service is a gift, not a burden. I think many Hoyas find this fulfillment to be true of their experience of service. No matter how busy, anxious or dejected we may feel, being women and men for others not only benefits our communities, but it is fulfilling and life-giving for us.

Serve and be served. Love and be loved.

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Being More Than Multifaith

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Georgetown Campus Ministry Student Leaders On Their Interfaith Leadership Retreat (Fall 2017)

By: Melvin Thomas

This past summer, Georgetown University hosted the 21st National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference. This multi-day conference brought student leaders from all the Jesuit universities and colleges throughout the country together to learn how the Jesuit heritage is being promoted at the various institutions. By sharing both successes and challenges, student leaders are encouraged to exchange different strategies and ideas with each other in their efforts to really animate the Jesuit identity at each of their institutions. As the Conference was held at Georgetown, Georgetown students living in the area over the summer were invited to serve as volunteers for the event. Although I was only able to volunteer and attend the Conference on the last of the four days, the events of that day provided a remarkable experience that I am so glad I was able to participate in. Among other things, there was one workshop that really stood out to me and will stick with me for the rest of my life.

As representatives of Jesuit institutions, we believe that there is a tangible difference between “multifaith” and “interfaith.” Georgetown being a multifaith institution simply means giving the various faith traditions a place on campus. But we are called to be something different, something deeper. Being an interfaith institution involves promoting communication and cooperation between different religious groups in order to foster mutual understanding and respect. What does that lofty sentence mean in practice? At the most foundational level, it requires being actively aware of the presence of the other faith traditions on campus. If a first-year or transfer Protestant student asks where he or she can go to attend a Protestant service, we should be able to respond, “Sunday at 7 PM in St. William’s Chapel in Copley.” Similarly, if a Hindu student needs a chaplain of his or her own tradition to talk to, we should be able to say, “Brahmachari Sharan’s office is in Healy Hall.” Georgetown has these chaplains and services of various faith traditions to help all students come closer to God, and we should all leap at the chance to help a fellow student do that.

At the next level, it requires stepping out of our comfort zones to encounter the other as other, i.e. as who he or she uniquely is with special regard for the differences. This can take various forms. One of these is attending services of different traditions. We had a formally organized “Interfaith Week” here on campus this past month, but there is no reason that more weeks can’t have some interfaith elements in them. Yes, it does feel a little unusual crossing myself right to left when I attend an Orthodox Christian Divine Liturgy. And no, I still haven’t managed to find a song at Jewish Shabbat that I can sing along to without getting totally lost. But the opportunity to worship God in new ways and with new people offers a unique setting to learn and engage in fellowship with others. Another form is dialogue, whether it be a formal event like next week’s “The Play of Wisdom: A Hindu-Jewish-Christian Conversation” or an informal conversation outside Midnight Mug on Lau 2 on a Wednesday night. We have a great deal to learn, both from distinguished scholars as well as our fellow students, and we should take advantage of the opportunities we have to correct misconceptions we have of others’ faith as well as to correct the ones others’ have of ours.

At the Conference, I was so surprised to learn that students from other Jesuit institutions envy the fact that we have so many services and chaplains of varied faith traditions. They want to be able to demonstrate their commitment to meeting their students where they are spiritually in their own faith journeys. Indeed, it is also a great manifestation of the classical Jesuit concept of finding God in all things. But we can do more than just give these traditions a place on campus. We should actively seek out opportunities to understand and engage with them. Just as we students strive for academic excellence and to be women and men for others, we are called to foster community in diversity and interreligious understanding with equal vigor.

Recapping and Reflecting on Interfaith Week 2017

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A group of students from a variety of faith backgrounds united to pack toiletries for Syrian refugees this past week. Photo credit: Orthodox Christian Fellowship.

By: Georgetown University Knights of Columbus

Embracing the interfaith imperative of the Catholic Church, the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus co-sponsored a campus-wide “Inter-faith Week.”

Our efforts to encourage Georgetown students to participate in the university’s Jesuit values of interreligious understanding and community in diversity were met with enthusiasm and co-sponsorship from eight other Campus Ministry student organizations.

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Inter-faith Week 2017 was co-sponsored by nine Campus Ministry student organizations.

Throughout the week, participants were invited to experience first-hand the religious rituals of faith traditions that span the globe and that represent nearly three quarters of its population.

At the close of the week, students came together to participate in a community service event where they packed 200 sets of toiletries to be sent to International Orthodox Christian Charities and distributed to people in need in war-torn Syria. The Orthodox Christian Fellowship sponsored the event, after which students were invited for fellowship over a pizza dinner.

In order to gain a first-hand perspective of the impact that this initiative had on its participants, the Knights asked for reflections from students regarding their reactions to the services of the faith traditions that they attended.

We have included these reactions below.

Hindu Prayer Service

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Photo credit: Hindu Student Association

I found the experience to be enlightening and focusing on one’s mental health. It was a nice relaxing time. I was glad to be in attendance.

-Anonymous Catholic Student

I found the Hindu religion to contain an internally incisive view of one’s placement in the context of the central forces of their lives, as well as of their mental state generally. The meditation promoted a sense of mindfulness that was energizing even for someone like me who does not practice what I have learned is not one centralized religion, but a diverse collection of faiths. The prayers and accompanying music allowed for a realization of the metaphysical underpinning of all things. I am glad that I attended and would recommend others to do so to witness a vibrant culture and a strong community. I only regret that I could not stay for dinner!

-Anonymous Student

Protestant Sunday Worship10.15.17 Interfaith Protestant Sunday

Protestant Sunday worship was filled with powerful songs in praise of God. In the service, I found a practical message encouraging one to allow their goodness and light to outshine the dark places in their life and to embody the positive moral teachings of God.

-Anonymous Student

I very much enjoyed the chance to attend the Protestant service Sunday evening. I loved the incredible music and believe that the service created a rich environment for prayer and fellowship. The sermon was powerful and the prayers were moving, and it was great learning about both the similarities and differences between a Protestant and Catholic service.

-Hunter Estes, SFS ’19

Catholic Mass

The Catholic Mass was quiet and reflective, with beautiful singing and a sermon that encouraged people to actuate their beliefs in their daily lives. It was a valuable and peaceful way to conclude my evening.

-Anonymous Student

Orthodox Christian Vespers

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Vespers was a beautiful ceremony. I really enjoyed the chanting which lifted up the voices of the people to God in such an inspiring fashion. I am very thankful that we were invited to be a part of this service.

-Hunter Estes, SFS ’19

 

 

 

 

Buddhist Meditation

10.19.17 Interfaith Buddhist meditationI found the experience of Buddhist Zazen meditation, otherwise known as Zen meditation, to be a spiritually fulfilling endeavor. By focusing on one’s breath and upon their feelings, one can take stock of their mental state, which is often lost in the hustle and bustle of campus life. Through meditation, one can become more present in their day-to-day activities.

-Anonymous Student

Muslim Jum’ah

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The Muslim Students Association and the Muslim community welcomed guests to their Friday prayer service during Inter-faith Week.

As a Catholic who has never had any Muslim friends or virtually any exposure to Islam at all, I was quite excited to see what I would discover attending my first Jum’ah service. Above all, I found the imam’s message about gratitude and thanksgiving especially powerful. Growing up, I’ve heard the idea of being thankful to God for all one has multiple times, but I have never been so convinced of that idea until I heard the imam’s articulation of it. I also noticed a common thread between the Abrahamic faiths in their emphasis on this virtue, as “Eucharist”, the source and summit of Christian life according to the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council, and “Jew”, or “Yehudi” in Hebrew, both etymologically mean thanksgiving. And I could not be more thankful for the vibrancy of religious expression found on our campus and in our world.

-Melvin Thomas, COL ’18

I found that the Muslim ritual of praying with the whole body in motion was an effective way to show our submission to a higher power, and that the teaching on gratefulness for every aspect of one’s life showed a deeply ingrained sense of humility that was refreshing to see in our world.

-Anonymous Student

As a Buddhist, it pangs me dearly to hear of the suffering of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Rakhine state. We must all come together in the interreligious tradition of love and reject hatred in whatever false name it uses.

-Anthony Saya, MSB ’18

Jewish Shabbat

10.20.17 Interfaith Shabbat

The joyous celebration of Shabbat allowed me to experience the vibrancy of the Jewish community on campus and to realize some of the many similarities between my faith and the Jewish tradition. The community provided me with a warm welcome, and I was happy to sing praises to God in their company.

-Anonymous Catholic Student

Saturday Community Service

Participating in community service was a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and I would encourage other students to seek out community service on campus, in the District and beyond. The fact that people of many faiths came together to do community service made the event more meaningful and was symbolic of the great things that can be accomplished when the diverse members of the human family unite behind a common goal.

-Anonymous Student

It was a pleasure to work with the Orthodox Christian Fellowship and other members of the Georgetown community to provide simple necessities for Syrian refugees. There was a great turnout, and many hands made very quick work.

-Jack Segelstein, COL ’18

 

An Open Letter on Marriage, Love Saxa, and Georgetown’s Catholic Values

The Georgetown University Knights of Columbus believe accusations that Love Saxa is a hate group – along with calls for it to be defunded as a student organization – are baseless.

In an op-ed published in The Hoya earlier this year, Love Saxa’s president wrote the following:

“Love Saxa’s definition of marriage does not include same-sex couples, as we believe that marriage is a conjugal union on every level – emotional, spiritual, physical and mental – directed toward caring for biological children. To us, marriage is much more than [a] commitment of love between two consenting adults.”

Love Saxa’s detractors object to this definition because it excludes LGBTQ relationships. In their view, Love Saxa’s promotion of this definition of marriage constitutes a hateful mission that should prevent it from receiving funding from the Student Activities Commission.

Rather than being rooted in hate, however, this message comes from a tradition grounded in love that finds dignity in all people. The words of Pope John Paul II remind us that “God has imprinted his own image and likeness on man, conferring upon him an incomparable dignity.” This foundational truth guides our relationships with all of God’s children, and inherently rejects hate as inimical to the Catholic life.

Furthermore, the Church acknowledges the difficult position of gay individuals in society, and clearly states that “[t]hey must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” and that “[e]very sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Out of love for His children, God instituted an ideal of marriage that fosters joy and happiness. Pope Francis recently summarized the beauty of this relationship: “The family, founded on indissoluble matrimony that unites and allows procreation, is part of God’s dream and that of his Church for the salvation of humanity.”

Let us be clear: Stripping Love Saxa of funding would be an affront to Georgetown’s Catholic tradition and an improper judgment regarding the true nature of marriage.

Georgetown was founded as – and remains – a Catholic university in the Jesuit tradition. The Catholic Church has clearly articulated its position on marriage:

“The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring.”

It would be nonsensical for a Catholic university to defund a student organization that upholds the Catholic understanding of marriage.

We believe that care for the person, or Cura Personalis, means supporting an individual as a child of God in a way that is ordered to truth and moral virtue. Given that Georgetown is a Catholic institution, and the Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternal, service organization, we believe that care for the person should be understood in light of the truth of the Catholic faith.

It would be uncaring to suppress a group for upholding an element of Catholic Social Thought that is foundational to human flourishing.

– Georgetown University Knights of Columbus

A Reflection on Holy See-United States Relations

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His Holiness (Left), Max Rosner (Right)

By: Max Rosner

The first diplomatic scandal between the United States and the Holy See included an autographed picture of the Pope. Near the beginning of the Civil War, Jefferson Davis, the leader of the Confederacy, wrote a letter asking for the Holy See’s support for their war efforts. Though Pius IX did not sign a letter expressing formal allegiance or support, he did include a photo of himself in his response letter. The real uproar was not a glossy photo, however. Pius addressed the letter to “Jefferson Davis, Honorable President of the Confederate States of America.” Congress immediately banned diplomatic ties with the Catholic hierarchy.

Over time, the ban diminished in force. Pope Paul VI, in the midst of the Second Vatican Council, embarked on a journey to the United States. The 1965 trip — the first time the Pope stepped foot on American soil — culminated in a speech to the United Nations and a mass in Yankee Stadium, billed as “The Sermon on the Mound.” Even with such a landmark visit, the United States remained one of the few nations not to have formal diplomatic ties with the Catholic Church.

As the Cold War was reaching its climax, President Ronald Reagan escalated his rhetoric towards the communist threat. Luckily, he found an ally in Pope John Paul II, a man who lived under two totalitarian regimes. John Paul II recognized that his international political platform possessed significant clout, so he took his anti-communist message to the masses in Soviet-influenced Poland. Ronald Reagan, possessing a nuclear arsenal and the world’s largest economy, realized that he could not take down the USSR on his own. John Paul II had something Ronald Reagan lacked: moral authority. In 1984, Ronald Reagan sent the first US diplomat to Rome, presenting his credentials to His Holiness. He obliged.

Today, the US-Holy See Relations remain strong, finding common ground on issues ranging from religious freedom to human trafficking. While the United States holds more global diplomatic ties than any country in the world, the Holy See is second, being diplomatically recognized by 183 states.

Why should the Holy See—with a population of a couple hundred people and possessing only six more acres than Georgetown University’s main campus—be engaged in diplomacy, particularly with a country which advocates separation of church and state? Simply put, the Pope and the Curia hold both spiritual and temporal power. With regards to the former, the Church decides and explains doctrine, helping a billion Catholics foster their relationship with God. Yet the Vatican is also a temporal power, with jurisdiction over territory. Since the Church barely has a standing army and little commerce, it employs soft power around the world. For example, if I were to say the word, “intelligence gathering,” the image of CIA spies would arise in most people’s minds. Yet, the US government cannot be everywhere, especially in some of the world’s worst conflict zones. The US government depends on priests, nuns, and social justice workers to provide critical information in areas ranging from Rohingya to South Sudan. Ultimately, both the United States and the Vatican depend on one another to advance one goal: world peace.

Christ & Covenant

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By: Jack Segelstein

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.

The covenant between God and the Jews was both unique and exclusive. This is a hard truth for Gentiles who, as Paul reminds us, were once “alienated from the community of Israel and strangers to the covenant of promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

We would need to wait for Christ. “For he is our peace, he who made both one… that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it” (Ephesians 2:14–16).

Utraque Unum. Both one. The Latin motto on the Georgetown seal is often cited as a symbol for the reconciliation of faith and reason or of Union and Confederacy, but its origin is in Paul’s teaching. The world—both Jews and Gentiles—is made one in the life of Christ.

Georgetown calls herself to that same mission of reconciliation. She has been largely successful in this, particularly in encouraging and facilitating interfaith dialogue. Rarely has this dialogue been more needed and fruitful than in the past few weeks, particularly for our Jewish peers and friends.

This year campus has witnessed a wave of anti-Semitism, manifesting itself in the most visceral and hateful form known to modern man. Most recently, multiple swastikas were found painted in a women’s bathroom on campus during Rosh Hashanah, a High Holy Day celebrating the Jewish New Year, a time of solemnity, remembrance, celebration, feasting, and preparation for the Day of Judgment, Yom Kippur.

Of course we cannot know whether the offenses coincided with Rosh Hashanah by malicious intent or unhappy accident. Regardless, the university offered a robust spiritual response. Shabbat, a weekly Jewish service on Friday at 6:30 in the Leavey Center that is open to all members of the Georgetown community, was exceptionally attended, and Jewish prayers were offered at every Sunday mass.

Moreover, the incidents were roundly condemned by all corners of campus, with many offering sentiments not unlike those issued at Vatican II. From Nostra Aetate: “[T]he Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel’s spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.”

The Knights of Columbus are proud to be a part of Georgetown’s efforts to promote interreligious dialogue and understanding. Next month we will be launching Interfaith Week with eight other student faith groups, in which students will engage other faith traditions by attending their weekly services. Additionally, the Knights are planning dialogues with specific faith groups throughout the semester as well as a lecture on Christian-Muslim understanding.

Though we eagerly anticipate engaging with all faith traditions at Georgetown, we recognize the Church’s special relationship and indebtedness to Judaism. The foundations of the Church were laid by her Jewish ancestors, who were her first teachers, prophets, and expounders of Revelation. The covenant was not wiped clean by Christ, but was brought to new fullness in his incarnation. The Jews “are beloved because of the patriarchs. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:28–29).

We remember the gifts and the call made by God to the Jewish people, and pray that they may not be forgotten.

From the GK’s Desk: State of the Council Fall 2017

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Grand Knight Hunter Estes manning the grill at our Catholic Welcome Back BBQ!

By: Hunter Estes

The State of the Council

Georgetown Knights of Columbus and Friends of the Council,

It has become a custom of sorts, that, at the beginning of each semester, the Grand Knight offers a short reflection on the council and his vision for the months ahead.

Here, I offer the official State of the Council:

In short, it can be said that our council is both extremely strong and healthy. We enter this semester in ideal financial standing, which will allow us to pursue a range of events and opportunities that we have been unable to before. And, most importantly we maintain a vibrant and energetic group of Catholic gentlemen committed to service and the bonds of brotherhood.

Now, we have begun the normal set of operations here on the Hilltop, as our routine events, including card making for hospitalized children, massketball, and spiritual discussion dinners are in full swing! We look forward to kicking off other traditional events such as Grate Patrol, house masses, and sandwich makings once more. Already, this year, we have hosted a range of other fraternal events such as a pilgrimage to the local delicatessen known as Stachoswki’s, game nights, and more.

Beyond our normal events, we have planned an exciting and eventful semester. Our board plans to put together a range of new events to strengthen our faith, our commitment to service, and our fraternal relationships.

We look to deepen our understanding of our faith by continuing the series of sacramental discussions which involved inviting a Jesuit into a deep conversation of the symbolism that plays a role in each of the sacraments. We also hope to find new ways to integrate our faith into everyday life by hosting prayer sessions, Bible studies, rosary prayers, casual theological discussions, and more.

Coming up soon we will be welcoming a new set of gentlemen into our council. As we shall hold our semesterly induction ceremony on Sept. 29th. We are excited about this active new crowd, and all that they will bring to our council.

The board and I are extremely excited to once again support October as “Life Month.” During this time, we will co-sponsor and help to promote a series of events on the death penalty, abortion, poverty, and other issues that are deeply rooted in our society. We look forward to sharing this conversation with the campus and supporting the life movement in all ways we can.

Furthermore, the Knights have taken the leadership on organizing and institutionalizing an annual “interfaith week” at Georgetown, during which time, we encourage students to attend the spiritual events of other traditions. This week will then culminate with dinner, discussion, and reflection on all that is gained by bringing our campus faith groups together.

We are also currently working with the Muslim Student Association to put on an event that will bring our groups together for fruitful dialogue. As well, the Knights are working to partner with the Buddhist Student group on campus to bring together the practice of meditation with readings and prayers from Scripture.

Finally, it brings me great pleasure to announce that it was now 45 years ago that the Georgetown Knights of Columbus council was first founded. In, what is sure to be our largest event of the semester, we will be hosting a day long celebration of our rich history on the Hilltop, with events including a talk on the intersection of faith and service, a mass, and a reception. We look forward to bringing together the entirety of the Knights community on campus, as well as friends, supporters, and local alumni to celebrate 45 years of giving back to the Georgetown and D.C. community through service efforts that are grounded in our faith.

With these ambitious plans, I am proud to state that our council is indeed thriving. This semester is sure to be great and I encourage you to follow our progress through our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, as well as our weekly blog posts on our website.