By PJ Williams
In his 1973 address to Jesuit alumni in Valencia, Spain, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, Father General of the Society of Jesus, coined the term “men for others,” which has since been expanded to “men and women for others” so as to include all Jesuit-educated graduates.
While this has been adopted as a maxim of Jesuit values, it was originally intended as a challenge to ensure Jesuit schools were producing graduates who would show their love for God by loving their neighbor. Fr. Arrupe believed that the first step in promoting justice was accompaniment— becoming friends with those who are poor and marginalized.
“If we carry a deep respect for all people, then we cannot stand idle while they are taken advantage of,” said Nicholas Napolitano, provincial assistant for Social Ministries in the Maryland and USA Northeast Provinces. “Love demands that we speak out and act to end unjust structures and systems. We must take sides with people who Jesus stood with: the weak, the oppressed, the marginalized.”
The Jesuit schools within the Maryland and USA Northeast Provinces have taken this message from Fr. Arrupe to heart. That is why they make sure the education provided to students not only prepares them mentally and spiritually, but also gives them a desire to seek justice and accompany those on the margins.
In October 2018, Loyola Blakefield had its most successful Fall Food Drive in school history. Students collected 21,338 nonperishable food items for members of the St. Gregory the Great community in West Baltimore.
In Towson, just outside Baltimore, Md., sits the college prep school Loyola Blakefield. The Jesuit school educates close to 1,000 men from grades six through 12, and every day several of them are sent out on service trips to work with those in need.
“Five to eight students will gather in the morning with our volunteers,” explains Brendan O'Kane, director of Ignatian Mission and Identity at Loyola Blakefield. “We start with a reflection and we go over where we’re going, why we’re going, what we’re doing and how it connects to our mission.” Every student at Loyola Blakefield will have one day of service each year through junior year. Service locations vary by grade but include helping at soup kitchens and working with children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
O’Kane stressed the need for students to leave behind the comfort of their school and confront things like poverty head on. “To go there consistently erases the distance because there’s a relationship there; we don’t want to isolate ourselves up here,” said O’Kane of the distance between the school and the service sites. “Gustavo Gutiérrez said, ‘So you say you love the poor, then name them,’ and our students do learn people’s names, they do build relationships.”
Loyola does more than just daily service trips. Director of Ignatian Service, Beth Ann Szczepaniak and Ignatian Mission and Identity associate, Vonda Duncan, organize food drives, the Adopt-a Family program and longer service trips, both domestically and internationally. “By having these daily service trips, the topic of serving others is always present for them,” says O’Kane. “Even if a student isn’t serving on a particular day, a friend or classmate probably is.
Seventh graders at Loyola Blakefield partner with the Ridge Ruxton School, which serves children in the Baltimore area with severe disabilities. Each seventh grader will serve as a classroom aide at Ridge Ruxton once during the school year. At the end of the year, the seventh graders host a carnival for the students at the school.
At Canisius High School in Buffalo, students must complete 100 hours of service before graduation. This includes the Companions service immersion program in their junior year. In addition to working with the poor, students have an opportunity to deepen their faith and reflect on why it is important to serve others.
“During Companions, students read Fr. Arrupe’s ‘men for others’ speech and have a reflection on their final night based on that document,” says Ronald Ahrens, the director of Ignatian Service at Canisius High School and an alumnus of the class of 1991. “The documents help show a young man how to think about other people and each participant does a presentation based on that reading. Sometimes they also do a follow-up, something to think about after the trip.”
When asked what he thinks attracts young students to serving others, Ahrens attributes it to gratitude. “They want to feel gratitude for what they have. I think that they do this because they want to feel more content. They can take things for granted, but this reminds them not to do that,” he says. “Then there’s the kid who comes from not such a privileged background and they want to thank God for the opportunity to come to the school. They want to help and they’re the first who give back.”
Service trips can have a profound and lasting effect on students. Canisius College alumna Alice Zicari had no intention of having a job running service trips until her senior year when she took part in World Youth Day in Brazil. That experience led her to donate a year of service in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and eventually to her current position in Syracuse in Le Moyne College’s office of campus ministry, coordinating the school’s domestic and international service immersion trips. “Attending World Youth Day in Brazil really made me want to do this kind of work,” said Zicari.
Zicari works with Fr. William Dolan, SJ, who organizes the local service projects at Le Moyne, including with the Rescue Mission, a non-profit in Syracuse providing programs to end hunger and homelessness in the region.
“We want students to distinguish between what feels good and the greatest need,” says Fr. Dolan. “You go to the Rescue Mission parking lot with coffee and soup—people tell you how good you are and that feels good.” He goes on to explain that the greatest need at a similar non-profit, Road to Emmaus, is at the drop-off center. “It’s not about feeling good, it’s about the greatest need. One of Fr. General’s Apostolic Preferences is discernment, and we ask students to discern to see where they can address the greatest need.”
Le Moyne alumnus Andrew Lunetta is executive director of A Tiny Home for Good, which builds fully equipped 300- square-foot homes for the homeless, echoes the sentiments of Fr. Dolan. “I think that there’s a real call for people in general towards comfort—once you made it, you should just stay in your lane,” said Lunetta. “I really think there’s value in getting uncomfortable; there is plenty of room to offer that in the service of others, that the push towards comfort wouldn’t allow.”
As an undergrad, Lunetta worked at homeless shelters and started the program Pedal for Possibilities, which worked to provide bicycles to the homeless. By biking with the homeless, he was able to help give them something to do when they were not in a shelter. Lunetta recommends that people who do service work for others focus on the person their work is helping. “Spend time with the person you’re supporting. It makes what you’re doing more real,” said Lunetta. “You’re not just serving soup or hammering a nail if you know the first name of the person. Seize that opportunity whenever you can.”
When it comes to determining if a Jesuit education succeeds in forming men and women for others, Fr. Dolan is reminded of something he once told a group of Le Moyne students. He was celebrating the baccalaureate Mass and during the homily he said to them, “We know we’ve succeeded in offering you a Jesuit education if in 10 years you’re sitting with your family and one of your kids asks, ‘when will we get to work at the soup kitchen again?’”
“Once that sense of service to others is passed on,” he continued, “then we’ve done our job.”