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Service Strengthens Relationships

For The Heights

Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

On Tuesday night, the Church in the 21st Century and the Volunteer and Service Learning Center (VSLC), alongside Campus Ministry, hosted a panel on the topic of “Encountering Christ Through Service.”
“The primary reason we commit ourselves to service is to learn something—to discover our passions and even discern our vocations,” said Dan Ponsetto, director of the VSLC.

The talk, headed by Ponsetto, aimed to examine student engagement in service and the transformational experiences servant leadership offers students throughout their time at Boston College and beyond.

After further explaining the implications of finding God through service, citing biblical references to relate the modern conception of service to that of Jesus’ time, Ponsetto then asked the panelists, “How does one define service?”

“Service is faith in action,” said Gisella Mendizabal of Horizons for Homeless Children. Mendizabal, who holds a degree in psychology from Loyola Marymount University and a master’s degree in pastoral ministry and social work from BC, explained how in times of frustration she turns to prayer. “In those moments, I am not alone,” she said. “God is with me, and that is a powerful realization in the field of service.”
Professor Stephen J. Pope, who holds a Ph.D. in theological ethics from the University of Chicago, said, “I don’t think we can define service—but we can describe it,” he said. Pope, who advocated the absence of judgment while conducting service, reflected on how humility enables others to see and act in regards to the sacredness of another person. When asked what it means to follow Christ through service, Pope said, “There are many paths to Christ, and most can be found through people, for people, and with people.”
The discussion considered the impact of service throughout the BC community and the attitude with which students approach encountering God through aiding those in need. “In serving, we start to understand concretely what it means to love our neighbor and to be loved by our neighbor,” Pope said.

The panelists focused on stories in which transformational experiences with Christ were realized through meaningful interactions with those who have been marginalized by society, and emphasized the openness with which one should engage in reflective service. The panelists also recognized the inherent need for the acknowledgment of personal responsibility for positively transformative experiences to take place.

“Service is a way of loving God and being loved by God,” said Mary Lou Bozza, director of Confirmation and Youth Ministry at Good Shepherd Parish in Wayland, MA. When asked how important the institutional aspect and framework of Catholicism is with regards to the “heart” of service, Bozza said, “Going to church can sometimes be like eating vegetables and sometimes like eating cake—at times it can feel totally distant, even frustrating in trying to further one’s relationship with God, but can also generate a sense of renewed encouragement.”
Bozza and the other panelists concurred that the church employs service through fostering a sense of community in which people share in their search to genuinely discern God’s will both on a collective and individual level. The lecture focused predominantly on how to undertake empowering those of relatively unfortunate circumstances, and explored the Jesuit ideal of becoming exemplary enablers of service and in deepening our relationship with God.

 “We’re social human beings— we rely on each other,” Pope said. “And that’s what service is."

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