The Catholic University of America

May 16, 2015

26 Graduates Commit to Long-Term Service

  Students who have committed to long-term service are honored at the Baccalaureate Mass on May 15.

On March 11 senior politics major Bobby Sylvester committed to serving as a teacher for two years at a Catholic school in Florida. On April 24 he was offered a Fulbright scholarship to teach English in Taiwan. The next few days were “agonizing,” he says.

The Fulbright would take Sylvester, who spent his junior year in Beijing, back to an area of the world that intrigues him. His commitment to the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Teaching Fellows program would take him to a city on Tampa Bay, where he would teach social studies at St. Petersburg Catholic High School.

He talked to Rev. Jude DeAngelo, O.F.M Conv., University chaplain and director of Campus Ministry, and Peter Shoemaker, associate dean for undergraduate studies and director of the University Honors Program. He took long walks around campus, pondering his options. “It was really hard. I didn’t get much sleep,” says Sylvester. In the end, he stuck with his decision to commit to ACE.

“Faith has always been a big part of my life,” says Sylvester, who graduated from a private Catholic school in Upton, Mass. “I had great teachers in high school who really inspired me and helped me grow into the person I am today.” He says that his grandmother, paraphrasing Luke 12:47, would often remind him that “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Sylvester is one of 26 seniors who have decided to do long-term service after Commencement, says Father Jude. The number of students who have committed to serving at schools and in communities around the country and overseas has more than doubled since last year.

Father Jude says he attributes the increase, in part, to the kind of education that students receive at Catholic University — both in and outside the classroom — where they come to understand the significance of community service in the context of the Church's teachings.

“We’re always looking at ways that we can get the message of long-term service across to our students,” says Father Jude. “Encouraging our students to serve also comes out of our Franciscan spirituality. Certainly we’re not the only religious order that does it, but it's part and parcel of what we do as Franciscans.”

Father Jude also notes the influence of Brother Jim Moore, O.F.M. Conv., associate campus minister for justice and missions, on students who are contemplating long-term service. Brother Jim, who leads a couple of student mission trips annually, started the service organization FrancisCorps and ran it for 14 years. Among the graduates who are going to serve, three are joining FrancisCorps, which runs houses in Costa Rica and Syracuse, N.Y., where volunteers spend a year living in community and serving the poor.

Sylvester says he first heard about ACE, which is based at the University of Notre Dame, during his sophomore year at CUA. He talked to other CUA alumni who had participated in the program, which offers participants the opportunity to teach — generally in under-served Catholic schools — while earning a master’s degree in education.

Sylvester participated in a spring break Habitat for Humanity trip each year during his time at the University. Sylvester was also a four-year member of Esto Vir, a men’s faith group on campus, and participated in Praise and Worship as well as other activities on and off campus. “I’ve loved Catholic University. I’m really grateful for all the people here who have helped me and supported all my endeavors.”

Jackie Sardina’s desire to serve grew out of her commitment to social justice issues. Sardina, a double major in theology and philosophy from Orange County, Calif., who minored in music, has been active in Students on the Mount, an organization that works on behalf of social justice issues. She also has participated in Praise and Worship and the University’s Music Ministry, serving as a cantor at Sunday Mass.

After a two-week training course in July, Sardina will fly to Ecuador for a year of service with Rostro de Cristo, a volunteer and retreat group immersion program.

She will live in a community with 14 other volunteers in an impoverished area outside Guayaquil. Following her service, Sardina says she hopes to pursue a Master of Divinity and perhaps teach theology or run a campus ministry program. In the meantime, she says that she looks forward to learning Spanish and taking up the simple life of the Rostro de Cristo community. She and her fellow community members will engage in a ministry of presence with families in the area.

“I think it’s important to grow your heart to fit poor people into it,” she says. “The Church teaches us that it’s important to love and build meaningful relationships with people whose dignity might be under attack because of the situation they’re in. In the spirit of Pope Francis, it’s important to accompany them on their journey and to grow in faith together.”




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