Siblings Inspired by Summer Service
During their years at CUA, the Ratke siblings have made their mark on the athletics department. Junior Elizabeth Ratke has played softball since her freshman year and her brother Pat Ratke (B.A. 2009) currently serves as the department’s assistant athletic director and recruiting coordinator.
This summer, however, both travelled beyond CUA’s campus to participate in service projects abroad.
Now Elizabeth is a woman on a mission. Since returning from her service trip this summer to Haiti, she knows that someday she will go back to continue to help the people she grew to love.
“I really miss it, I really need to go back,” she said. “A lot of people say Haiti needs you. Now I need Haiti.”
Elizabeth spent the month of July in Gros Morne, Haiti, working with Quest for Haiti, a program of the Religious of Jesus and Mary sisters. Along with other volunteers from the United States and Haiti, she helped run a summer camp serving 300 children.
“I just wanted to do something different,” Elizabeth said. “I had heard about Haiti because of the earthquake, but what you experience there is completely different from what people tell you.”
Not long before her experience in Haiti, her brother had been in a nearby country also performing service. Pat served as a chaperone on Mission Belize, a two-week service project that took place following this year’s May Commencement. He worked with the group of 14 CUA students who went on the trip through Campus Ministry.
During the trip, Pat worked with students to help build a library building and assist a school with tutoring and other tasks.
“It was nice to know that I had a colleague I could trust and could count on,” said Emmjolee Mendoza-Waters, associate director of Campus Ministry and community service, who chaperoned Mission Belize with Ratke. “He was so great with our CUA students and also with the community.”
Although they were in different countries working on different projects, Elizabeth and Pat had similar memories to share about the people they had met.
“They’re so happy. It doesn’t faze them that they’re poor,” Elizabeth said. “They never asked for anything. They were just like, ‘let me share with you, let me give to you.’”
“It changes your perspective,” Pat agreed. “They’re rich in spirit. They have great community strength.”
Elizabeth hopes to return next summer with $3,000 to help offset the cost of running the camp.
To raise money, she plans to set up a donations website, have a Wiffle ball game on campus, and sell T-shirts through the softball team. Raising awareness about Haiti is also an important part of her mission on campus, she said.
She has goals for Haiti that are more long term. Elizabeth hopes to attend medical school and to participate in the Doctors Without Borders program. A new hospital is being built in the town of Gros Morne where Ratke served, and she dreams of working there someday.
Rachel Marrion, assistant softball coach, said that Elizabeth’s passion for Haiti has been evident since her return. “She was deeply impacted by her experiences [in Haiti] in such a great way,” she said.
For both siblings, sports and service have intersected in the past. Growing up in Williamsport, Pa., home of the annual Little League World Series, sports were a way of life, they said. Both participated in projects during high school that connected sports and service.
Elizabeth is a recipient of the Girl Scouts Gold Award, earned in high school after completing a community service project. She worked with a local food pantry and organized an alumni basketball game at her high school to raise donations of food.
Pat earned an Eagle Scout award in high school. His project involved refurbishing a local Little League stadium, painting the dugouts and fencing, and repairing the roofs of the dugouts and concession stand.
Athletics has been part of the Ratke family’s link to Catholic University for two generations. Their grandfather, Henry B. Ratke, graduated from CUA in 1937 and worked at the University as boxing manager.
“He turned us on to this place,” Pat Ratke said of his grandfather, who used to box in CUA’s old gymnasium, which was located in what is now the Edward M. Crough Center for Architectural Studies.
The siblings have an older brother, Joseph A. Ratke, who completed a dual architecture degree at CUA in 2005.