St. Edward’s University emphasizes the connection between service and learning. Many students participate in various services that are closely connected to what they learn inside the classroom across a variety of majors. Recently St. Edward’s has taken time to highlight different work that students have accomplished during their time on campus.
One communications major was prompted on his freshman year to begin work on combating sexual assault. The student explains how he wrote a paper on sexual assault his freshman year which awakened him to startling statistics and laws that make it difficult for those affected to seek help and reparation. Deeply affected by this paper, he proceed to join “It’s On Us”, which is an action week hosted by St. Edward’s that is focused on sexual assault awareness and prevention. This week long event is great way for students to become aware of and then take action through the course of their academic careers as well as their lives, to combat sexual assault.
To read more about how St. Edward’s connects service and learning, visit St. Edward’s news.
Benedictine College has launched a human trafficking awareness campaign for the spring semester, beginning with a showing of the film End It. The campaign is being hosted by the Catholic Relief Services Student Ambassadors at Benedictine College. After the film showing, students were given an opportunity to write to their congressman as a call to action. The campaign will continue throughout the rest of the semester, hosting events such as a solidarity vigil and a lecture given by trafficking abolitionist Dr. Shalina Stilley.
President of the CRS Benedictine chapter, Hannah Voss, noted that “The campaign’s motto is ‘I am the cause, I am the solution.’ It ties in our solidarity as individuals and our roles.”
Read more in Benedictine’s student newspaper, The Circuit.
Catholic colleges and universities across the nation observed National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, November 15-21, 2016. The week, began by Villanova University in 1975, has since spread to over 700 campuses and communities, becoming the most widely organized hunger and homelessness event of its type nationwide. Here are some examples from Catholic colleges:
Villanova University organized a food drive, a solidarity sleepout, and interfaith vigils on the issue of hunger and homelessness.
At Assumption College, Social Justice Ambassadors assembled “Helping Hands” bags to distribute to individuals on the street, encouraged students in the dining hall to eat what a typical meal would be at a soup kitchen, and also held a solidarity sleepout.
These Catholic colleges and universities, and many others, are reflecting on the Catholic Social Teaching, the option for the poor and vulnerable, creatively tackling direct engagement and awareness in the issues of hunger and homelessness.
Did your campus observe Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week? Share it with us! Email Lexie Bradley.
Since its inception, the Church has been a staunch defender of human dignity. One violation of this God-given quality is human trafficking, which the UN Office on Drugs and Crime defines as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force […] for the purpose of exploitation,” which can include forced prostitution, other types of sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, or forced removal of organs. The UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute estimates that there are 2.7 million victims of trafficking around the world.
The pervasiveness and horror of this crime make the issue particularly pressing. Pope Francis says, “It constitutes a grave violation of the human rights of those victimized and is an offense against their dignity, as well as a defeat for the worldwide community.” He calls for “a shared sense of responsibility and firmer political will to gain victory on this front.” Human trafficking clearly calls for a response from Catholics, especially as a violation of the Catholic Social Teaching principles of human life and dignity, human rights and responsibilities, preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, dignity of work and workers’ rights, and solidarity.
These principles guide many Catholic colleges and universities in their involvement in anti-human trafficking work and research. Saint Vincent College (SVC) received a Global Solidarity Grant for their anti-human trafficking project, “Connecting the Local Community to the Global Issue of Human Trafficking.” The grant, offered jointly by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and Catholic Relief Services, funded a special opportunity to learn about human trafficking to the college’s annual Campus Ministry Spring Break Service Trip to Brazil. On that trip, participants prepared meals, worked with orphans and abandoned elderly, served at an AIDS clinic, taught language, and played with the children at the Missionary Sisters of Christ’s schools in São Paulo. In addition, they heard presentations on human trafficking in Brazil from the Sisters, who work closely with survivors of human and sex trafficking. Speakers shared their firsthand experiences of sheltering survivors and educating the vulnerable population about the threat of human trafficking. Fr. Killian Loch, director of campus ministry, says it was “very powerful being with [the Sisters] and seeing their joy, and listening to them speak of true freedom.”
To engender true freedom for all victims and survivors of human trafficking, it is essential to raise awareness on the issue. On the SVC campus, the Global Solidarity Grant also went towards assisting students on an anti-human trafficking committee in observing the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, patron saint for victims of slavery and trafficking. The feast day coincides with the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, with students attending Mass and an awareness campaign. In addition, the committee hosts a Day of Awareness in April, which includes informational displays and activities such as prayer sessions, art demonstrations, letter-writing to trafficking victims, and speakers from external organizations like the Pittsburgh-based Project to End Human Trafficking. Overall, the events on campus as well as the spring break service trip flow from a desire among students and faculty “for ways to become more connected to Catholic Social Teaching,” says Fr. Loch.
Another example of deepening connections to CST in the area of human trafficking is found at the College of St. Benedict (CSB)in Minnesota. In 2016, CSB Campus Ministry’s Alternative Break Experience (ABE) ministry coordinates a yearly service trip on sex trafficking awareness in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Participants and coordinators partner with Breaking Free, a St. Paul-based nonprofit organization that helps women and girls “escape systems of prostitution and sexual exploitation” through survivor-led and victim-centered “services, housing, and education.” The trip’s effects are lasting; in a reflection from last year’s ABE, one student wrote, “Breaking Free and the reality of sex trafficking demonstrated the importance of communities so powerfully and I will be very intentional about engaging and being a part of my community.”
CSB Campus Ministry’s Spirituality and Social Justice (SSJ) ministry coordinates a yearly Sex Trafficking Awareness Week, including a collection at Mass for a Sexual Assault Center; presentations on topics such as “Transforming Porn Culture,” sex trafficking basics, and advocacy. Carley Castellanos, assistant director of campus ministry, reports that around 200 students, staff, and faculty members participated in the activities, including the Handprint Campaign. Castellanos says the Campaign encourages the campus community “to stamp their hand and commit to ending sex trafficking.”
Participants also partake in advocacy by encouraging their senators and representatives to cosponsor the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act, an initiative led by the CSB Catholic Relief Services Ambassadors. Castellanos writes that the activities flow from both CST and Benedictine Values, including Awareness of God, Community Living, Dignity of Work, Hospitality, Justice, Listening, Moderation, Peace, Respect for Persons, Stability, and Stewardship.
Another unique example of anti-human trafficking efforts at Catholic colleges is found at the University of San Francisco (USF) within the School of Management. Professor Marco Tavanti, Ph.D., director of the Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA) program, president and co-founder of the World Engagement Institute (WEI), and director of the Academic Global Immersion (AGI) program, spearheaded the May 2015 USF for Freedom Symposium (USF4Freedom) with colleague Dr. David Batstone, who founded the Not for Sale campaign. Tavanti says USF4Freedom was organized by the students who participated in the AGI-Rome program, an immersion trip for MNA students “in collaboration with Jesuit Refugee Services on international practices and global policy challenges facing refugee service management, forced migrations, and human trafficking,” the program’s website states. The Symposium consisted of a day of lectures given by leaders in various Bay Area nonprofits that serve human trafficking and modern slavery victims, such as Jesuit Refugee Services, Not for Sale, and others that seek to “accompany and advocate for the underrepresented.”
Tavanti emphasizes that USF4Freedom, AGI-Rome, and the partnership with the WEI seek to inspire and equip students to act. He says USF4Freedom and AGI-Rome inspired the development of a Professional Graduate Certificate in Humanitarian Emergency Management “as a way to build capacity in building careers in this field.” He also notes the influence of USF’s Jesuit animation on USF4Freedom: “It sprang from the importance of addressing the Jesuit values of ‘accompaniment’ along with advocacy and service, to inspire our reflections and preparations.” Pope Francis also played a large role: Having met with the Holy Father in January 2016 during the second AGI-Rome, Tavanti and his students “have been further inspired by Pope [Francis’s] call for social justice and human dignity.”
A final example of a campus working against human trafficking is Loyola University New Orleans (LOYNO). LOYNO’s Modern Slavery Research Project (MSRP), founded and directed by English Professor Laura Murphy, Ph.D., “is working toward emancipating victims in Southeast Louisiana and the U.S. from modern slavery through data-based research and training that better serves victims and supports the advocates who make escape possible,” the project’s website explains. In addition to research and training, MSRP works on legislative advocacy and education in partnership with the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives; runs the Make Escape Possible campaign; publishes reports such as its latest on Trafficking Among Homeless Youth; coordinates events such as book talks, storytelling, and film screenings; and works with the Greater New Orleans Human Trafficking Task Force in a project funded by the Department of Justice.
Undergraduate research assistants and interns are involved significantly in the MSRP. The lead intern, Lauren Stroh ’17, is “happy to be on board and working alongside the rest of [the] team to collect real data on the issue” to better inform a range of audiences, from legislators to “individuals involved in combating this issue firsthand.” Stroh has become one of those individuals as she has “had the opportunity to listen to survivor narratives at length” and has found that “there is truly no one who understands what these survivors have gone through better than they do, and hearing them speak about their experiences has done wonders to educate [me] about […] modern slavery.” Stroh hopes to extend her experience with this issue “beyond the United States to the world abroad” through a potential Fulbright scholarship.
From these examples, it is evident that Catholic higher education fosters a thirst for knowledge and a desire to act on human trafficking issues. The animation of charisms such as the Jesuit values of accompaniment and solidarity or the Benedictine principles of the dignity of work and respect for persons has allowed students, staff, and faculty to soar in their work against modern slavery. Pope Francis has said that part of our response to human trafficking must be to “provide victims with… the possibility of building a new life.” As we continue to contemplate the New Life given to us this Easter season, let us follow the example of Catholic higher education in providing that new life for our sisters and brothers in modern slavery.
Justine Worden is an undergraduate student at Georgetown University and the Peace and Justice Intern at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
In addition to the Catholic higher education institutions recently profiled, Villanova University has also been deeply involved in education, advocacy, and service activities around the Syrian refugee crisis.
To begin the academic year, the CRS Partnership, CRS Ambassadors, the University’s Law School Clinic for Asylum, Refugee and Emigrant Services (CARES) and the College of Nursing’s Center for Global and Public Health joined together to produce a forum on the Syria and Iraqi Refugee Crisis. On October 21, 2015, over 250 members of the Villanova community gathered to hear from representatives of each of the sponsors as well as the founder and director of the University’s Center for Arab and Islamic Studies, a former UNHCR Protection Officer in the Middle East, and a Syrian CARES client applying for asylum. Among the topics addressed were the migration path, push factors, laws governing protection, adjudicating refugee cases, impacts of refugees on the region, and what we can do in the United States. During the event, Kathleen O’Hara, Global Health and Migration Coordinator for Villanova’s CRS Ambassadors, encouraged the audience to advocate on behalf of the refugees by writing letters to President Obama and their state legislators.
To finish the fall semester, the CRS Ambassadors hosted a “Season of Solidarity” Interfaith Vigil for Syrian and Iraqi Refugees on December 3, 2015. As part of the Season of Solidarity, the Ambassadors’ ongoing awareness, service, and advocacy campaign in support of Syrians and Iraqis fleeing violence, the Vigil brought together the Villanova community to hear from University President Fr. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, CRS Student Ambassadors, Assistant to the President Fr. Kail Ellis, a refugee who fled Syria two years ago, and other CRS representatives. Together, participants and speakers prayed for the safety of those fleeing violence and for peace.
One exciting upcoming event is the “Run for Refugees 5k,” which will take place on April 15, 2016. Planned by the CRS Campus Ambassadors, all Villanova students and student organizations are invited to run or assist with the 5k, which will include opening remarks, an opening interfaith prayer, and education around the refugee crisis throughout the run. Runners will be asked to play a role as a refugee and may be stopped at a border, before they can begin running again. Runners may be asked to run carrying a baby or remove their shoes, replaced with sandals, while running. Through the 5k, the CRS Ambassadors hope to create empathy for the refugees. Register to run or volunteer!
The breadth and depth of Villanova’s efforts to increase awareness and action around the Syrian and Iraqi refugee crisis is impressive and inspiring. How is your college or university engaging in the Syrian refugee and migration crises? Let us know!
Earlier this month, Seattle University and the University of Washington came together to bring awareness of homelessness in Seattle to their campuses.
The two campuses jointly sponsored an event, titled “Ending Homelessness in Seattle,” featuring Edward Murray, Mayor of Seattle, along with experts on homelessness, according to a National Catholic Reporter article.
For Seattle University president Fr. Stephen Sundborg, SJ, the issue of homelessness is of paramount importance for both the University and Seattle as a whole. He noted that while three of five Seattle homeless men and women are in shelters or transitional housing in the winter, two of five are still on the street. He says, “It is not like this is something ignored or underplayed in our region, […] but it remains a state of emergency – a shock and scandal that the problem is getting worse rather than better.”
Food for Thought Friday: Saint Louis University’s Hannah Vestal shares her story of how carrying a forty pound jerry can not only changed her life but the lives of those suffering from the water crisis. What started as an act of support for a friend, ultimately turned into Vestal carrying a forty pound jerry can everywhere she went for eight months.
This act of solidarity changed her outlook on the world and helped inspire other students to spread awareness about the water crisis. It also elicited a response from her Senator, and raised over $7,500 to purchase a new windmill aqueduct for a village in Panama. Her story reminds us that significant change can be sparked by simple actions. Read the whole story in Millenial.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) University offers several resources and ways for your campus to engage in Catholic Social Teaching and climate change activism. One of the most prominent ways in which CRS University fosters student and faculty engagement is through the Student Ambassador Program. By getting involved with or starting chapters at their universities and colleges, students and faculty will have the opportunity to build their leadership skills through learning about and educating their campuses on poverty and injustice around the world. Visit the CRS University website for more information on how to get involved with your university’s chapter or even start your own!
Additionally, CRS University offers the CRS Global Campus program. This is designed to promote global solidarity by forming an institutional partnership between CRS and the member colleges and universities. The partnership gives Global Campuses access to training and professional development, CRS staff and partner speakers and academic and campus resources. For more information on the program and how to get your campus involved, please visit the Global Campus program website.
Specifically related to environmental justice, CRS University has begun the “I am Climate Change” social media campaign, which is directed towards college students. In addition to instructions on how to get involved on social media, the website has a full calendar of campaign events, including rallies, advocacy trainings, and more. The campaign also offers an easy format to contact your senator and representative, with a pre-written letter urging the addressee to approve funding for President Obama’s $500 million request for the Green Climate Fund. “I am Climate Change” encourages followers to reflect upon and live by the mantra: “I am the cause. I am the solution. I am climate change” and to use the hashtag #iamclimatechange where ever possible.
Sunday, February 8, the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita*, will be the first International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. Campus communities across the country are encouraged to organize their own local events. Sample prayer services and other resources are available from the Global Freedom Network. Through prayer and action, we can comfort and help empower our brothers and sisters who have suffered through this affront to human dignity. In the words of the Committee Chairman for Migration, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S.: “If just one person realizes from this day that they or someone they know is being trafficked, we will have made a difference.”
*St. Josephine Bakhita was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and Italy. Once Josephine was freed, she became a Canossian nun and dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering. She was declared a Saint in 2000.
The ACCU President and many presidents of ACCU member colleges and universities have signed a letter of support drawing attention to the child refugee crisis. This letter, The Plight of Child Refugees Tests the American Character: A Statement by Catholic Higher Education Leaders, highlights the urgency and the desperation of the situation of child refugees, drawing attention to our duty as a nation and as Catholics to care for the most vulnerable. Presidents of Catholic colleges and universities pledge to support child refugees, especially by raising awareness of the issue on campus.
ACCU and its member colleges were recently featured in an Inside Higher Ed article which drew attention to the letter of support. Additionally, Catholic organizations have orchestrated humanitarian responses, created children’s services resources, and have created material to raise awareness about the refugee children and their situation.