This spring, 95 members of the Le Moyne community rose early to spend a Saturday in service throughout Syracuse. The volunteers, including students, faculty, staff and family members, brought their hearts and hands to 11 off-campus sites and two on-campus locations, where they prepared and served food for the hungry, assisted at community centers and shelters that serve the poor and homeless population, and did hands-on chores and deferred maintenance such as cleaning, washing windows and painting at community centers that benefit the needy. The largest team of 28 people spent the morning with Friends of Schiller Park, working to prepare the park for neighborhood families to use this spring and summer.
The volunteers’ day began at 8:30 a.m. with a Rite of Commissioning at the Panasci Family Chapel and ended in the early afternoon with a lunch at the LaCasse Dining Center. William Dolan, S.J., a campus minister and principal organizer of the event, said that volunteers found the experience to be “deeply moving” and that “the staff at the places where they served were grateful for the help and praised the hard work and positive, cheerful and generous spirit of the Le Moyne group.”
For Margaret “Maggie” Conley ’14, the highlight of the day was assisting the staff of St. James Emmaus Ministry in serving breakfast to those in need.
“I was touched the graciousness of the people we served, and by the feeling of joy and light that came from the people we met,” she said. “They gave us so much more than we could have given to them, as is always the feeling I receive from doing service.”
The service of which Conley spoke lies at the heart of the Jesuit tradition. The very year the Society of Jesus was founded – 1540 – its members opened a soup kitchen in a church provided for their use by Pope Paul III, the Madonna della Strada Chapel. It was there that they fed and ministered to members of the local community, beginning a tradition of service and a commitment to social justice that has characterized the order for the past five centuries.
“We’re all called to leave our desks and give a piece of our hearts to the poor and needy, tapping into the lives of people who struggle, meeting them, engaging with them,” said Father Dolan. “My hope is that this helped to deepen our students’ awareness of society’s least-advantaged people and impressed upon them how important it is to lift up our fellow human beings.”
Since his election in March of 2013, Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pontiff, has called upon Catholics around the world to serve those in need, writing via Twitter that, “The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty.”