By Marybeth Kearns-Barrett ’84, Associate Chaplain
This past spring when
we planned the session entitled, “What does it mean
to be a Holy Cross student?” for Gateways, our new
summer orientation for first-year students, we turned naturally
to our mission statement. Studying the four questions in
the opening paragraph, we decided to have different faculty
and administrators address each one. I was asked to address, “What
are our special responsibilities to the world’s poor
I believe that the quick consensus of
the planning group to have the associate chaplain discuss
of our responsibility to the world’s poor
and powerless is significant. For us at Holy Cross, this is not simply an academic
question – though certainly we expect that it will be addressed academically
in students’ course work and research. Likewise, it is not simply a humanitarian
question, though often the spiritual underpinnings of our responses are not explicit.
At Holy Cross, we believe this is a question rooted in our identity as a Jesuit,
Catholic college. We believe that ultimately this is an inquiry sparked by God – by
a growing awareness of one’s gifts and how they might be shared in conjunction
with our conviction, rooted in the Cross, of God’s refusal to abandon those
who suffer and God’s invitation to us to do the same.
While deciding who should address each of
these questions was easy, trying to imagine how to present
this question of the poor and powerless to a group
18-year-olds and their parents was not as simple. How do we invite people
preoccupied with so many other legitimate concerns, such as: “Will I succeed in this
new environment? What happens if I don’t like my roommate? How will we
afford these tuition payments?” to consider in the light of faith, the
impact of their education on their responsibility to the world’s
poor and powerless?
After considering various approaches, I decided
to share with these new members of our community the stories
of current students who have wrestled
question. I am happy to report that finding stories to tell was not a
problem. In my seven minute slide show, I shared the responses
of six students:
Brendan McDermott ’99 and his work for Habitat for Humanity in Africa; Kathy Cosgrove ’99
and her efforts with SPUD in Worcester; Yusuf Gulleth ’00 and his trip
to Appalachia; Erin Moulton ’98 and her initiatives with Students for Life
and violence against women; Meg Doe ’98 and her delivery of medical supplies
to people in Iraq; and Chi Bang ’97 and his encounter with the
people of Mexico. While the work of these students is as varied as the
there is a common thread in their understanding of themselves as having
God-given gifts to share.
I think this prayer written by Chi Bang ’97, himself a Buddhist, at the
end of his participation in the Mexico Program sponsored by the Chaplains’ Office
captures well the spirituality of our students as they are engaged with the
poor and powerless:
My feet have been washed; scales have fallen from my eyes.
Parents have sacrificed things we do not see.
God knows no boundaries; thus love knows no boundaries.
Let my eyes and ears be the teacher of my soul.
Let the breaths of these people set my sail along the journey
Late night chats that inspire and inquire.
Ambient places that give life to me.
Hidden beauty in the streets of poverty.
The sweet music of laughter, friends anew shaking hands.
Teach me to offer as I have been offered.
To touch as I have been touched.
I long for the day for it to rain.
Rain down on this dry land, rain that will feed and cure.
But most of all, a rain that will shower and cleanse us with