When Was the Last Time Your Heart Was Broken?

As part of Jesuit Heritage Week 2018, we had the pleasure of hosting Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, for a Dahlgren Chapel Sacred Lecture. Sister Simone shared with the community her reflections on the importance of heartbreak in the work that she does to advocate for marginalized groups in society. 

The most moving and inspiring part of Sister Simone’s talk was her discussion of heartbreak. Like many people, I try to avoid heartbreak as much as possible. Heartbreak reveals my vulnerability—that I am not in total control when outside forces can have such a disturbing impact on me. Sister Simone’s conceptualization of heartbreak, however, highlighted the courage and boldness it takes to be willing to have our hearts broken, for when we open ourselves up to listening to and witnessing the life experiences of others, it is then that our hearts are able to break. Break for the mother whose son has been murdered, for the ill man who cannot afford medical treatment, and even for those who hurt us, who have themselves been hurt by someone else.

I had to ask myself throughout the lecture, how often do I let my heart sincerely and compassionately break? As much as I may pat myself on the back as an educated Georgetown student who wants to make positive changes in our world, what do I do when I’m confronted with pain and suffering? How easy it is for me to turn to numbing activities, scrolling through social media or watching Netflix, because if I paid enough attention I might actually be called to do more than tweet the latest #PrayFor____. As Sister Simone put it, if we are too busy protecting our hearts, then we are not engaged with our communities.

Sister Simone’s words were sobering, but they were inspiring and hopeful at the same time. For as she said, when we have the courage to have our hearts broken, when we move from a spirituality that is only for ourselves into a spirituality that engages with others, that is when the Spirit comes alive. As she talked about her experiences listening to and speaking with others and having her heart broken, she showed that when we speak from a broken heart, a heart that has genuinely been opened up to see and understand others, that is when healing takes place.

What does this mean for me as a college student? As Ignatian spirituality has helped me to develop my interior life, through things like praying the examen or going on retreat, it is tempting for me to use my spirituality for my own gain. However, if I as a student am to truly embody what it means to be a person for others, I must actively push past myself and engage with the realities and experiences of those around me. As Sister Simone said so eloquently, the desert is able to restore us, but then we must dare to go into the center of life—that area of life where we are most vulnerable, where we see one another, and where we embrace the brokenness of our humanity.

Written by Alexis Larios, COL ’18

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Finding Community with Jewish Life at Georgetown

Shaun Ho, pictured on far right.

Shaun Ho is a sophomore majoring in Regional and Comparative Studies.

Before coming to Georgetown, I never imagined I would be involved in any aspect of Jewish life in college. Yet today, the Jewish community is the most important part of my life at Georgetown. Most of my friends at Georgetown are Jewish. I am involved in many Jewish groups and organizations on campus. I cannot imagine what my life at Georgetown would be like without doing anything Jewish.

But here’s the thing: I wasn’t born or raised Jewish. My family is nonreligious and I have no Jewish roots. I even went to a Baptist elementary school. So, you might be wondering: how did I end up in the Georgetown Jewish community?

I became interested in Judaism when I first went to Israel during the summer before my senior year of high school. Visiting the Western Wall, the Old City, Masada, the Dead Sea, and numerous other places in Israel made me interested in the history, culture, and religion of the Jewish civilization. Visiting these millennia-old sites made me fascinated by the long history of the Jewish people and civilization. Furthermore, I was interested in how resilient the Jewish civilization is. As a mostly minority or diaspora group for the last two millennia until 1948, the Jews have faced numerous persecutions and existential threats as a result of rabid anti-Semitism. Yet, they have remained a thriving civilization today and established a modern state of their own. In addition, numerous aspects of the Jewish religion also captivated me, such as stories and teachings in the Torah and the Talmud. All of these reasons made me decide to study Judaism when I came to Georgetown.

So as a freshman, I began attending Shabbat services. I’m not going to lie, part of the reason I went to Shabbat was for the free dinner, and I didn’t think I would keep going to Shabbat. But after a while, I started going regularly for the spiritual fulfillment and the community. For most of my life I had rarely been interested in religion, but there’s something about singing hymns and saying prayers in Hebrew that helps me let out my stress at the end of the week and fulfill my spiritual needs. Furthermore, I made so many new friends in Shabbat, which motivated me to go to Shabbat even more. What better way to spend your Friday evenings than to hang out with your closest friends and enjoy a free Kosher dinner?

Apart from the religious aspect of Judaism, I am also part of many Jewish groups on campus, including JSA (Jewish Student Association), GIA (Georgetown Israel Alliance), and J Street U. Being able to work with these groups is definitely one of the most important aspects of my life here at Georgetown, because it makes me feel like I can contribute back to the Jewish community and to various political causes. Academically, I am currently getting a certificate in the Center for Jewish Civilization (CJC), through which I take courses related to Jewish culture, history, and political thought. I’ve also started learning Hebrew and Yiddish!

Most important, however, is the welcoming nature of the Jewish community. Rabbi Rachel, the JSA, Ronit, my GUish intern Janine Karo, and the rest of the community have all made sure that I feel at home in the “GUish” community. In fact, it is precisely because the Georgetown Jewish community is so small and tight-knit (as compared to Jewish communities in other top colleges) that I feel like I really belong to it. I know most of the people in the Jewish community, and (hopefully) many of them know me. I have happily found a home in the Jewish community at Georgetown, and I am very grateful for it!

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The Things We Value and Strive For

Paul Rochford, COL’20

Paul Rochford is a sophomore in the College majoring in History and minoring in Russian and Jewish Civilization

How has this semester been for you so far?

Returning to Georgetown at the start of this semester, I was excited to reunite with old friends, make new ones, and begin a more focused study in my academic interests. As the semester continued, I found that I was really enjoying my classes even amidst the workload, and I was glad to be back in the university atmosphere after a summer of working and interning back home. As usual, however, things started to pile up and at times, the joys of living and learning were overshadowed by stress and busyness.

What retreat did you attend and why?

I attended the Sophomore Retreat. As the name suggests it is intended for second-year students of all religious and non-religious backgrounds with a focus on the theme of vocation. The retreat came to my attention through my job with the Office of Campus Ministry and was advertised as a relaxing weekend and a great way to take a break from the rush of the semester. A student photographer was needed for the event – a part of my job description, so I decided to give it a go and sign up.

Have you been on a retreat before? If so, why? If not, why not?

Before attending this retreat, I had never attended a retreat with Georgetown before. It wasn’t for any particular reason that I hadn’t, other than that I had never thought about it before or found myself free on a weekend when one was offered. After my experience on the retreat this semester, I wish I would have taken the time to attend a retreat my freshman year; it was a truly transformative experience.

What are your thoughts on the theme of vocation throughout Sophomore Retreat?

As a sophomore, it is easy to get caught up in taking interesting and exciting classes, participating in organizations and clubs on campus, applying for internships, and enjoying the other exciting parts of university life, but too often we forget to take a step back, breathe, and examine our lives to see whether the things we spend our time and money on have an aim or focus that is in line with the things we value and strive for. The discussion on vocation that took place at the retreat, including remarks by Rev. Oskvig and a value-prioritization activity led by Beth Harlan from the Cawley Career Center, were extremely effective in guiding participants like me to take that step back, refocus, and be inspired to continue to work hard and achieve great results.

What will you take from your retreat back to campus as you finish the rest of the semester and your overall school year?

With the reminder I gleaned from the retreat discussion to periodically step back, refocus, and keep in mind my vocation – my personal calling – I am now more equipped to wisely manage my time and make important decisions through my years at university that will shape and direct both my professional and personal futures.

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Finding Community Through ESCAPE

Dajour Evans is a sophomore in the College and an ESCAPE leader.

The Dajour from this time last year had it more together than I do right now.

At that point in my life, I was a few months into my first semester of freshman year. I missed my family but I wasn’t very homesick. I was stressed, but who isn’t stressed in college? Honestly, on the whole, I was doing okay around the time I registered for an ESCAPE overnight. I heard from my friends who went that it was fun and that the food was great, which is really all I need to hear to sign up for basically anything. So I did, hoping for fun and food and not expecting too much.

When I think about that overnight retreat, nothing necessarily monumental happened. I didn’t make any new friends from my year who are still my friends today, and I didn’t come back a brand new person or anything. But, I enjoyed myself. I genuinely enjoyed myself in a place that wasn’t exactly my comfort zone with people I didn’t know, which is unusual for me. And on a more personal note, I finally had the time to sit back, breathe, and truly think about my life – what was making me happy and what wasn’t. For all of these reasons, I applied to be an ESCAPE leader.

I think, in hindsight, I was searching for a community at Georgetown. I wanted that same feeling of welcoming that I felt on my ESCAPE overnight, except I wanted it all the time. In my life, I have often struggled with finding comfort with other people and myself. I’m a pretty outgoing person, but it’s hard for me to make connections that truly mean something; connections that aren’t superficial. ESCAPE provides that space for me. I know I can always go to the ESCAPE office and feel welcomed.

Now, a year later, as I look back on my freshman self, I definitely was more put together than I am now. But oddly enough, I think I am better off now than I was then, and a large part of that has to do with ESCAPE. That space I have to reflect has allowed me to make tough but necessary decisions that I don’t think my freshman self would have made. And the friendships I have made have been more important to me than my friends probably know.

That’s the irony of it all, I suppose.

Sophomore year has so far been more difficult for me in every way than freshman year has. But because I now feel comfortable admitting when I’m not okay, and I have a community of people to share that with, I feel more at home at Georgetown now than I did just a year ago.

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Let the Music Capture You

Eva Lucchino (2nd row, 4th from left) performs with other choir members at our annual Lessons and Carols event.

Eva Lucchino is a junior in the college majoring in English and minoring in History and Theology.

What does it mean to you to be a cantor?

Ever since I was a little kid I have loved singing at Mass. I remember looking up at the cantor or the members of the choir and wondering when I could do that too. As a child, I mostly enjoyed Mass because of the music, but as I (and my faith) matured, I realized the importance of music in elevating the celebration of the Eucharist. Singing at Mass became less about being like an adult and more about recognizing God’s presence in my life. As a cantor, my hope is that I can help people enter into a state of prayer through the music.

When I sing hymns like “Amazing Grace” or “O, Come, O, Come, Emmanuel,” I am amazed by the beauty of God’s grace. There is so much love, so much faith contained in those songs, not only in the beauty of the words, but in the way music captures me. I hope that as a cantor I can help others to let their worldly concerns go for an hour and enter into the Mass recognizing God’s abundant love and mercy for them.

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