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Graduating Seniors Honored for Commitment to Postgraduate Service

Author: John Guimond

From left, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Annie Selak, Terry Fitzgibbons, Rev. Ray Hammond, M.D., and Rev. Paul V. Kollman, C.S.C., join hands in prayer at the closing of the Center for Social Concerns’ Seniors Send-Off Ceremony From left, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Annie Selak, Terry Fitzgibbons, Rev. Ray Hammond, M.D., and Rev. Paul V. Kollman, C.S.C., join hands in prayer at the closing of the Center for Social Concerns’ Seniors Send-Off Ceremony

One hundred fifty-two University of Notre Dame graduating seniors—many of them from the College of Arts and Letters—are embarking on a year or more of service in locations around the globe. They were honored during the University’s annual Service Send-Off ceremony on Saturday, May 17 in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center’s Leighton Concert Hall.

Nearly a third of the graduates will join the Alliance for Catholic Education or programs that share its model to serve as educators in the nation’s Catholic schools. Others will serve in City Year, the Peace Corps, and Teach for America. And others will mentor orphans in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean; work to break the cycle of child abuse; or repair substandard housing in Appalachia. Still others will advocate for the rights of workers in the Southwest, foster spiritual formation in the nation’s parishes, or provide a host of other services that match the mission of Notre Dame.

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, commended the seniors for their commitment to service.

Also speaking at the event were Annie Selak, rector for Walsh Hall, whose postgraduate experience included work through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps at Alternatives for Girls in Detroit, and Arts and Letters alumnus Terry Fitzgibbons ’04, rector in Duncan Hall, whose post-graduate experiences included teaching in Uganda through the Congregation of Holy Cross Overseas Lay Ministry Program. They offered the gathered students a joint reflection on how their service experiences transformed their lives and urged students to make the most of the life-changing journeys on which they are about to embark.

“We may approach service to experience new things, to earn a master’s degree, or to give to others,” Selak said. “And while all these may happen, they really are just the filler in the margins. The real point of engaging in service is transformation. We enter into service to encounter others. And if we truly allow others into our lives … we will naturally be transformed.”

Three outstanding students were selected to introduce the speakers. They included Jonathan Schommer ’14, a Program of Liberal Studies and civil engineering major in the Reilly Arts and Letters/Engineering Dual-Degree Program, who will participate in Notre Dame’s ESTEEM (Engineering, Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Excellence Masters) program next year; Jiyeon Ahn ’14, who will serve with Farm of the Child in Honduras; and biology major Yuko Gruber ’14, who will serve with L’Arche in Washington, D.C..

In introducing Father Jenkins, Schommer quoted Dorothy Day, who said, “You love God as much as you love the one you love the least.” These words, Schommer said, “have been this pestering voice of conscience as I’ve tried to build genuine relationships. As much as I can look at my experience as one of being present to the joys in my life, I think it would also be true to say that my time at Notre Dame has been an experience of finding the things I love the least.”

In introducing Fitzgibbons and Selak, Ahn recalled an experience in Kolkata working with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity as part of an International Summer Service Program that transformed the way she understood service. “You. Did. It. To. Me. Shortened from a passage of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25, the ‘five-finger gospel’ gives meaning to the work—to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, and visit the imprisoned. It meant that the patients I served in the home for the destitute and dying, the children I danced with in the classroom every morning, the slum children who taught me Bengali—they were all Jesus.”

In introducing Rev. Paul V. Kollman, C.S.C., executive director of the Center for Social Concerns, Gruber spoke of how blessed she has been to participate in programs offered through the Center for Social Concerns and at the University. “Learning to recognize the fruits of life in community is one of the greatest blessings I have received through my experiences in the Center for Social Concerns.”

Many of the graduates became involved in service and social action through the programs and courses of the Center for Social Concerns. They join a community of many thousands of Notre Dame alumni who have chosen postgraduate volunteer service since the center was founded in 1983.

Originally published by John Guimond at on May 19, 2014.