Professor Melinda Papaccio, students, and Seton Hall guests with members of the I-Thirst recovery team, led by Keaton Douglas
Inside the Core, we try to encourage students to experience things related to their Core classes, in the form of service learning or talks relevant to the Core, in one way or another. During the last two weeks, I have had the privilege to participate in three of these events. All three spoke to me powerfully of the dedication of our faculty and the engagement of our Core students.
A couple of weeks ago, I joined a group of students from the Core on their service learning visit to Penn Station, where we would distribute food to homeless people with the Sant' Egidio Community. The group was also accompanied by three peer leaders from the CCRE, all of this activity coordinated by Professor Tim Hoffman of the CCRE (who often accompanies the group but could not do so this particular Tuesday). All the students seemed very happy to be helping in this way. When we met the Sant' Egidio community members at the station, they were bringing sandwiches and pasta (as they normally do, or sometimes soup instead of pasta). The students and I helped them, as we broke up into two groups, one working mostly inside Penn and the other outside. A highlight for me occurred when our group met a man from Ecuador, the same country of origin of one of the student peer leaders. He was excited to be meeting someone from his home country and asked for us all to pray with him. We did, holding hands, and he led us in a beautiful prayer.
Sister Bosco with the newly ordained men from the Holy Family Fathers in Nigeria
Another service learning event occurred this Saturday at the Saint Joseph Shrine in Sterling, NJ. Professor Melinda Papaccio's Journey students completed the third of their service learning events, focused on the topic of addiction. They all attended a Mass of Recovery at the beautiful chapel at the Shrine, with windows behind the altar overlooking a huge park. I have written about Melinda's I-Thirst activities before, but this one was especially important to me, as I was able to join the group, along with my sister, Judy, and two friends, Jayne Danco and Sue Maloney. After the Mass, the Seton Hall group went to a meeting room where a number of people in recovery met with us, one or two of them joining each table of students. My sister and I sat with a lovely group of students, joined by a young woman in recovery, a mother of a young child. She shared openly and honestly about how using opioids for pain relief led to a horrible problem with addiction from which she is now so grateful to be on the road to healing. Then our group was joined by two men, one of whom shared about moving through recovery to now being a counselor in support of others. The other man shared about how grateful he is to be in recovery, and my sister and I were also interested to learn that our mothers shared the same birthday (Nov. 9), the day we were at the Shrine. The whole event showed the powerful commitment of Professor Papaccio, who was accompanied also by her daughter, to the recovery ministry, I-Thirst, and to her students. She lost her son, Nunzio, to an overdose of fentanyl on Sept. 22, 2018, and her activities to counter addiction are a wonderful tribute to his memory.
Finally, this past week I was privileged to participate in two talks, given by Core and Communication professor Sister Mary John Bosco Amakwe and myself about our trip to Nigeria last summer to participate in the ordination of eight young men from the seminary there affiliated with her order. The first talk, given on Wed., Nov. 6, was geared toward Core students, and the second, given on Friday, Nov. 8, was geared toward the MLK Leadership group, led by Rev. Forrest Pritchett. The subject of both talks was the same. We shared about Sister's order, the Holy Family Sisters, and the brother order for men, the Holy Family Brothers and Fathers of the Youth, and their ministry in Nigeria working with troubled youths of both sexes. Sister shared about how the ministry was started by Fr. Dennis Onunuju Obiaga in order to help, first, young women who were pregnant, with sisters helping the women through the pregnancy and then toward reconciliation with their families. The men seek to help troubled boys and girls, as well as disabled young men who are often abused by families to which they are sent off to be apprentices. The Fathers seek to build a tool shop to teach these young men a trade. It was a joy to share with students the important work going on in Nigeria, work connected to the Core through one of our own faculty, and also deeply relevant to the Core's focus on the global church and the Catholic intellectual tradition, here expressed in very tangible and concrete ways.
Finally, I feel grateful for the faculty and students participating in all of these important events linked to the Core. Central to all of them is an expression of meaning and value rooted in our Catholic intellectual tradition but deeply and warmly open to those of all or no faith traditions—an engagement with our world and a response to its needs.
Categories: Faith and Service