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2014 Service & Justice Trips Newsletter

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Words of Wisdom: Dr. Roger Bergman

Dr. Roger Bergman of the Justice and Peace Studies Department.

Dr. Roger Bergman of the Justice and Peace Studies Department.

I often tell my Creighton friends that if I had time to take extra majors beyond my double-major in journalism and theology, I would probably tack on a psychology major, along with justice and society, English, and social work. I’m kind of a dork.

The beauty of my theology major is that it gave me the chance to incorporate the things I love about the justice and society and social work majors into my course repertoire. I could take theology classes that emphasized Catholic Social Teaching or the application of spirituality into ministry work.

One such class like this was Dr. Bergman’s Christian Ethics of War and Peace class, which conveniently overlapped with both the theology and justice and peace studies majors. Perfect.

Dr. Bergman began the Justice and Peace Studies program in 1995. Because he dedicated his professional life to teaching students how to work for social justice in their communities and the world, and because of my interest in continuing with some kind of social justice work beyond Creighton, I decided Dr. Bergman would be a good person to ask for words of wisdom.

I walked into Dr. Bergman’s office out of breath after climbing the four flights of stairs in Creighton Hall at record pace (I was running late after leaving the CCSJ later than I expected). If he noticed, he didn’t say anything, but simply greeted me with a friendly smile and asked the question all seniors love and hate to answer: “What are you doing after graduation?”

After catching up for a few minutes, I expected Dr. Bergman to dive into his words of wisdom with something profoundly social-justice oriented. I was surprised when, instead, he started talking about the Ignatian Examen.

“Pay attention to your deepest promptings, your deepest desires,” Bergman said. “If you can get to that truth about yourself then that’s ninety percent of the battle. It’s a vocational question: Who are you in the world?”

When I asked Dr. Bergman how we can keep up this practice of reflection in the midst of pressures to be practical, to have everything figured out and be focused on being successful (not bad things, but they can be if they consume us), he pointed to the Examen. The Examen is a Jesuit mode of reflective praying through your day.

“I’m a big fan of the Examen as a way to look at where your spirit was in the day and how it met other people’s spirits, it’s a way to look at highs and lows,” Bergman said. “You find the one time/moment of the day when it seemed like something happened and you think about why it stands out to you, why it’s significant.”

Bergman pointed to Fr. Dennis Hamm, S.J.’s article “Rummaging for God: Praying Backwards Through Your Day” as an example of a good way to approach the Examen.

Having done the Examen for many years, Bergman believes that if you reflect and pray with it consistently over time, you can start to see patterns developing, patterns that tell you who you are and where you’re headed. Bergman emphasized the way the Examen can lead to greater self-knowledge and awareness of what it is we are truly called to do with our lives, and the importance of realizing this first before looking at logistical questions of careers.

“Once you’re centered in that discernment, you can move on to the practical stuff and it doesn’t seem so stressful,” Bergman said. “It doesn’t happen all at at once. Sometimes you have to tell those who are pressuring you to make practical decisions to give you a break.”

Along with promoting greater self-awareness and discernment, the Examen can also help you carry an attitude of attentiveness throughout the day and can even lead to praxis-focused reflection, Bergman explained.

Praxis is the act of reflecting on hard social injustices, asking questions about them and then acting on the energy those questions raise. In the CCSJ, we do this by asking “What?” “So what?” “Now what?” What is the issue I’ve just encountered? Why does it matter? What am I going to do about it now that I care about it?

“Without this kind of deeper reflection that the Examen creates, action might not be as well-grounded,” Bergman said about the intersection of the Examen and Praxis.

“I would to say to students, especially, that it’s not about what you do tomorrow or next week, it’s about what you do for a lifetime,” Bergman said. “It’s about forming yourself by the things you participate in.”

For those specifically interested in pursuing social justice work as a vocation, Bergman had a couple of quotes to share:

1) When sharing the story of a friend who lost her house for resisting taxes as a form of social disobedience to promote peace, Bergman passed along a phrase she still lives by: “Be of good cheer. It’s better than being bitter and resentful.”

2) Along with this, Bergman shared a favorite Wendell Berry quote that speaks to staying positive in a world where so much work is needed: “Be cheerful, although you have considered all the facts.”

Finally, Bergman encouraged social justice workers to surround themselves with people of like commitments and goals.

“If [social justice work] becomes who who you are, than you can’t not do it,” Bergman said.

Bergman shared a quote with me from one of his former students, Holly Fuller (CU grad, ’03), that I think is appropriate to end with:

“It’s hard to be in solidarity with the poor but I can’t imagine not trying. If I don’t try then I am failing myself.”

Fun facts: Dr. Bergman has been a professor at Creighton for 25 years. If he could have one superpower of choice it would be that his knees were good enough to play basketball again.

 

Words of Wisdom is a blog series started by Student Coordinator Anna Ferguson, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences. Each blog is an interview that poses the question to various faculty, staff, Jesuits and friends: If you had to give words of wisdom to someone, or if there was one phrase or sentence you think people should live by, would would that be?

 

 

 

The CCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Creighton Center for Service and Justice (CCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the CCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.

 

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Dorothy Stang: Sustainable Justice

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CCSJ Student Coordinator Rachael Schwartz reflecting on Dorothy Stang

In honor of Dorothy Stang’s life and martyrdom (remembered on on February 12), Student Coordinator Rachael Schwartz reflects on Dorothy’s commitment to sustainable justice.

Dorothy Stang is a woman all justice workers and people should strive to be like.  She decided to devote her life to God as a sister of Notre Dame de Namur.  When I read her story, I was impressed by both her versatility, as well as her persistence.

Originally wanting to do missionary work in China, Dorothy found herself traveling to Brazil to do charitable works there instead.  The Amazon Rainforest is the lungs for the earth and also home to some twenty million people.  Dorothy was angry to see it constantly pillaged and becoming destroyed by ranchers and other exploiters.  She took it upon herself to protect these lands.

As a result, Dorothy was put on the “kill list” for environmentalists and advocates for the forest.  Two men gunned her down as she was their prime target. Dorothy was chosen to be killed because she put together self-sustaining programs in communities committed to their own independence and the sustenance of the rainforest.

Dorothy worked for justice until she was literally taken from this earth; that is what I strive to do. To be so selfless is amazing and I cannot begin to know where to start.  However, instead of getting overwhelmed, I will start with a single act for justice every day and gradually increase it.  No person is too small to make a difference.

 

 

Rachael Schwartz
CCSJ Student Coordinator
Class of 2017

 

 

 

The CCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Creighton Center for Service and Justice (CCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the CCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.

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Confidence in Peace

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“December 7, 1941 – a date that will live in infamy…with confidence in our armed forces with the unbounded determination of our people – we will gain inevitable triumph so help us God…a state of war has existed between the United States and Japanese Empire.” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt

As an American reflecting back to this date, this quote, and this moment – in all honesty – my heart does not feel uneasy.  Perhaps the reason why this is so is because I was not alive, much less imagined, when this momentous occasion played out and the declaration of war was made.  However, reflecting on this quote, this moment, as an individual in the communion of humanity, my heart is brought to tears. Not because Americans were caught off-guard or for any unfortunate strategic loss, but because of the lives lost, the tears that were shed, and the pain that was felt. Born and raised in Hawaii, I was raised not in anger or in a feeling of malice, but was raised to remember the attack on Pearl Harbor with a feeling of solace for others and faith in my heart; to remember Pearl Harbor is to remember the pain, the tears, and the loss in a way that can motivate you to find confidence not in our armed forces but rather, in peace.

December 7, 1941: a date that shall rest in peace and allow the lives that were lost to rest in paradise…with confidence in our humanity to unite our nations into a peaceful community. We will gain solidarity through faith and pray that a state of peace forever rest between the United States and Japanese Empire.

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Warm Hearts and Hard Starts: A Reflection for World Refugee Day

world-refugee_Day_14It was a nice break from the usual slogging through ESL and cultural orientation material. Today, instead of practicing introductions, writing letters and numbers or learning about job expectations, we gathered with the students we were tutoring and worked on an art project together.

 With a few paper cut-outs, red, yellow and orange tissue paper, magnet strips, and some glue, my weekly service site group and the dozen or so students at the Southern Sudanese Community Association (SSCA) created something truly beautiful: autumn leaf magnets covered with balls of tissue paper, in various designs and patterns.

Every week my co-coordinator and I took a small group of Creighton students to the SSCA to help tutor refugees in ESL, cultural orientation and job training classes. Actually, all of these were usually combined into one class, taught by one very patient, very joyful volunteer, a recent college graduate named Ben.

Every week we practiced introducing ourselves and saying where we were from, wrote numbers and letters, learned job-necessary vocabulary and prepared for the citizenship test. Our success depended on the students’ ages, newness and levels in the class.

As someone who has never had to flee my country for safety reasons, and as someone who would probably struggle to find these students’ native countries on a map, it was uncomfortable for me, at first, to spend two hours working with people I could hardly communicate with, whose lives I barely understood.

Despite all of this, friendships were forged, not only between the students I tutored and myself, but also between themselves and one another. And the more I engaged with this community, the more I felt a part of it and felt a desire to be in solidarity with them.

It was amazing to watch the students build a community between themselves. They all came from different countries (mostly Burma and Bhutan) and were fluent in different languages, but they always found ways to help and joke with each other.

Humor, it appears, can travel across other languages. When someone mispronounced an English word, or when something that Ben was teaching sounded funny, they would all look at each other and laugh. If a fellow classmate was struggling to get something right, they would all chime in, either in imperfect English or in that student’s native language, to help explain it.

Despite the language barrier, there were always ways of connecting with the students. Laughter and joy are things we can understand no matter what language we speak. The students spoke through wide grins, bright eyes and a willingness to laugh at themselves as they stumbled over words. It was a language I could understand and return with my own laughter and smiles.  Every so often I’d ask a student to teach me a word in their native language, which made me feel the most connected to these resilient, storied people.

They always impressed me. Day in and day out the students got themselves to class, often while balancing jobs. They had this determination that could not be quenched. All of them were older, but they had the hope and humor of elementary school students.

The more I got to know the students, the more I could envision what their lives were like before immigrating to the United States. It was hard to imagine spending  almost my entire life in a country and suddenly having to flee it for another because of violence and corruption. At these students’ ages, learning a new language was hard, being forced to adapt to a new culture was scary, and not knowing anyone was terrifying.

Yet these refugees never gave up. They never gave up the love and pride they had for their home countries, nor did they give up their project of making this country their home. To get to be a part of that project did so much more for me than I probably did for them. As I taught the students, I learned from them about a world beyond my own, a world that challenged me to love and be in greater solidarity with its people.

Even with all of this, it was still nice to take a break from the hard work and just have fun by doing an art project together. I was astounded by the woman I partnered with for the project. Every time I finished one of my little leaf magnets, I’d look down at it in pride, thinking, Wow, this turned out better than I thought it would. Then I’d look at my partner’s leaves and admire her creativity. I could never have come up with the kind of designs she had on her leaves. They were beautiful.

At the end of the class, as I gathered my leaves and said goodbye to the students, my partner took one of my leaves—my favorite of the three—and then took my hand, looked in my eyes and smiled. When she let go, one of her beautiful leaves was in my hand. A way to remember each other, a symbol of solidarity, an icon of her warm heart and the hard start she was overcoming.

Anna Ferguson
Student Coordinator
Class of 2015

 

The CCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Creighton Center for Service and Justice (CCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the CCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.

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Mercy & Forgiveness

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When someone hurts you, most of the time our initial reaction is anger. We get upset at the fact something bad happened to us because of another person’s action(s). Usually, if it was a complete stranger that hurt us it is easy to let go and move on. We vent about it to our friends and family, sometime allow it to bring us down for the day, and then move on.

But what happens when the person that hurt you is someone you are close to? What happens when this person is someone you trusted? What happens when this person is someone you care about? Then what; then how do we react?
Often times we have the same initial response: anger. However, the anger that is attributed to this situation, unlike the first scenario, is anger that is a result from the feeling betrayed. We are no longer upset about the objective portion of the situation; we are upset at the trust that has been severed. Sometimes we allow this anger to take hold of us. If this happens, resentment and hatred for the individual who hurt us usually occurs.
Today and every day, though, we are asked to be merciful and loving like our Father in heaven. Mercy doesn’t have room for hatred or resentment, neither does love. Mercy asks us to forgive, even when we believe the person doesn’t “deserve” to be forgiven, and love asks us to love, not because someone has ‘earned’ our love, but because we are dedicated to making love apart of our character. This means to love even when someone is difficult to love. To be merciful and loving is a difficult to understand and even harder to put into action.
During this Lenten time, I challenge us to take a serious look into our lives. Are there people in our lives we have not truly forgiven? If so, let us ask God to take this period in our lives to reshape our hearts into hearts of love and mercy. I also challenge us to ask ourselves this question: have we hurt someone and have not asked for forgiveness? Although we are called to have mercy and forgive those without being asked for forgiveness, saying I am sorry never hurts. It is never too late to apologize.

Dear God,
As we continue on our Lenten journey, create in us hearts of mercy and love. Help guide us in acknowledging people in our lives who we need to forgive. Help us also recognize those whom which we hurt. Give us the courage and strength to not only give forgiveness but to also ask for forgiveness.
In your name,
Amen

Christine Prissel
Class of 2014
College of Arts and Sciences
CCSJ Student Coordinator

The CCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Creighton Center for Service and Justice (CCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the CCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.

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