The Creighton Center for Service and Justice (CCSJ) engages students in community service, reflection and action on behalf of justice and sustainability as an integral part of their Jesuit, Catholic university education.
The CCSJ seeks: A. To involve students in direct service with persons who suffer and experience injustice in order to awaken the desire and develop the capacity to act with and on behalf of the poor and marginalized;
B. To promote and facilitate education and understanding of causes of domestic and international poverty and injustice and the moral obligations and principles for social and political action found in Catholic Social Teaching;
C. To promote student participation in advocating public policy and organizing on behalf of justice together with persons and groups locally and around the world active in bringing “the justice of the Gospel to society and culture” (Jesuit Social Apostolate mission statement, Rome 1998);
D. To form leaders for service and justice;
E. To promote and encourage the building of communities of faith, service, solidarity and justice while at Creighton and beyond.
The spiral is no ordinary loop. It is none other than the Praxis Spiral, a representation of “reflection in action.” It is one way of living the “examined life” that Socrates spoke of when he said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” The people around the Spiral are a representation of both our togetherness as a national and global community and the fact that we are social creatures who need each other’s care and love to sustain us. In the tradition of Catholic social thought, we are always “individuals in community.” For a more detailed explanation of the Praxis Spiral, just keep reading.
At its most basic, the praxis spiral is about having an experience and reflecting on that experience. The reflection leads one to action-another experience-which leads to more reflection. And so on around the spiral, deepening with each rotation. Experience/Action and reflection are part of the same process, one informing the other.
Experience/Action leads to Reflection, which directs further Action, followed by Reflection… Another way to think about this process is by asking What? So What? Now What? The “what” is the experience. What did I experience today, both from the outside and from the inside? What did I see? Hear? Smell? Taste? Touch? What did I Feel? The “so what” is the reflection. So what that I had this experience? So what that I felt this way? What does it all mean? How can I integrate the experience into the rest of my life? How will the experience change me? The “now what” leads us back to action. Now what do I do as a result of having this experience and reflecting on it? What small thing can I do? How can I think differently? Is there something larger I can begin to do? Are there others that can help me in my efforts? This “now what” brings us back to another experience, and the spiral continues:
What? So What? Now What? Next we can enhance the two previous versions of the praxis spiral. This expanded version of the praxis spiral describes what is already going on as well as offers us some suggestions about how to do reflection well. Here is the short version: The various stages of the spiral are not necessarily in sequential order. The order is generally correct, but any stage may be introduced or returned to at any point. Because we recognize that our lives are a group experience, we begin by “bonding with the community of people in our lives.” This is an on-going process, but we need to establish a safe environment around ourselves where people feel open but never forced to share or unjustly excluded. Next we “stay with the experience.” We use techniques such as the examen and journaling to stay with the “what.” What did I experience both from the outside and what did I feel on the inside? The next stage is “social analysis.” This stage begins stretching the “what” to ask “so what?” Social analysis is about looking at structures and systems to ask why things are the way they are. Social analysis asks questions of social justice: who has the power? Who makes decisions? Who will benefit? Who will be affected? The next stages go together. The “heart of the matter” and “theological reflection” continue to stretch the “what” by asking “so what?” But this time we are discerning key experiences (the heart of the matter) and placing these experiences in dialogue with where we make meaning, especially religious traditions. This process of making meaning leads us to ask “now what?” This is where we commit to some kind of action-however small or large. What will I/we do concretely? How has my vision of what the world changed through looking more deeply? How do I think or act differently to make this world a better and more just place? This action leads to another experience, which leads to more social analysis, and the spiral continues to deepen.
Bonding with People–>Sharing Life Experiences–>Social Analysis–>The Heart of the Matter–>Theological Reflection–>Action and Vision–>And the circle begins again…
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The Creighton Center for Service and Justice’s (CCSJ) website seeks to inform people of programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission while offering a space for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences. The views expressed are those of the individual authors and organizers and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the CCSJ, or any of the University’s affiliates.
Visit the CCSJ
Creighton Center for Service and Justice
Harper Center Suite 2067
2500 California Plaza
Omaha, NE 68178