On Sunday, January 28, 2018 our high school parents were given the opportunity to listen to our Christian Service Program students’ reflections on their experiences in the program. Students are given three options for placements: The Gathering Place, McMorran Community Centre and Computers for Seniors. Thank you to students, coordinating teachers and Co-directors of Campus Ministries Mr. Raj Vijayakumar, S.J. and Mr. Brad Glynn for an enlightening evening. We are delighted to be able to share with you some of these reflections, along with the opening remarks of Principal Annette Mallay.
Opening Remarks by Mrs. Annette Mallay, Principal:
Our most important work is the development of young men and women for and with others.
Service to others has been an integral part of Jesuit formation and education since the Society of Jesus was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola over 500 years ago.
Our former Father General, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., said: “Today our prime educational objective must be to form men and women for others; men and women who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors. The education imparted in Jesuit schools must be equal to the demands of justice in the world. What kind of people are needed in the world today? Men and women for others.“
Christian Service is required of all students at St. Bon’s, and opportunities to reflect on the Christian dimension of service are part of the curriculum at all three levels: Level I, II and III.
For us at St. Bonaventure’s College, this message is lived in the service work that is promoted. Our staff are engaged in the ministries along side our students to show that it is what we believe to be the focal point of an education in a Jesuit school and to further exemplify the commitment that St. Bon’s has to a just global society.
We need to have an awareness that we are privileged and many in our community are not. We are called to action to help lessen the gap of the haves and have nots. Most importantly, we are engaging our young people to want and to desire to make our world more just by their actions and their call to serve.
Cullen Miller ’18 on Computers for Seniors:
One of the greatest opportunities for service here at St. Bon’s is our Computers for Seniors program. Every Friday, seniors from all around St. John’s come to our school seeking assistance with the use of technology, such as iPads and laptops. A handful of students, including myself, come to the Aula Maxima during our lunch period to help the seniors figure out whatever technology they are struggling with. However, the Computers for Seniors program has become much more than just a place where people get help with technology and then leave. For me, it has been an opportunity to really get to know the seniors and bond with them, and for the seniors it has been a chance to socialize with young people in a welcoming environment and share their experiences with us.
At Computers for Seniors, each student generally helps the same person every time, which allows us to not only pick up where we left off last time with the technology but also to really get to know our senior. Every time I have gone to Computers for Seniors, I have helped a man named Robert. When I walk into the aula and sit down with him, he starts by asking specific questions about how to use his tablet, such as how to log in and how to access the Internet. He is especially interested in research, so I help teach him to type whatever he is interested in and search it on the web. He will generally search for something that occurred during his life, such as events related to World War II and Newfoundland. Once he succeeds in finding what he is looking for, he begins to explain the topic to me, and goes into detail about the events and how they relate to Newfoundland. For example, one session he spent much time describing the American bases that were installed here in Newfoundland during World War II. In return, I ask him questions about what he is explaining and about his life, and it turns into a fascinating conversation that we both thoroughly enjoy. It is these conversations that have really been the defining experience at Computers for Seniors.
From these conversations, I have learned a lot about Robert and his enormous knowledge base. I learned that he has written a book about war history in Newfoundland, and he has taught me about the different historical events that happened in Newfoundland, such as Amelia Earhart’s solo flight across the Atlantic from Harbour Grace. I in turn have shared my experiences, and told him that my great-grandfather fought in World War II as a pilot for the US Navy. Through this, we formed an instant bond.
One of my most memorable moments at Computers for Seniors came the week after we got back from Christmas break. We had Computers for Seniors that Friday, but I couldn’t make it because I had to get ready to leave for a basketball tournament in Clarenville. Right before we left, Mr. McGrath called me into his office and gave me a book, Incredible Victory, that Robert had left for me and wanted me to have. It touched me that he had thought of me and given me this book, especially since the book was about World War II, a topic that had been the subject of many of our conversations. This showed me that we really had formed a bond, and helped me to understand the difference that I was making and that all of us have been making in the seniors’ lives through our service.
At St. Bon’s, one of the biggest goals is to make its students into “men and women for and with others”. The “for others” part of this goal is fairly simple to understand, and it is easy to just restrict service to doing things “for others”. However, through the Computers for Seniors program I have really been able to see the importance of the “with others” part as well. This is essential to service because it allows us to really touch the lives of others and form bonds with them that would otherwise not exist. The Computers for Seniors program would not be the same if our only goal was to just help the seniors deal with their problems with technology and let them leave. From what I have seen and experienced, the greatest difference that has been made has not been through the technological assistance but through the interactions and conversations with the seniors. Every time the hour designated for the program is up, I see the smiles on all of the seniors’ faces and know that they have been enriched in a way that is much more profound than just receiving help. Not only has the program benefitted the seniors, but I feel like I have personally grown a lot from these experiences, and I’m sure the other volunteers have as well. I believe that the Computers for Seniors program has made a huge difference in the lives of many people, and that it plays an essential role in the Christian Service element of the mission of St. Bonaventure’s College.
Ashley Stringer ’19 on The Gathering Place:
I started to get involved with The Gathering Place this summer as part of the Christian Service program at our school. Now, I’m not going to ignore the fact that I did only start going to The Gathering Place because I had to get my service hours for this year. Honestly, I don’t think I would be so involved in volunteering, helping others and immersing myself in different environments if it wasn’t for St. Bon’s and this program, and for that I will be forever grateful.
The Gathering Place started off as somewhere I had to go. That quickly changed the first time I walked through those doors at 7:15 on a Wednesday morning. I quickly realized the enjoyment I got out of the most surprising things like cutting the meat, buttering the bread, or even getting stuck with dish duty, better known as “the hobart”.
It’s not just a place where I clock up my volunteer hours, it’s a place where I give back to my community and where I am able to make connections with others. It’s a time where people who live totally different lives have the opportunity to be together. The main reason I go to The Gathering Place is honestly to see the smiles on everyones faces there, including mine. I know, it’s sounds extremely cheesy, but it’s the truth.
The Gathering Place gives me the opportunity to experience different people and ways of life in a safe, well organized environment that I may otherwise be completely sheltered from. The relationships and connections we are able to make with people we would never usually come into contact with are incredible. St.Bon’s takes its even further and gives us the opportunity to reflect on these experiences with each other in a group during our annual reflections at school.
Just knowing who likes ketchup with their eggs, or who always asks for jam, or who likes sweetener in their coffee, or who smiles every time you say good morning to them, are simple things that bring enjoyment to everyone there in the mornings.
We as a group created lots of close relationships with the guests, one guest in particular we bonded extremely well with. He would come in and eat his breakfast and then would proceed to fetch the dirty dishes and clear the tables for us. While on the hobart duty I would get talking to him, I would ask him how his week was and he would ask me the same. I would have never gotten the opportunity to know him and talk to him if it wasn’t for The Gathering Place. He is the sweetest man, who many may turn their back on, and to be honest, I may have too, solely due to his social status.
Now it’s certainly not always smooth sailing at The Gathering Place. Some mornings we don’t have enough food so we have to serve the customers less, which results in a little bit of tension. The other morning a customer said “geez bye are these people stingy or wah, I think I may have 11 cornflakes in my bowl, or maybe even 9”. Now your first reaction to that is definitely not going to be a good one. To be honest, neither was mine! However, through these types of experiences, I have learned to take a breath and think about the person who is saying it. Maybe they were never exposed to keeping their opinions to themselves, or at least being respectful! Maybe their parents did the exact same, maybe they do know the difference and they’re just having a bad week. The Gathering Place has given me the opportunity to really put myself in someone else’s shoes before I judge them by what they do or say.
More important than the amazing experiences for me, The Gathering Place’s main interest is helping those who need the many services they provide.
This Monday past a few of us were serving coffee and a man came up to me and said “could I please have a cup of coffee” so I made his coffee and brought it to him. When I got to his table he said “thank you, it was so cold last night and I’ve been looking forward to this all morning”. It was eye opening for me to think about how his night’s experience was so different from mine and to hear that a simple cup of coffee and breakfast was the highlight of his day. The Gathering Place provides a sense of hope and community for those who go to it.
Some people who come also just like to be there to talk. While serving breakfast one morning a man proceeded to tell me his whole life story from growing up with his family to his current life where he is trying to get a job. I stood there and listened as he went on and on about his life and his crazy, but interesting adventures because I realized some people really just want someone to talk to, to know someone cares.
If only one thing, The Gathering Place has opened my eyes to more than just my life, surrounded by people just like me. I have learned, in a safe and supportive environment, how others live, the struggles they go through and what I can do to help them. I no longer turn my back to those asking for money on the street or judge those who may have torn or dirty clothes. Instead I know they are people just like you and me, who just live a different life.
The Gathering Place will never again be something I have to go to. The people I have met, the impact I have hopefully made on their lives and the impact they have definitely had on mine, are things I will treasure forever. The Gathering Place is something I wouldn’t miss for the world.
Zoe Baker Pike ’20 on McMorran Community Centre
About a week ago Mr Glynn asked me if I could come here tonight and talk to you guys about McMorran Community Centre and what role it plays in the Christian service hours. Before agreeing I didn’t realize that this was going to be more than just a favour for Mr Glynn. Through figuring out what I was going to say tonight, I was talking to other people in my class, other people in other grades, I even talked to Father Browne from Saint Pius X that helps McMorran weekly.
I realized how special McMorran is to people. Not only is it special to the children we work with it is special to the teachers and students that attend weekly. Every Thursday after school we get together in the foyer and teachers drive us over. When we get there kids are coming up to you asking “Can you teach me the piano?”, or “Let’s go play some basketball”, or “Can you help me with my homework?”. Once we all get settled in and figure out what we’re all doing for the hour or so, we have fun and there’s no fancier or better way of saying that. We have fun with the children and it’s amazing!
Once I really thought about it, I wanted to know more about the McMorran Community Centre so I contacted Father Browne of Saint Pius X Parish (who is also a Saint Bon’s alumni). He was telling me that he has been involved with McMorran Community Centre since 1982. When the Saint Pius X Parish expanded in that same year they took a whole area around Brophy Place and they went and counted around 350 children in the area with no place to play. They built a small house with help of grants from the federal government, provincial government and a lot of help from City Council, the Sisters of Mercy and so many more people from the community. Of those 350 children, they found children that had no money for extracurriculars like music lessons, help with homework, or a place to play sports. Father Browne explained how grateful he was for the students at Saint Bonaventure‘s College. He said it makes him extremely happy to see the children getting a hot snack and a beverage as they come from school.
While I was trying to write this speech I was trying to get people to give me quotes and get other people’s opinions on what MacMorran means to them and one that really stuck with me was a quote from a guy in my class. Nathan Glynn told me, “It makes my Thursday’s better”. That quote made me so happy, knowing that people’s day could be going terrible but as soon as they go there to help those children, teach them a new song, play a game, their day can get so much better.
When I go to MacMorran I usually do something musical. I’ve been known to sing and mediocrely help people play the piano, but my favourite thing to do there is play the drums. I’m not the greatest at drums but just teaching them the little bit of knowledge I know has brought so many smiles to peoples faces that gives me a permanent smile for the rest of my day.
A few other students told me about their experience with MacMorran and they were all positive. Michael Coffin in Grade 12 said “Its a great experience for me. I’m able to teach the kids at MacMorran skills that I have learned over the years and seeing them improve over time is a wonderful reward.” Liam Gale in Grade 11 said “Its a lot of fun and spiritually rewarding.” Clare Follett in Grade 11 said “I enjoy spreading my knowledge and love of music to the children at MacMorran centre each Thursday afternoon.”
Spending time at MacMorran for me hasn’t been something I and am only doing because I have to. It has been something I look forward to all week long. It is something I want to put more effort into and I will download sheet music and take it in to play with all the people who come to learn how to play the drums with me. It is a great thing to do – I love building relationships with people I would never have known unless I got this experience.