The following speech was delivered by Ms. Lillian DiĂĄz-Imbelli at morning assembly on May 4, 2012. Her reflection is on the Grad at Grad characteristic: Committed to Doing Justice. I am honored and humbled to have been asked to speak today on the Grad at Grad characteristic: Committed to Social Justice and thank Mr. Lyness for this opportunity. Although I am focusing my reflection on this one characteristic, I am struck by how each of the five Grad at Grad characteristics informs the other. Each day, I try to be a more loving and compassionate person with my family and friends, the students that I meet during the application process, and their families as well; being open to my own growth has found me back in the classroom as a student, which has made me more intellectually competent and confident. In fact, the diversity work that I have found myself drawn to is rooted in social justice pedagogy and the work of Paolo Freire and his work with the oppressed and marginalized. Although I still need to work on being more religious, I know that the opportunities that I have had here at Loyola over the years have made me a more spiritual and contemplative person. While I have come upon Jesuit education later in life than you all have, I feel blessed to have had the privilege over the last few years to grow within the Loyola community. I am convinced that had I been any place else, I would probably not find myself back in the classroom as a student and would have missed out on one of the best decisions of my life.
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Over the last seven years, I have been fortunate to have experienced a few of the YSOP Christmas retreats and witnessed the amazing generosity and sensitivity that you all so sincerely share. The first time that Mr. Bludgus asked us to reflect on the Gifts and Challenges of our service experience, I nervously worried about what I could and should share. But, listening to your reflections inspired, nourished, and empowered me - making the overnights among the most moving and meaningful moments of the holiday season. Although I never feel that I do enough with regard to service, I find comfort in the words my brother-in-law, who is a priest in the archdiocese of New York, a theology professor at Boston College, and a graduate of both Regis and Fordham University, said to me many years ago when I voiced these same concerns. At the time, I wanted to be more involved at my local church, but juggling three children and the challenges of a family member with Alzheimer’s left me no time, or much energy. He reminded me, however, that our ministries begin at home; home can be where you may live with your family, where you study with your friends, or where you work with your colleagues. In Jessica’s Grad at Grad reflection the other day she mentioned that there are two components to social ministry: works of charity and works of justice. Paolo Freire distinguishes between humanitarian gestures and humanistic deeds. In other words, while individual gestures may help address particular needs, it is our humanity that is equally important. Once I again, I draw on Freire and his work. In
Teachers as Cultural Workers, he said that the “fundamental condition of life is the condition of relationship; relationship to oneself and to the surrounding world.” While
we may never have the time to do as much as we want for others, if we are just, it may be enough. A few years ago, a number of faculty were given a once in a lifetime opportunity to go on a pilgrimage to Spain and Italy to follow in the steps of Ignatius. I was one of those lucky few. The experience was wonderful and different for each of us. For me, there were two particular highlights: during a mass in the town of Manresa, Fr. Katsouros. pointed out that above my shoulder under a Plexiglas shield was the cross that Ignatius carved during his retreat in the cave; the second was a homily that Fr. Sehler gave in which he reminded us that, “It’s all gift, we have done nothing to deserve this.” I’ve interpreted that to mean the gift of family, friendship, talent, God’s love-and ultimately life itself. The experience at Manresa was profound for me. It may sound strange but it was when I really appreciated that this remarkable man that we still follow was real and not just an historical figure. Fr. Sehler’s words were equally moving and a reminder to me that my commitment to social justice, whether at home or in the world, is the least I can do to show my gratitude -for all the blessings in my life and the gifts that have been bestowed on me- and to humbly honor the legacy of Saint Ignatius.