The Catholic University of America held its first Mother Teresa Day of Service on Sunday September 18th, following the canonization of now Saint Teresa of Calcutta, which took place two weeks prior.
The Day of Service was run by the university’s Campus Ministry, which is in charge of the university’s weekly service opportunities. Some of these weekly service opportunities were integrated into the Day of Service.
The Day of Service at the Catholic University of America is a tradition normally held every year during the fall. However, this is the first year it has been dedicated to Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
“Mother Teresa’s canonization in September was a perfect kind of way for us to begin this year in service,” said Emmjolee Mendoza Waters, the associate director of Campus Ministry.
The event was scheduled to have very high turn-out especially from students. Around 700 student volunteers signed-up, according to Amy Rowland, the program coordinator for community services at Campus Ministry. Students, faculty, alumni, and families served as volunteers.
Saint Teresa’s work began in India but the knowledge of it spread throughout the world. As of 2016, there are over 5,000 sisters and 400 brothers belonging to her order, the Missionaries of Charity, according to Rome Reports, a television news agency.
The Missionaries of Charity is the religious order started in 1950 by Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India, to serve “the poorest of the poor,” according to the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious website.
Volunteers were split into groups, each group going to a different site with a different activity, which ranged from planting trees on campus to serving lunch to those experiencing homelessness. One of the sites even included the Missionaries of Charity Convent, which is located in Washington D.C. Although, this site was limited to select groups.
“Her life while she was alive and what we’ve seen over the years have always been an example for us,” Mendoza Waters said. “It is a way for our community to come together and walk in her footsteps.”
An important part about the Day of Service, Mendoza Waters said, is “looking at the community as our family” and having the community come together to help others.
“The people who are affected by the water shed don’t really have the opportunity to serve or clean-up like we could,” said junior architect major, Timothy Farina, on the Anacostia River, where he served.
Mendoza Waters said that what she wants students to come away with is that they do not have to wait to travel to begin serving others. Instead, they can “find their Calcutta” now in their own communities. This is what she said is the theme for this year’s Day of Service.
Volunteers first met in the Edward J. Pryzbyla Student Center’s Great Room where they were welcomed with bagels and coffee. Three screens presented a slide show of pictures showing members of the university community, including the university’s president John Garvey, holding signs with the phrase #findyourcalcutta and each person’s “Calcutta.”
“It’s about us cleaning the environment but it’s also about us connecting with those people that clean the environment every week,” said Tatiana Amundsen, a senior architect major, referring to cleaning the Marvin Gaye Park.
Many students during the Day of Service were introduced to the service sites where they can participate weekly with Campus Ministry.
“I got to share my experience with people who usually wouldn’t come,” said Dan Pezzola, a senior politics major and student leader for Homeless Food Run.
After returning from serving, students were given the opportunity to sign up for service sites provided by Campus Ministry, including Homeless Food Run, Little Sisters of the Poor, and mission trips.
“There are so many ways to get involved,” Rowland said. “I just want to encourage student to find what inspires them, what makes them passionate, to find the people they connect with here is D.C., and to start here.”
After serving from around 9:30 am to around 1:00 pm, volunteers returned to the Great Room. There, they were provided lunch and were given several Saint Teresa prayer cards, pins, and medallions.
On the back of one prayer card, there is a quote from Mother Teresa herself saying “I want you to find the poor here, right in your own home first; and begin love there.”