As I sit down to write this, we’re nearly through our first semester back together on LMU’s Los Angeles campus, and the past few weeks have had me thinking a lot about cura personalis. For those new to Jesuit education, cura personalis is a cornerstone of Jesuit pedagogy and spirituality. It’s a Latin phrase that means “care for the whole person,” and in the fall of 2021, can’t we all benefit from being seen for the complex and ultimately good human beings we all are?
What does it look like to care for the complex entirety of a person in 2021? At the Center for Service and Action (CSA), we certainly have relished the opportunity to re-connect students to the greater network of nonprofit community partners in and around L.A. through partnerships with faculty across LMU in what is called Community-Based Learning (CBL) courses. These courses provide students an opportunity to connect their academic passions and talents to the opportunities to do good and meaningful work for and with the most vulnerable in this dynamic city LMU calls home.
Another avenue for connection has been and will continue to be Alternative Break (AB) immersion programs. CSA has accompanied students on short-term immersions over winter, fall, and summer break for twenty years now. These trips take students far out into the world: A nonprofit working in the Appalachian Mountains, a farm focused on sustainable agriculture in Puerto Rico, to the vibrant community of Dolores Mission, a Jesuit partner located in East L.A., and as of last year, a virtual immersion to explore the intersection of climate change and women’s rights in rural El Salvador. These experiences provide co-curricular opportunities for students to ask big questions: What injustices in the world are beckoning for my attention, and how am I equipped to respond to those needs? This year, we are excited to be sponsoring eight trips that will again serve as vehicles of personal and social transformation.
These days in the Center for Service and Action, our mission is as simple as it is audacious: We want to celebrate the dignity of all people. This speaks to how we train students to engage with the greater Los Angeles and global community, but it also speaks to how we seek to engage with one another on campus. Jesuit Priest John Padberg once said that “The real work of student development gets done amid the conversation. Don’t underestimate the power of the conversation.” Before the pandemic, I wonder if any of us gave enough thought to place ourselves into sacred spaces where we are both cared for and empowered to care for others. Now, for me, at least, it is hard to imagine anything more important than that.
As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for our students, staff, faculty, and nonprofit community partners who are showing up to build spaces of kinship where each of us are invited to bring the full complexity of ourselves to that space and be welcomed and loved. As you think about the next steps in your life, I hope one question above all else guides your discernment: Where do I feel most welcomed and empowered to be me and love other people for who they are? And if you decide LMU is the best fit for you, fear not, we’ve got a team of staff and students ready to enter into that conversation with you!
— Patrick Furlong, CSA Director