I recently traveled to Tampa with 25 St. John Fisher College students for our annual Alternative Spring Break. This year we worked with Habitat for Humanity, Feeding Tampa Bay and Trinity Caf√© — free restaurants that feed the homeless. We also spent time in prayer and reflection. This experience not only deepened the students’ sense of purpose and their understanding of the need to serve others, but it also heightened their awareness about abundance in their own lives and how they are called to share it.
Ash Wednesday fell during our experience. That morning, we served at two Trinity Caf√©s, followed by Mass with distribution of ashes, small group reflections, adoration and ended with students praying the rosary on the banks of the Hillsborough River. What I noticed in particular that day was that nearly every student participated in the religious elements and understood that there was an importance to that day. One young woman I spoke with said outright that she wasn’t religious, but she was so moved by this that she wanted to talk to God about what she was feeling.
This is the power of Christian service. This is the power of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of these young people. This witnesses to the journey of Lent moves us closer toward the cross. These young students, men and women who not only are students but in many cases are working jobs, gave up a week of their lives in the name of others. In some small way, it mirrors the sacrifice our Lord made for us all.
There is an important lesson to be learned here for campus ministers, parish ministers, clergy and all the faithful alike: To reach today’s young people, you will reach them and engage them by fostering a culture of service.
Schott is the assistant director of campus ministry at St. John Fisher College.