Category Archives: Service

10 Ways to Celebrate Holy Week

This week, Christians celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in a special way. Above all holidays, this week is the most central to Christian life. Here are 10 ways you can observe and celebrate Holy Week!

  1. Serve someone in need.
    Pope Francis has declared this the Year of Mercy so that all may “grow stronger and more effective” in mercy. Like the Good Samaritan in the gospel, we show mercy when we decide not to walk past someone in need. This exemplifies the life of Jesus.
    Example: Help serve a community meal at First Presbyterian Church in Leavenworth or in Kansas City Kansas with USM students. Meet at 4pm on Tuesday or 9:30am on Saturday respectively in the Office of Campus Ministry. Contact S. Rejane Cytacki (
  2. Read the Gospel.
    This is a great practice for Holy Week and a great way to revisit stories and words with which you might be familiar and others with which you might not be familiar.
    Example: Take an hour and read the Gospel of Mark from beginning to end reflecting on this question: how are the followers of Jesus continually challenged in the Gospel? OR Spend twenty minutes each night reading the Gospel of Luke reflecting on this question: who are the poor in the Gospel of Luke and how does Jesus serve them?
  3. Celebrate with a worshiping community.
    Many Christian churches come together to celebrate on Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter), Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil (Saturday night), and Easter Sunday. This is a great way to experience the richness of these holy days and share them with others.
    Example: The Sisters of Charity are celebrating Holy Week in 2016 with the following services in Ross Chapel (Mother house) open to any in the USM community: Holy Thursday 7:00pm, Good Friday 3:00pm, Easter Vigil 7:30pm Saturday, Easter Sunday 10:00am.
  4. Visit someone who needs a visitor.
    Show love and appreciation to someone who needs it. This could be a family member or friend you haven’t seen in a while, someone who is sick, or perhaps someone in prison.
    Example: Visit Sisters of Charity in Ross Hall with students from Rotoract Club. Meeting in the office of campus ministry at 3:15pm on Thursday March 24th.
  5. Plant a seed.
    Planting a tree, flower, or other plant is a beautiful symbol of resurrection used by Jesus in the gospel. The seed “dies” to become something new-a beautiful work of God’s creation. This beauty reminds us of the need to care for our common home.
    Example: Plant a tree in your yard at home OR go to a local park and find a tree or flower-spend some time appreciating it and the gifts it brings to our world.
  6. Fast (and “slow”!)
    Fasting is the practice of abstaining from something (food, smoking, etc.) in order to set the mind toward something else. That is why fasting should always be accompanied by “slowing”- taking some time to refocus on what is important.
    Example: On Good Friday, give up eating between meals. When you find yourself wanting to grab a snack, think about something good in your life and express thanks for it.
  7. Enjoy sacred art, music, film or literature.
    The life, death and resurrection of Jesus has been explored in many and varied ways through the arts. Experiencing these works of art opens our minds and hearts to new meaning of age old themes.
    Example: Go with a friend to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art to contemplate and discuss sacred art and other art as well.
  8. Give to a charity.
    We often think about giving to a charity or cause we support, but we often forget to do so unless the opportunity is right in front of us. Take some time during holy week to take that initiative and give to an important cause.
    Example: Grab a CRS rice bowl from campus ministry to put in your home or office for loose change. Proceeds will be sent from campus ministry to Catholic Relief Services.
  9. Pray.
    The gospels are filled with moments where Jesus goes off alone to pray or prays with the disciples. There are many ways to pray. Reserve some time in the morning, noon, afternoon, or night just for prayer. Discover how you pray best and how to make prayer a part of your life.
    Example: Set a chair or location in your home where you will go for ten minutes when you get up and before you go to sleep. Speak a prayer aloud or quietly, read a sacred text, write in a journal, or simply rest in silence.
  10. Spend some time with family and friends.
    The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is a story of life in its fullness. Do something fun with family or friends over this holy week to share good memories and reconnect.
    Example: Invite friends or family to dinner. Find a moment to express to each person something about him/her that you appreciate and for which you are grateful.

Fall Break Service Trip to Jerusalem Farm October 15-18

Looking for a way to serve people and connect with USM and Avila students over your fall break?  This trip is for you!  We will be staying at Jerusalem Farm located in Kansas City, Missouri. This is an intentional community of people who host college groups to do service within their local neighborhood.  You will get to participate in home repair projects, a neighborhood compost program, working on the farm’s gardens, and preparing a meal. All will be done in collaboration with each other and Avila students. Jerusalem Farm has four cornerstones: simplicity, community, service, and prayer. For more information about Jerusalem Farm’s ministry go to their website:

We will leave campus in the afternoon of October 15 and return on Sunday October 18. The cost is $60 for the four days. There is an online application at  or stop by the Campus ministry office for a paper copy.Looking forward to serving with you!  S. Rejane

New Orleans Spring Break Service Trip


After surviving our fifteen hour van ride, we arrived at the House of Charity in New Orleans.  Four religious sisters from different Sisters of Charity Congregations welcomed us to share life with them for a week. This house’s mission is to be a place for service groups like ourselves to not only stay but experience the Sisters of Charity shared Vincentian spirituality. The house quickly became home for us because of the sisters’ warm hospitality. A typical day would include eating breakfast, packing a sack lunch, morning prayer, a morning outing or tour, working at our Saint Bernard Project House, and coming home for a hot shower, a delicious meal, and an evening reflection about our day. To sisters Mary Lex, Theresa, Claire, and Monica we are grateful.  Below are the following reflections from three students who went to New Orleans. (Sister Rejane)

Jenny Herbig

I was thirteen years old when hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Memories from that day are from the media. I recall seeing photos of people trapped on top of their houses and people using boats to get around the city. While I was not personally impacted by the hurricane I felt a sense of hopelessness for not being able to go down and help. Ten years later, I was finally able to go visit the city of New Orleans and be a part of the rebuilding.

 Alexis Hayden

For the week, we volunteered with the Saint Bernard Project, a non-profit that rebuilds houses destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.  We were assigned to one house for five days and we installed insulation and drywall. These were both new skills for me. The work proved to be a challenge, but well worth it when we saw all that we accomplished at the end of the week.

 Josue Gonzalez

It was such a wonderful opportunity to have been part of such a rewarding trip to New Orleans. I consider the trip to rewarding because it gave myself and the rest of my group a chance to reward those less fortunate than ourselves with a helping hand. With just one week’s worth of hard work, we were able to bring a waiting family even closer to being able to come back home.

Another astounding event was to have participated in the Interfaith Prayer for Peace. It was such an incredible experience to have witnessed different churches and faiths come together to pray for peace in New Orleans where a high rate of violence and crime are a problem. I cannot recall a moment in my life where I have seen such a peaceful gathering. Overall, my time in New Orleans served to strengthen my belief in the benefit of togetherness. Together people can achieve greatness.

USM Hunger Awareness Team at the Kansas Hunger Dialogues

hat  Our USM Hunger Awareness Team (HAT)  attended the 5th Annual Kansas Hunger Dialogues at Newman University in Wichita. These is an opportunity for all the universities and colleges in the state to come together and share ideas about fighting hunger on their campuses.  Shala Steffes, Jenny Herbig, and Maggie Stewart presented about the HAT activities that have occurred on the USM Campus since the fall of 2013. Some of those activities include: International Food Packaging events, a Hunger Awareness Banquet, and a Hunger Awareness Week to name of a few. The one activity that peaked other universities’ interests was a week of weighing food waste in our cafeteria. Several schools mentioned they would be initiating this when they returned to campus.  The day ended with a local food packaging event that helped stock Wichita food pantries’ shelves.  The following are two students’ reflections:

Alexis Hayden

I had a wonderful experience at the Kansas Hunger Dialogue. I got to attend this special presentation with an amazing group of people who share the same passion of trying to help solve the major hunger problem that faces our world today. The presentation I enjoyed the most was the one about on campus food pantries by Washburn University, Fort Hayes, and University of Kansas. Each presenter gave great ideas with starting tips, placement, and sustainability from their personal experiences. I hope that maybe one day, Saint Mary’s can also have a food pantry of its own. Although I was unable to watch St. Mary’s group present, I know they did a great job telling the audience all the events our small but mighty group put together. The experience of the Kansas Hunger Dialogue was very valuable with all the information we received while we were there.

James Pulliam

I had the pleasure of attending the 2015 Kansas Hunger Dialogue yesterday. The experience was one of kind, and definitely unforgettable. Not only was I exposed to brilliant concepts and suggestions that will help improve life here at The University of Saint Mary, but I got to meet like minded people who strive to make different communities and turn the world  into a better place. Most importantly, I was given the opportunity to strengthen the bonds with several of the people here on campus that I am blessed enough to call friends. The 2015 KHD had a refreshing mix of activities — random dancing, interesting information, stimulating conversations, friendly people, good food, and even a food packaging event similar to our Feed the Need event first semester. I highly recommend that people take advantage of the opportunity to attend the next Kansas Hunger Dialogue; every second is worth it! 

Peace and Justice Resources for Lent

ACCU Peace and Justice

Are you looking for resources to enrich your Lenten journey?  We are pleased to share several resources from our colleagues working for peace and justice:

-The Justice for Immigrants Campaign has produced a toolkit entitled Immigration Reform: Your Lenten Promise, inviting you to pray, fast, learn, give and advocate for just and humane immigration reform, in solidarity with immigrants and refugees.

-Focusing on climate change during Lent?  In anticipation of Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical on care for creation and the environment, Ignatian Solidarity Network has released Renewing the Face of the Earth, a Lenten reflection series on protecting God’s creation and fighting climate change.  Sign up for daily updates on the website!  In addition, the Global Catholic Climate Movement has organized a fast for climate justice during Lent 2015.  Catholics from more than 45 countries will fast from food or activities that produce carbon dioxide during each of the 40 days…

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Les pwa fe viv! Hope makes us live!

In this time of Advent, I find myself reflecting on its meaning and the hope that this season brings. Advent is the time spent when we as Christians prepare ourselves for the birth or coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ. During Advent, we have the opportunity to not only wait for our Savior’s arrival, but to also actively prepare ourselves and our homes for this amazing event. December can be such a dark time of year so many individuals celebrate the season with candles and lights. How do we prepare for the season? How do we bring light and hope to those in great need? Finally, I ask myself, why is hope so important?

As a physical therapist, I often ponder how we bring hope and inspiration to those with injuries, broken bodies, changed lives, and troubled souls. How do we work with family members as well? Physical therapists help patients see new possibilities for their lives when no future is initially seen. We help prepare patients with new strategies for greater participation in their communities.

One of the most graphic memories I have of preparing patients for a new life or an Advent of a different sort, was when I first served in Haiti just after the killer earthquake of 2010. At the tent hospital in Jimaní, Dominican Republic, we worked long hours with patients from Haiti who had lost everything. Some had lost limbs, others lost bodily movement due to spinal cord injuries sustained in the earthquake, and others were dealing with multiple traumas of mind, body, and spirit. Many patients were facing the unknown.

Our job as therapists was to improve our patients’ mobility despite the external fixators patching fractured bones together or bandages covering wounds visible or not. Each patient we worked with was frightened and facing an unknown future.  As director of the international rehab team at the hospital, my rehab team moved from bed to bed working with patients building a connection of trust and a promise for a future none of us could clearly see. Yet, we had to trust – trust in goodness and the possibilities of what might occur. We did this by building what I call COMILIA. Comilia is that relationship that develops when we engage goodness in our work as educators, consultants, administrators, researchers, and everyday people. Seeking comilia happens when we engage in a community with reciprocity. Here we move beyond being strangers, visitors, guests, or helpers into the sacred space of caring, deep caring. . .

My last night in the tent hospital during the final rounds was a bittersweet time. In the morning many of my patients were to be discharged to the refugee camps on the Haitian side of the border. I was to head back to Santo Domingo and eventually back to the United States. My patients gave me a blessing and told me my suitcase would be extremely heavy when I returned home because I would be carrying home the hearts and souls of all my patients. They told me my heart would also feel heavy because they were taking a piece of my heart and soul with them. We would be eternally connected through our time together at the hospital. I had made their life brighter through our physical therapy treatments my patients told me.

That is the essence of comilia – preparing for something new and good. Building comilia is how we prepare ourselves and our communities this Advent season for the possibilities of something new and better. I believe Advent is a time we should cherish every day and not just during the designated time in the liturgical calendar. It is a time where we reflect on our God given gifts and talents. We may even reflect on what we were born to do and how we will do it as part of the body of Christ. When we take time to see the broader picture, we may even appreciate how our gifts and talents bring hope to those in need. We don’t have to be a physical therapist in a faraway country to bring hope to others. It is something we can all do anywhere. We must simply live and build comilia! The Haitians say, “Piti piti plen kay,” which means “a little light fills the whole house.” Advent is a time when we are called to bring light and hope to those in need as we wait for the birth of our Savior. It is this gift of hope and a promise for a future of new possibilities that makes us live!

Les pwa fe viv!

Reflection by Sue Klappa, PT, Ph.D., Curriculum Chair for the Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program 

Wake Up the World!

Happy New Year!  When I taught at Xavier Elementary School, I stood in the hallways the Monday after the last Sunday of Ordinary Time all decked out with my New Year’s Eve hat and noisemaker, shouting Happy New Year! The students always got a kick out of it! Their initial reactions of amusement and confusion changed as it dawned on them that yes, in fact, the first day of Advent is the beginning of the Catholic Church’s New Year, not January 1.

Pope Francis has dedicated this church year as “The Year of Consecrated Life” in order to recognize the service provided to the world by those who live a consecrated life including Catholic sisters, nuns, priests, and brothers.   The theme for the year is “Wake Up the World!” As a religious sister, I think this is a fitting theme for all Christians. As Christians we are called to start waking up to Jesus’ presence in each other and our world in preparation for His birth at Christmas.

I have already seen many examples in this past month as the USM community wakes up to the needs of others locally and internationally: listening to Alma Habib’s talk about Syrian Refugees and donating winter clothing items, serving at the Kansas City, Kansas food kitchen and our Leavenworth Community Meal, and packaging food for Ebola crisis centers in Liberia at our Feed the Need event.  As we continue to wake up to Christ’s presence, others will be called to do the same.

Reflection by S. Rejane Cytacki, Assistant Campus Minister