The Power of Service
By Jovannah Aguilar
Some, like Saint Francis of Assisi, have said that it is in giving that we receive. AMU senior, Hannah Cusack sheds some light on this seemingly contradictory statement with her story about religious education and her 11-year- old student, Virginia. Hannah teaches weekly faith formation classes to the children in the nearby town of Immokalee through a service club on campus called FIAT (Faith In Action Team) and shares of her experience: “Virginia came to my faith formation classes every week while in third and fourth grade. During my second year of teaching Virginia, the Director of Religious Education at the school shared Virginia’s story with me. Virginia’s father ensured she attended faith formation classes every week. Rain or shine, every Thursday, Virginia, sitting on the handle bars of her father’s bike, would ride into Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. After every class, Virginia taught what she learned to her father, who did not know much about the Catholic faith. Some weeks Virginia instructed her father about the Ten Commandments, other weeks he learned about the seven sacraments, or the saints (he probably also heard about the time the teachers dressed up as animals for a skit). I learned that, at the end of the day, it did not matter how well we articulated the three points of our lesson. Our Father’s love was helping us convey the lesson from a daughter to her father. Virginia’s father did not speak English so I was never able to speak with him. Despite this, his eyes said everything. He was growing in hope, gratitude, and charity. What the Director shared with me taught me much about service. Service is a two-way street. Those we serve often teach us far more than we are capable of teaching.” Hannah’s story beautifully illustrates the surprising truth about service: we gain so much more than we could ever give. We can delve deeper into this truth, that it is in giving that we receive, when we think about its origin: Christ’s death on the cross. It is a widely known truth within Christianity that Jesus died for us on the cross and that through this death we are given eternal life. But perhaps the grandeur of this truth is too great for us to consider that we can have any part in this live-giving mystery. Saint Paul reminds us however that we, in our ministry as Disciples of Christ, do in fact participle in Christ’s saving death on the cross in a very mystical, yet very tangible way. In his letter to the Church of Corinth, he exhorts the disciples: “always carry about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” When we look at what Hannah gave in her service to teaching the children of Immokalee in the faith, and think about what so many others just like her give every day, we can see how the mystery of the cross lights up within their service. Dying brings life. Every act of service is a choice to give of self rather than to profit, and in this way to die to self. Whether you give your time, treasure, or talents, the giving puts to death the part of you that would rather take and satisfy personal desires instead. Every act of service is a meaningful participation in Christ’s dying on the cross for love of us. In giving of ourselves through service like Hannah did, we enact a certain death which produces new life for both ourselves and perhaps even more so for others. Hannah is living her discipleship here at Ave by serving the children of Immokalee and it is through her service that the knowledge of the faith is reaching not only the children, but so many others that she may not even realize. Our impact extends much further than we imagine, and Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us, “It is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”
Hi! My name is Jovannah Aguilar and I’m a senior here at Ave Maria University. When I’m not studying theology and psychology, you can probably find me reading or writing for fun, or somewhere outside enjoying nature! After graduation I plan to get married to my fiancé, Joshua, and I hope to return home to California and see what God has in store for me there!