Learn, grow and serve together

 

 

Bryan Kerns

As a freshman, sometimes it is hard to grasp the full mission and vision of the educational community one enters. Here at Villanova, that is not the case.

One afternoon last March, after I received my letter of acceptance from the Admissions Office, I decided to peruse the University’s Web site. It was there that I came across the inaugural address of University President Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A. He framed his remarks in the context of the core Augustinian values of veritas, unitas and caritas.

In the address, one finds a clear and comprehensive vision for the future of Villanova when Donohue said, “I want Villanova to be Villanova. I don’t want us to be anyone else. We know what we do well and we must strive to do it better.” Veritas, unitas and caritas can always be done better.

Last Saturday my service site was St. Monica’s Church in South Philadelphia. A vibrant faith community, St. Monica’s is one of the wealthiest parishes in the area. Nevertheless, they too need people to serve their needs.

The responses of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who directed us while working in the school and the priests who led us while we were in the rectory showed their gratitude all the more. To say that this impacted my service team would be a dramatic understatement.

So, this was my experience – nine people assembled by our unitas, driven by the desire to find veritas in our understanding of others and affected by a deep and abiding caritas banded together to serve a parish in need. What was yours?

Surely, each team had a different experience. The team at the Heart of Camden saw different faces and grew in a different way than I did. The challenge to a community characterized by its service to others becomes to integrate the varied experiences of its component parts into the life of the whole.

It is crucial that we engage one another in a manner that lends us deeper perspective into the situations we all encountered. Donohue said, “Our belief in the concepts of veritas, unitas and caritas requires action. They should never be simply words we speak or engrave on a seal. We must take them into our hands and knead them into all we do and, like the artist, we must share our soul with others.” Talk about how you changed. Talk about what you saw. Talk about the people you met. It is then that the St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service benefits not only those we have served, but the University community as well. It is one thing to say that 1,500 Villanovans went out and served the greater Philadelphia area, but it is entirely another to say that 1,500 Villanovans served, learned and grew because of it.

The diversity we experienced and the intellectual nurturing of those experiences will ultimately lead us to veritas. Growth is a never-ending process. Augustine grew until the very day of his death; spiritually and intellectually, he was always in pursuit of veritas. Truth will come because of our service to the community, which is not only an act of charity, but also an act of growth.

The cohesive element of the service and the engagement that must emanate from it leads to unitas. Growing in community involves recognizing our strengths and weaknesses as a whole and seeing opportunities for and threats to the community. Our unitas has been strengthened by the service experiences.

Finally, there is caritas. It drives the search for veritas and the establishment of unitas. Ultimately, it is caritas that grounds the community in the bonds of unity and drives the search for truth about ourselves and others. Augustine wrote in his “Sermon on 1 John 7, 8,” “Love and do what you will … Let the root of love be within. From such a root nothing but good can come.” Caritas links all of us to each other and our community. Villanova does these well, but we can always do them better.

As we attempt to illuminate veritas in as many places as possible, as the bonds of unitas take root deeper and deeper within us and as caritas compels us to serve one another for the betterment of all, something happens. Something is created. That something is a community of bonded, diverse and ever-growing people. As we are driven by our restless hearts in our search for veritas, unitas and caritas, let us do one thing. Let us do what our president challenges us to do: “Let us create!”

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Bryan Kerns is a freshman from Drexel Hill, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]