Service Trip Commissioning

Apr 25, 2010

I am thrilled to be with you for this commissioning service. Some of you will go to another country or region to serve others. There also are some among you who have come to Marywood as international students. All of you are embracing something new, as well as giving of yourselves for the benefit of others.

These times in your life are valuable learning experiences that will shape you going forward. Through these amazing, transformative journeys into service and learning, you will realize-perhaps for the first time-that education in a classroom is only part of the big picture. At Marywood, we want you to see and experience the masterpiece of education in its entirety. We want you to go, to see, to listen, to understand, to contribute, to receive, and to embrace something other than what is familiar to or comfortable for you. Stepping out of your comfort zone is indeed a grace-growing experience, but one that I am confident will energize your spirit and affirm your resolve to make this world a better place.

Each one of you is empowered to make transformative choices and serve with compassion each and every day. It is clear by your choice to serve others that you are continuing to realize this concept in your own lives. Here is what I know to be true: we transform lives one at a time.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta understood this. She said, "If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one." Expressing similar wisdom, she also declared, "It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters." Through her "love in action" style of leadership, Mother Teresa was a model for all of us who strive to make this world a better, more hopeful place, one person at a time.

Even so, I want you to know that there will come times when you face challenges. This is both normal and expected, but it is not insurmountable. Certainly, Teresa of Calcutta faced challenges. In fact, she was very open about her struggles, and her letters reflect many moments of questioning, despair, and feelings of abandonment. Yet, she continued to walk by faith, not by sight, and lived her own often-expressed adage, "Give God permission to use you without consulting you."

This year we mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of another great leader, Mother Theresa Maxis, co-founder of the IHM Congregation. Her spirit pervades the mission and core values of Marywood University. Against great odds, Theresa Maxis persistently moved forward the Alphonsian vision of empowerment, excellence, holistic education, and service, as well as a justice agenda emphasizing access for all to opportunities to live in dignity and to realize God given gifts and potential. Although she would not have used the language of systemic change, Theresa Maxis was a leader who sowed the seeds responsible for widespread institutional impact of education, health care, and social service systems that are her living legacy to Northeastern Pennsylvania and well beyond.

Both of these women-Teresa of Calcutta and Theresa Maxis-are role models for the type of leadership that is desperately needed in today's world.

They were leaders who had the courage to act with integrity in the midst of challenging circumstances. Both women were "servant leaders" in the best sense of the term-strong and able women who consciously lay down their lives in love for the sake of the many.

In their memory, I challenge you today to be women and men of substance. You carry within yourselves the spiritual genes flowing from the legacy of Theresa Maxis. I am certain that whatever service you render on behalf of Marywood University, you have been confronted-or will be at some point-with difficult choices. These kinds of situations often require you to reach out in faith and with personal integrity.

Keep in mind and heart the importance of helping those you serve to become their best selves. Teresa of Calclutta and Theresa Maxis never lost sight of this important dimension of being a leader. Claim your role in influencing the minds and hearts of those around you to aspire to greater things. It is a gift in itself to serve as a catalyst to greatness in others.

I have every confidence that each of you will continue to choose to "live responsibly in our interdependent world," to strive for excellence in all you do, and to make a positive difference in the lives of all you encounter. In the Book of Joshua, Scripture fortifies us for our journeys: "Have I not told you? Be strong and stand firm? Be fearless and undaunted, for go where you may, Yahweh your God is with you." (Joshua 1:9)