Love of God and Neighbor without Distinction?  

 Julianne Shanklin 

One of the graces of being in Agrégée formation is being invited to partner in mission with sisters in their active works. I have been privileged to see the charism of this community alive in real-time in two areas I love… ministry to young adults and within the context of social justice.  

Most recently, on a beautiful September Saturday, together with Sr. Jeanmarie Gribaudo, CSJ (both of us BC alumni), we accompanied 30+ students from Boston College, (our neighbors), to serve locally at a Catholic Charities of Boston shelter for migrants. Living justice, love of God and the dear neighbor without distinction, men and women for others — we do things differently!  

As agents of light and hope and change, students from the Woods School of Advancing Studies Service Program, alongside members of various BC Athletic teams, provided a few hours of companionship and encouragement to those who had recently arrived in this country. Primarily women and children, the residents were invited to come together as neighbors and community: sharing food and sharing stories and seeing their children at play: a few hours of normalcy amidst a world of change. 

 While the children were engaged in activities and games, parents were invited to shop for needed clothing and other goods in an area that had been organized with donations of clothing, toiletries, school supplies, and toys. The opportunity to do so freely and at will was a sight to savor: the smiles, the gratitude, the laughter. Joy abounded, even if for but a few moments. 

These are our neighbors. We didn’t have to travel out of Boston to meet them, welcome them, or to share time and talent with them. Faith asks this of us. 

Dignity is foremost. We may not speak their language well… but make the effort to ask their names, smile. Receive a smile back. Invite them to shop; invite them to the meal; care for these little ones. These small gestures matter. 

Those we served were not different from us: they want the same freedoms and opportunities for themselves and their families. They desire compassion and belonging and love. Our circumstances are different, but as people of God we are the same… God’s beloved children.  

Justice is active. It has components both of direct service and advocacy. We have to understand the importance and the difference in order to effect change. Politics aside: be a neighbor. 

You can make a difference. You must try to make a difference. Engaging in this project was different. As CSJs, we approach things differently…we deliberately seek out those on the margins and bring about opportunities for unifying love and reconciliation. As BC, we are men and women for others: our education is for others, not ourselves. You must use your gifts and talents to move the needle such that change is affected. You have that capacity. 

Reflection on our actions is key. Every time we gather to serve, we pause at the conclusion of service to share the experience together. Faith that does justice requires this practice and when we reflect, we pause for a moment of gratitude to be able to be witnesses to the love God wishes to shower on His beloved. We remember whose we are.  

After sharing these hours and walking and talking and reflecting with these students and faculty and residents, thank you Catholic Charities for allowing us to visit and serve.  

Loving God and our dear neighbor without distinction? Yes!!! Distinctively CSJ! Distinctively BC!