Friday, October 06, 2006

Passionate calls for change

The prologue of Krik? Krak! has the feeling of a valedictory or commencement speech. The emphasis is that the novel is the beginning of the story. Danticat has passed along these stories to the reader in the tradition of Haitian storytelling and the reader is then expected to go out into the world and tell of the Haitian way of life. This idea struck me as particularly Jesuit for a number of reasons. First of all, one of the most famous St. Ignatius quotes is, “Go and set the world on fire.” The point of the quote is that your experience is not meant to be just solely yours, but rather you must take your passions out to the world, so they may understand and learn from your experience. Danticat completely echoes this sentiment when she writes, “You dream of hearing only the beating of your own heart, but this has never been the case. You have never been able to escape the pounding of a thousand other hearts…” (224).
The sentiment is that these messages and morals must be passed on so that they are not lost, so that others may carry the banner. The Jesuits also bring their message out to the world: in Lucas, “God is to be found and worshiped not on a holy mountain but at the ordinary crossroads of human experience,” (2) and in Kolvenbach, “‘the service of faith’ cannot mean anything other than to bring the counter-cultural gift of Christ to our world” (26). While Danticat represents a country, the Jesuits represent an order and both entities are trying to foster an understanding of their ideals. The active nature with which people are called to hear the message unites Danticat, Lucas and Kolvenbach as men and women fighting for a cause with passion.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A Fleeting year

In the movie, "Hotel Rwanda", the main character is trying to get his American cameraman, who is visiting the country, to report to the United States the genocide that was occurring in Rwanda, for if the United States knew, then surely they would help. However, the cameraman simply looks at him and says, "Everyone will look up at their televisions, state how sad and awful the occurrence is, and then go right back to eating their dinners." It seems that this reaction is one of, if not the most common reactions to people in need. It is easy to mention how sad the situation is, to feel sympathy for a person. However, when it comes to taking action, many people just turn their heads.

It seems that the problem with so many of these social justice movements is that permanent change is so difficult to make. As soon through the history of the United States, South Africa, and many other countries, changes to improve the lives of the citizens of these countries is not an easy task. It takes years and years of effort and pain and struggle. Therefore, when discussing the Year of the City and service in general, it is hard to see what the intended goal is, and how we will achieve it.

Loyola College seems to be trying to fix its ability to turn its head through Year of the City. To no longer ignore the city of Baltimore, but to pop our bubble and embrace the culture that lies around us. However, the question lies in how. How can we stop ourselves from turning away? Yes, today we might give the man on the street a dollar. We might give him one tomorrow. However, when will we know that we have made a significant change in his life? And once we are done, where do we go from there? But by walking past him, given the dollar or not, aren't we simply going "right back to eating our dinners"?

Although the Year of the City is an excellent step in our facing the problems of the city, of our city, there needs to be a way to make this change more permanent and not let the Year of the City allow us to go back to eating our dinners.

The Legacy

The Year of the City is a good start for the immersion of Loyola students into the heart and mind of Baltimore. I believe this year was intended for Loyola students to branch out of and escape from our so called “bubble.” Although the title of the campaign labels 2006-2007 as the “Year” of the City, this slogan might create a common misconception. It was not intended for Loyola students that this year is the ONLY year to venture off of North Charles Street. Students are to learn from their city experiences this year and reflect on them. Students should then use this newly gained information for their remaining years at Loyola, and for many years after.

Although I am not sure how I would view the campaign if I was not in such a service learning program, with the aid of our class, I think I am on the right track to approaching the Year of the City. The objective of this year is not to simply have students go out into the city. They are to go out into the city, and then reflect on their incidents and experiences and then share them with others. Similar to Danticat’s message of telling stories of experience, and in return listening to others, the Year of the City can positively change secluded minds.

Loyola College’s Year of the City is important to our college culture. Although some might criticize the campaign, if approached effectively, the Year of the City will be extremely beneficial. I believe the key is to get students involved with it. I think that if more students participate, the legacy of the campaign will live on, much further than this year, or the next few to follow. The Year of the City can be Loyola College's landmark for the city of Baltimore.

Year of the City

I do agree with others who have said that the title of the movement is misleading, and may lead others to think that the Year of the City is a temporary concept just for the current school year. People from the public, especially those who don’t attend Loyola College, might be misled. But I think the central motives of Year of the City, to make an effort to get Loyola students involved and working with the community of Baltimore are a good noble idea. Yet it can’t end at the Year of the City, this idea will only be effective if every year is the year of the city. We cannot just make an effort this year and then let the cause be forgotten next year. In my eyes The Year of the City is only worthwhile if next year the same stress and strive continues for Loyola College students to be involved in the community that surrounds them. If this is the case then the mission is going in the right direction.
I think Year of the City gives Loyola College students a push to become involved with community when sometimes they just assume it’s too difficult or too time consuming. Service Learning is just one aspect. Service Learning provides specific sites and options that many students would not have been able to come up with on their own. I don’t think that Service Learning is unfair, because if a student is so against it they don’t have to take a class with that requirement. Year of the City enlightens students that there is a world outside of their classrooms and that whether or not they know it they are connected to it. Of course Year of the City is hard to force on everyone, and some students without the call for service and community are very aware and have been aware of their outside surroundings. Many students have built ties with the people of Baltimore on their own, before Year of the City was declared. I am just saying that it doesn’t hurt to have a frequent reminder of how valuable community connections are.
In relation to Danticat’s text, I am reminded instantly of the Haitian community Grace and Ma had in New York City. I was so moved by the idea that though they are so far away from their home city the ties with their people are still so strong. Danticat’s writing shows how the characters are connected, and her style of writing is so reflective of the themes she reveals. In light of Danticat’s book it makes sense for the reader to realize the importance and value of justice and freedom. The injustices the people of Haiti face in the book and how helpless they are to their situation, reminds me of the struggling people in the community I live in. I think that living in Baltimore we are lucky to be able to serve each other, and learn from those in different situations than ourselves. In Danticat’s book these options are not available and communication in the cities of Haiti is closed off. For example in the first story, Children of the Sea when the military enters the home of madan roger her neighbors are unable to help her, because they will be killed if they try. This type of oppression limits the ability to serve. I think that the Year of the City is calling all students to do something we are fortunate as Americans in having the freedom to do: to serve others and build a community of reciprocity.

The Year of the City

One can argue that Loyola has instituted "The Year of the City" in an attempt to show students how lucky they are, and to try and push them to want to help fix the problems that can be found in our community. Granted, all of Baltimore does not need to be fixed. However, there is a large portion that does need help, and it seems that Loyola is finally ready to stop ignoring that fact. Many students either have a very stereotypical view of Baltimore or simply have no idea about anything; and niether particularly cares to know. However, it is part of the Jesuit education to inform their students of what the real world is like. It is their duty to help them come out of their naive shells and see that even in an area that has great injustice, beauty can still be found. One way they have tried doing this is by encouraging students to the stories of the people from Baltimore. It is through people's stories, both the good and the bad, that others begin to understand what they and their community stand for.

Danticat understood this fact. She tells the stories of Haitians, these stories give insight into the strength of the people and the hardships their society has faced. Without stories the people and places that are distant from us are just images, but with the stories they become personal, they become part of us. Stories about a persons past give us insight into where they come from, they unite people through the similarities, and educate through the differences. Danticat is trying to educate her readers on what it means to be Haitian, through the stories she is bringing the reader into a personal story, it is extremely intimate. Therefore, the readers look at the society alittle differently. They see their strength in character and start to root for them to succeed.

Without the stories we would probably not feel a connection towards these people, and therefore wouldn't feel anything. The help open us up to the foreign in th comfort of our homes. That is why the year of the city and our class discussions are important. They open us up to the foreign. They make us aware of different walks of life. Lucas' essay shows how the Jesuits are trying to reach different societies, they want to make people aware of what is going on in the world. I feel that Loyola is taking this very idea and re-applying it to Loyola. We got alittle distracted for awhile, but now our ears and hearts are open, and its time for us to become aware again.


Sometimes I stop and ask myself whether or not I would be a part of the “Year of the City” if I was not in this class? I honestly believe that I wouldn’t be and I say that because I know it is the truth. In a way that makes me very happy that I am in this class, but even though I am in this class, do I really know what the “Year of the City” is? I think the “Year of the City” was created so that students and faculty alike would be forced to stop and look around the city of Baltimore. In order to see the problems that need to be addressed in the city, so that in the following years every year will be the “Year of the City”, until the problems are all resolved. The “Year of the City” is not going to be an event which we only do every five or ten years but it will continue to happen every year.
In our class the “Year of the City” is the focus behind our discussions and the work that we are expected to produce because it is a class that was designed to include elements of the city and the people who live in it. In class the “Year of the City” is internalized to each student’s specific experiences and observations. It requires insight, consideration and most importantly reflection. The “Year of the City” “matters” in our class because it should be a part of our education and classroom experience because this is city in which we learn. We cannot ignore the environment in which we live because it affects how we learn, what we learn and why we learn it. It teaches the student more than writing styles and techniques because it forces to look at the purpose of writings, because most good writing (and the quality and judging of “good writing” is always subjective) has a purpose or a message behind it.
Danticat writes stories about cities through the personal experiences of her characters. She makes it personal because personal stories allow the reader to connect to the characters with more ease. The same can be said of our class because we (the students) are constantly asked to personalize what we learn from our experiences in and outside of the classroom. Through Danticat’s writing the environment or the city in which the women live plays a significant role in their lives, but it is them and not the city that we focus on, because as always the authors may at times appear to focus more on the cities, but their focus is always the lives of their characters who make up the city. I think the clear message in Danticat and our class is always to focus on the people of the city and our relationship with them.

Dangers of Year of the City

I believe that Year of the City does matter to Loyola students. While I’ve been here, there has been a growing trend to bubble ourselves between Charles Street and York Road with the occasional trip to Fells point. Loyola students, consumed by luxurious fitness centers and overpriced Sodhexo food, are beginning to forget that we are just blocks away from the heroine capital of the country. This is not based on mere speculation; I have heard more and more often that underclassmen have not ventured far beyond the stone architecture of the quad.
There is a danger however, in introducing the Year of the City and that danger –judging by Lucas’ essay- has apparently been plaguing the Jesuits for some time. My immediate concern with both the Year of the City and the history of Jesuits in urban settings is the image of “Jesus Freaks” storming the city on horseback taking its welfare in their hands. For example, during the Mass of the Holy Spirit in Charles Village several weeks ago, I felt a slight sense of displacement. I was with everyone I know from Loyola, some of whom I know to be trapped in a bubble, yet surrounded by an urban setting. I couldn’t help but wonder if those living in the neighborhood surrounding the church really wanted us there.
Lucas seems to describe similar situations. Although there is not much about clashes between Jesuits and urban citizens, the manner in which Jesuits go about serving the city came off –to me at least- as intrusive. He describes Father Francisco Javier “redeeming” the Goa of its vice-ridden, sinful lifestyle. Maybe the actual implementation of his mission was slightly more unobtrusive, but the way it is described it seems as if they are going into India to civilize a city of savages.
I believe the Year of the City is important to Loyola. I do believe that Loyola students need to be more aware of their surroundings. I also believe that Loyola should be wary of the image they are creating and to also be wary of their intentions.

Cause and Effect

I see the texts we have read for this week, "Krik? Krak!" and "Landmarking" as directly correlated to each other, as sort of a cause and effect, or a situation and a response. Danticat's novel, a collection of short stories has a thread of mistreatment and injustice running througout it. Showing another side of cities, the side that doesn't give out opportunity, but instead hinders those who live in it, literally holding them back from expressing or furthering themselves. We even see how difficult it is for the Haitians to further themselves when they live in American cities. This is especially evident in the stories, "New York Day Women" and "Caroline's Wedding." Some of the women in these stories are unable to fully blossom and do whatever they want even in American because of their cultural heritage and because they were not born in the United States. The mother in "New York Day Women" is ashamed throughout the story of what she has to do in order to support herself and her family and hides what she does from her daughter. In "Caroline's Wedding" Grace can't feel like a true American citizen until she has a piece of a paper and a passport to prove it. She fights with her mother to let go of the papers for a couple weeks in order to get a passport, because those papers allow her to finally belong. Ma, in the story, is even unable to really become part of the city they live in, the country they live in, because of their location in a Haitian subcity in New York.

The "Landmarking" essay is a direct result or answer to the injustices and problems seen in cities in Danticat's novel as well as Achebe's and Calvino's. The Jesuits built their churches and schools in cities because of the growth of "modern urban culture" (Lucas, 3). "Jesuits have made that dialogue a strategic priority, a characteristic-and even definitive-element of their apostolic program" (Lucas, 3). The Jesuits felt they had to be in cities because of the needs cities had and because of the importance cities had in the world. Even back when these churches and schools were being found "lay faculty, other religious, and Jesuits [lived] in the dangerous neighborhood where they [worked], exercising a ministry of presence as well as education" (Lucas, 21). Jesuits have continually made sure they were in the center of where the problems were, there to help fix them after or before they even started. I think this also lends to why writers like Danticat, Achebe and Calvino write and publish their stories, so others can see the state that cities all over the world are in, causing them to look at those cities and perhaps their own and take the initiative to fight and work for justice.

The "Landmarking" essay also shines light on why we should have a "Year of the City" initiative at Loyola and continue to participate in its purpose long after this academic year is through. "In Ignatius Loyola, the Church in the city found a champion and a conceptual genius, a man who was fully attuned to his urban culture, a man able to adapt-and even abandon-parts of the Catholic tradition in order to shape an instrument uniquely suited for the existential needs of his time and place. Where he chose to be-where he located his churches, schools, and residences-clearly incarnates how he chose to be and to minister in the Church" (Lucas, 22). I think this simply states why Loyola itself has to take a part in Baltimore, why it had to have this "Year of the City" initiative and why it must continue to serve the city of Baltimore, and this is because it is in the city. The Jesuits hand-picked where each of their schools and churches were built based on that areas need and what they could do in the city, therefore Loyola College was built in Baltimore because Baltimore needed its help and continues to need its help to this day. It is also located here because the city offers many opportunities for its citizens to overcome and for others to help them.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The importance of stories

Loyola College deemed it “The Year of the City” in order to form a stronger bond between the college and the neighborhoods surrounding the college. For Loyola this is a way to reach out to our communities, possibly doing community service or just having dinner somewhere in the city we have never traveled before. Initially students may ponder why it is just this year that we should embrace the city of Baltimore rather than the past year or next year but really, the college is just using that slogan as a way to prompt students to learn about the city so that they may be more active within the community.

Something that Loyola and Danticat both stress is the importance of storytelling. During our community service here at Loyola we are urged to talk to the people we are serving and listen to their stories. The servers and the people being served are usually more alike than they think. Many of the stories told to the servers are those that the servers can relate to. Sometimes during outreach events those people helping the community will see the people that they are helping as two-dimensional objects. Story telling allows the servers to humanize those that they are serving.

Similarly, in Danticat, story telling allows a generational connection that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. The title of the novel illustrates this trans-generational and trans-cultural connection between the characters of the novel. The stories for Danticat are a comforting reminder of her past and present condition. At the end of the epilogue she states, “Sometimes, you dream of hearing only the beating of your own heart, but this has never been the case. You have never been able to escape the pounding of a thousand other hearts that have outlived yours by thousands of years. And over the years when you have needed us, you have always cried ”Krik?” and we have answered “Krak!” and it has shown us that you have not forgotten us.” So in this way the present doesn’t only connect with the past but the past connects with the present.

Lucas’s article describes the Jesuit need to reach out to the community in order to educate poor, young men. I found it extremely interesting that the New York City Nativity School established in the 1960’s holds the same principles and education techniques as the St. Ignatius Loyola Academy in Baltimore where I tutor poor, young inner city boys. The only way that schools like St. Ignatius are able to operate in Jesuit tradition are through the stories Jesuits have written down about the success experienced in schools like the Nativity School in New York.

Fundamentals of the Jesuits

In "Landmarking", Lucas chronicles the history of the Jesuits as they strive to exemplify Ignatius Loyola's "creative and practical attunement to his changing world" by erecting their headquarters in the hearts of urban communities. The point of this location was, make no mistake, most deliberate on Loyola's part, "they placed the emerging Society of Jesus intentionally in the psychological center of Catholic Christendom, within the sacred circle at the heart of the human city"(23). This strategy enabled the Jesuits to face the problems that plague cities head-on, and with an understanding that only experiencing them on a daily basis can bring, an idea that we have discussed in class illuminated by Calvino's "Invisible Cities" and Achebe's "No Longer At Ease".
The mission of the Jesuits is nothing short of noble and revolutionary. In the face of various advesaries, Ignatius Loyola dared to push the envelope and stress involvement in the community as an integral part to, as Kalvenbach states in “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education", "the service of faith and the promotion of justice"(25), the motto of the Jesuits. The "daring" part about this mission is the social norm that such an act went against at that time. Several church leaders opposed such hands-on action as they perceived it to be degrading to the sanctity of the church when leaders for God directly associate with the people of the city.
One particularly striking depicition of the degredation that often befalls a city also happens to be the location of The Bowery, a Jesuit headquarters in New York City's Lower East Side. Lucas notes the changes over time in this archetypal immigrant neighborhood, as well as the characteristics that have constantly remained, like "the immensely high risks that immigrant children must navigate just growing up there"(18). Loyola and his Jesuits encounter the same difficulties in attempting to assimilate to a community as an outsider as these children do. As this year marks "the Year of the City" here at Loyola, I think that the fact that Loyola students, and as an institution as a whole, has seemed to isolate itself from the surrounding urban community of Baltimore, strayed away from the very mission of its founder. It is certainly true that as outsiders rather than natives to the city, approaching the community can seem daunting at first, but to avoid that contact all together seems to me a rejection of the very fundamentals of the teachings of the Jesuits.

Year of the City

In response to the question posed by Dr. Ellis as to why the "Year of the City" matters, or should matter, I believe that the root of that question is why justice is important to those who are not suffering. It is easy for a school like Loyola to trumpet justice because most of the students who attend the college have never experienced poverty first hand. In order to even comprehend what justice really is, the students must see and feel the emotional and physical drains of material poverty. It is difficult to imagine the kind of pain that comes from not being able to provide for one's own child and the service opportunities at Loyola may help to expose students to the reality of the struggle of impoverished people. Loyola has a strong record of helping the community but perhaps the students do not have such a clear idea of what that sort of life is like. Regardless of how much good Loyola students do, it is fairly obvious that they do not always bring those experiences back to the decisions they make. Perhaps if the college encouraged students to shed certain luxuries and excesses it would be easier for students to relate to the greater Baltimore population. An excellent start would be to not start extensive landscaping projects aimed to beautify the campus during a year devoted to recognizing the very basic needs of others.

The Year of the City, however effective, comes from a deeply rooted Jesuit tradition of service. As a Jesuit institution, Loyola strives to impart an idea of the value of justice onto its students. During the orientation period freshman year, I heard the phrase "men and women for others" more times than I could count. I was proud to be part of a school that includes a sense of purpose and generosity in its core educational philosophy. Upon reading 'Landmarking', it became clear that the Loyola College mission came out of hundreds of years of strategic efforts to improve the lives of others, particularly in communities, through education. I found in interesting that the churches and schools were planned to be a central part of a community in the early days of the Jesuit mission. As it was mentioned in class, the idea that there is the Year of the City may take away from the traditional plans of the Jesuits that every year and in fact every day be about contributing to and serving the surrounding community. The Year of the City is important in this way in that it acts as a reminder to what we should all know from those first few days on campus: we are here at a Jesuit institution to learn how to serve the world.

The Danticat reading takes this general philosophy to a more personal level. We experience the pain and the suffering along with the values and the pride of these people who, despite lacking material goods, demonstrate great courage and see many parts of life that elude the more fortunate. She also shows us the horrors of socio-political injustice in the violent treatment of the people at the hands of the soldiers in the first half of the book. By allowing us to tap into the fear and the determination of the suffering poor, Danticat can help students to understand the importance of justice on an individual level. The Year of the City is not important in that we can save the city of Baltimore. Such an effort would be impractical and merely temporary. What the Year of the City really provides is an opportunity to reach out and help individuals. By serving a meal or encouraging a child, students can impact the life of another person one-on-one. The chance to do justice in this way should not only be thought of as important, it should be considered an invaluable part of an education for others.

Is Language helpful or harmful

The city is a human habitat that allows people to form relations with others at various levels of intimacy while remaining entirely anonymous." (This definition was the subject of an exhibition at the Israeli pavilion at the 2000 Venice Biennale of architecture)( These relationships form a unification that can only be attributed to a city. One of the main unifiers of a city is language. Language functions not only as a form of communication but also a common bond among its individuals. Language preserves the history of a city, the culture and of the individuals in the form of stories. Its slogans inspire and functions as a unifier in itself. Edwidge Danticat in Krik? Krak! Uses story telling as a means to preserve and expose her culture and Haitian heritage. Chinua Achebe describes in No longer at Ease, the connection the character Obi feels when he hears his native language. These connections formed in language are both symbolic and literal representations of the culture and people a city encompasses. Language allows it inhabitants to become apart on not only the people of the city, but also the city itself. Loyola’s new slogan “ Year of the City” must have had an impact on the city that could have achieved inspiration and unification. The impact of the literary instances and workings both Achebe and Danticat are beyond the focused theme of Loyola.
Danticat uses language to preserve her history and the history of the Haitain people. Also, her stories evoke emotion and inspiration from the reader. Danticat is able to represent her country and uses her literary talent to form a connection between the people and their city. These stories not only form a bond or through the characters in the novel, but also with the Haitian people. These stories told in Krik? Krak! establish a perpetual historic record that was once passed from mouth to mouth. Danticat states, “When you write, it’s like braiding your hair. Taking a handful of coarse unruly strands and attempting to bring them unity”(220). The form of Danticat’s novel reveals an insight into storytelling. Danticat allows the reader to experience nine different stories all referring back to the Haitian culture and world. The connection is not only in the Haitian tradition, but also in the interconnectedness of the characters through their stories and experiences.
Obi, in no longer at Ease, feels at comfortable when his native tongue is used in a foreign city. When he meets a stranger who speaks ebou he feels at home and closer to that person. Ebou allows for a bond between two people who share the same language which connects back to their originating city. The language not only spawns connection but it also evokes emotion and memories in Obi. Language has the power to not only convey a connection but also rekindle his native city.
Language has such an impact on the unity of the people within the city. It not only defines that city, but also character. Loyola is using language to associate itself with Baltimore this year. Their theme, “ Year of the City” is suppose to evoke a passion to the students of Loyola to reach out to the city, but the slogan also sends a message to the city. By literally stating Loyola’s mission to the city, the hope is that Baltimore will assimilate Baltimore into its community and no longer see it as a separate entity of an educational institution.
Does this theme evoke any true passion among facility and students on Loyola campus? Does the city truly accept Loyola as part of the city? Instead of evoking or inspiring or even preserving, is Loyola putting a time limit on its association with Baltimore by instituting this slogan “ Year” ?

Reaching Out to Our City

In Landmarking: City, Church, and Jesuit Urban Strategy, Father Lucas's description of the Jesuit's mission calls for direct interaction with the city. It requires a connection with the city that involves service above all else. The city is of utmost importance for the Jesuits, which can be seen in the opening pages of Landmarking. Father Lucas notes that just as Romulus was claiming the city of Rome as a sacred space, the Society of Jesus also marched around the heart of Rome. He says, "Leaving the church where the newly-sainted bones of Father Ignatius rested under a splendidly decorated altar, their {The Jesuits'} procession staked their claim to the power base that they had been creating for more than seventy- five years in Rome" (Lucas 2).
He then goes on to say that, " The history of the Christian tradition is inextricably tied to the history of urban society" (Lucas 2). This illustrates the clearly dilenated purpose of the Jesuits, which is interaction with society, namely, the city.

The history of the Jesuits is filled with determination and expansion, which includes more than just the city itself. Father Francisco Javier's voyage, which resulted in an unexpected four month stop in Mozambique, " marked the beginning of Jesuit outreach to the non-European world, a movement that would eventually develop into an international network of churches, schools, and pastoral centers on every continent..." (Lucas 4). The Jesuits boldly seek to expand their horizons and shed light on the darker parts of the world. Even as land for building churches was constantly denied, the Jesuits found ways to erect ornate houses of worship, which exemplifies their dedication to their mission.

The Jesuit mission, among all of its other worldly goals, includes the promotion of education. Schools such as Our Lady of Loreto and Nativity Middle School are prime examples of the Jesuits' intimate connections with the city. At the Nativity Middle School, " Lay faculty, other religious, and Jesuits live in the dangerous neighborhoods where they work, excercising a ministry of presence as well as education" (Lucas 21). Schools such as these give kids a chance to avoid a life full of drugs and violence. This kind of interaction with the city was what Saint Ignatius advocated so strongly. Lucas says, "In Ignatius Loyola, the Church in the city found a champion and a conceptual genius, a man who was fully attuned to his urban culture, a man able to adapt and even abandon parts of the Catholic tradition in order to shape an instrument uniquely suited for the existential needs of his time and place" (Lucas 22). Thus, Loyola was a bold role model for his time in his call to participate in the workings of the community, which should be admired greatly. The Jesuit community never fails to be a beacon for the City of God, which can be seen in the opening of the Loreto school. The people attending the opening mass, " made their solemn entrance into the new basilica, which a month before had been a drinking saloon' (Lucas 19). The city makes the Jesuit community what it is, while the Jesuit community also shapes the city in which it is located. It is truly an reciprocated relationship full of enrichment.

In my opinion, we are similar to the Jesuits in what we called to do here in Baltimore. We are not inner- city citizens who are deprived of the necessities of life, rather, we are mostly priviledged middle to upper class citizens of a rich moral background. Loyola is the result of a successful method of education as insituted by Saint Ignatius, which leaves us with the duty to promote his ideas and better our surroundings in the city through service and promotion of justice. It is our duty, then, to aid the Jesuits here in alleviating the problems of the city, by reaching out to the city and serving it as well. Our place in the city should be very similar to that of Saint Ignatius, who saw the city as a place of opportunity.

Reflection and Action

In Landmarking, author Lucas devotes a few very descriptive passages to The Bowery in New York City's Lower East Side and the ways in which the Jesuits helped the impoverished immigrants escape their unfortunate situation. A Jesuit-established barroom church at The Bowery drew hundreds of Italian immigrants. When it became outgrown, the Jesuits expanded their efforts and created the Loreto School for five-hundred students from low-income families. In addition, "Jesuits live in the dangerous neighborhood where they work, exercising a ministry of presence as well as education." (21). These passsages, from page 18 to 21 inspired me to strongly examine the role of the Jesuits at Loyola; unlike the children at The Bowery, most Loyola students come from families of oppotunity and means.

If the Jesuits were so directly involved with improving the education of these poor immigrants, why aren't they more actively helping less fortunate students within the city of Baltimore? For me, what seems to be missing is the hands-on approach employed by the Jesuits of the late 19th/early 20th century. The Baltimore Jesuits that I know live in beautiful homes on an attractive tree-lined street, not in a dilapidated rowhouse in a run-down East-side neighborhood. Could it be possible that the Jesuits' focus has shifted from the active creation of justice, as described by the many examples in Lucas' piece, to a more hands-off mission like that of teaching justice to students of means who may or may not seek and promote justice themselves (Kolvenbach)?

In The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education, Kolvenbach writes that "The overriding purpose of the Society of Jesus, namely 'the service of faith,' must also include 'the promotion of justice.'" I think it's interesting that Kolvenbach uses the word "promotion", which suggests more of a word-of-mouth rather than hand-on approach to justice. Jesuits at Loyola are devoted to teaching students about justice and encouraging to perform service, and their focus has shifted from providing education to the poor to providing education to the privileged who may, in turn, do something about economic and social injustice in the future.

The Year of the City is another extension of Kolvenbach's beliefs and principles, which are slightly unlike those exhibited by the Jesuits described in Lucas' piece. On Loyola's Year of the City website, the mission includes three bold-face statements: 1. A Reflection of our Mission as a Jesuit Catholic University 2. A time for reflecting critically about the social realities of urban life in our time and in our city 3. A time to reflect upon the role of a Jesuit Catholic academic community in an urban environment. The Year of the City is meant as a time of reflection, not necessarily as a time for action, though Kolvenbach assumes that action will be a result of reflection. These differences make me wonder what kind of balance we should try to achieve between reflection and action.

Specific audiences

In order to make an effective change, one must be dedicated to a specific community in order to ensure that one’s message is heard and is enacted. We see this drive to focus on a specific recipient in Danticat’s short stories where a physical representation is seen as the best means of posterity and where advice is passed down through daughters. We also see this in Lucas’ Landmarking: City, Church and Jesuit Urban Strategy, where he highlights the determination of the Jesuits and their pointed mission to a specific group of people.

Edwidge Danticat’s characters recognize the need to direct their drive for legacy to those around them and to their families. In “Seeing Things Simply,” both Catherine and Princesse have a particular audience in mind as they go about their painting. Catherine states from the outset that her representations of life in Haiti are specifically designed for those in Europe. Princesse, her model, sees this as a point of relief because her community would be shocked by her posing nude: “She had a body like all the others who lived here except she was willing to be naked. But after she was dead and buried, she wouldn’t care who saw her body. It would be up to Catherine and God to decide that. As long as Catherine never showed anyone in Ville Rose the portraits, she would be content” (Danticat 130). Because Princesse does not want to cause shame to her family, she takes comfort in knowing that only outsiders will see her portraits. Princesse’s being different and her exposing herself to the world would be seen in a negative light in a culture that is so conservative. On the other hand, Princesse soon realizes this need to shed light on her life when she recognizes the importance of passing down her views to others. Admiring Catherine’s talents, Princesse states, “It struck Princesse that this is why she wanted to make pictures, to have something to leave behind even after she was gone, something that showed what she had observed in a way that no one else had and no one else would after her” (Danticat 140). Princesse changes her views of the portraits in that she realizes that they will enable her experiences and her thoughts to be transferred to those in her community – they will allow others around her, who may not share in her thoughts, to come into contact with her perception of their small city. Although Princesse was consoled in that her portraits would be shown only to outsiders, she recognizes that her message should be shared with those who are directly in contact with her in order that her experiences may be passed down to future generations. We also see this need to express one’s thoughts in the story of “New York Day Women,” in which a daughter, Suzette, follows her mother throughout the city, recalling all of the advice that her mother has given her over the years. The story’s form is that of a piece of a conversation from the narrator’s mother in bold and then Suzette’s reaction to it. This form effectively demonstrates that the narrator has listened to her mother over the years and has taken into account all of the things that she has said. Her mother’s intended audience, her daughter, has been reached because Suzette can recall many statements that her mother has made and shows that she has learned from them: “Would you get up and give an old lady like me your subway seat? In this state of mind, I bet you don’t even give up your seat to a pregnant lady? / My mother, who is often right about that. Sometimes I get up and give my seat. Other times, I don’t. It all depends on how pregnant the woman is and whether or not she is with her boyfriend or husband and whether or not he is sitting down” (Danticat 146). Suzette’s mother has dedicated her message to her daughter, in the hopes that she will listen; which she obviously has been doing. By taking note of her mother’s assertions, Suzette has ensured that her mother’s memory will live on because she will be able to share these pieces with her descendants, thus passing down the Haitian traditions and customs regarding mannerisms. Indicating a specific audience of one’s words and representations enables a person’s message to be taken seriously and to be shared with others in order to reveal a particular rendering of life.

Lucas, in his essay, saw this same dedication to specificity in the work of the Jesuits in their founding their first communities. The Jesuits showed a particular interest in cities: “They did not claim St. Peter’s with its relics nor the far-removed Lateran with its history, but the living center of a great city as their sacred place of encounter…There, in ‘the free breadth of a divine world.’ They had set up landmarks, signs that God is to be found and worshiped not on a holy mountain but at the ordinary cross-roads of human experience” (Lucas 2), and, “From its beginnings, the Society of Jesus has willingly participated in the Church’s ongoing dialogue with urban culture” (Lucas 3). The Jesuits dedicated their mission towards the cities specifically, in order to serve those whom they perceived to be the most in need. They believed that their message and their aid in the cities would enable the most individuals to be helped. We can see this dedication to ensuring that they reach the cities in the example of Latin America, where the Jesuits were so resolute that they refused to yield their mission because others were discouraging: “The Jesuits determined to focus their early efforts in the viceregency on four major cities: Lima, Caracas, Quito, and Cuzco, the former capital of the Inca Empire…For the next eighty years, the canons protested loudly every time the Jesuits expanded their college or rebuilt after an earthquake” (Lucas 9-11). The Jesuits were unwavering in their endeavors even though they were not welcomed in the area. The Jesuits believed that it was essential to preach to these cities and to provide them relief. This determination can also be seen in their visits to “The Bowery in New York City’s Lower East Side” (Lucas 18). This area was the home to many poverty-stricken immigrant communities, including the Irish, the Italians, and the Puerto Ricans. Plagued by prostitution, AIDS, violence, drugs, and more, the area was in desperate need of institutions that would take the children out of this harmful environment (Lucas 18). Archbishop Michael Corrigan, Father Nicholas Russo, and Father Walter Janer all worked to establish schools and after-school programs that addressed the needs of the children: “The goal of the school was clear: to move immigrant children out of danger and into the cultural mainstream…[W]hat was needed was an institution that would help at least some young people to break out of the neighborhood’s vicious topography…Nativity gives them a chance to navigate the dangerous urban shoals and move into the mainstream, a chance to discover the landmarks of values, discipline, and community, a chance to transform the evil genius of their neighborhood into a new and shining city” (Lucas 19-21). The Jesuits recognized the need for guidance in the urban, run-down areas of the cities, and addressed these needs however they could by establishing schools and by establishing their presence as a source of relief to the communities.

We need this similar dedication at Loyola. The Year of the City provides an incentive to make ourselves a prominent institution in the city, ready to aid those who are in need. Loyola’s service opportunities enable students to share the Jesuit ideals of education and of justice through action. Human contact is crucial to making Loyola’s presence known in the Baltimore communities that truly need assistance. By sending the students out to these areas, we are saying that we, like the Jesuits, are ready to administer to their needs through action and undying dedication.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Landmarking and Jesuit churches

For the Jesuit, the church and the city are inextricably linked because of the Jesuit mission’s focus on people and the community. Jesuits focus on the dialogue between the church and the “urban culture” and they have “made that dialogue a strategic priority…of their apostolic program” (Lucas 3). For his mission to be successful, St. Ignatius located his churches very carefully so that they would be cornerstones of the community. The work of the Jesuits is grounded in a “particular city, among these particular needs, working with these particular people” (22), and thus, the church must be centrally located so as to provide for the unique needs and people of each city. The Jesuit order build churches, their “landmarks,” in cities in order to bring their mission near to the life of the people they help and to provide a place for worship. Even the “simple clapboard structure” (16) that existed in St. Mary’s City was an active member of the community. The church was not necessarily the physical center of the city, but it was the center of much community activity. For example, the church in St. Mary’s was located at a vertex of one of two converging triangles that formed the town. It was in a prominent position “crowning the highest point in town” (17). St. Mary’s City was in the middle of the wilderness, but the chapel rose as a landmark of faith, demonstrating commitment to people and community as the cornerstone of a promising new city. The centrality of churches in the city enabled Jesuits to fully live out their mission. In the “Bowery,” the Jesuits transformed a saloon into a church and a founded a school, the Loreto School, whereby they were able to influence the lives of old and young Italian immigrants alike. Later efforts included the Nativity Mission Center, which included “a day care center for children of the neighborhood’s sweatshop workers” (21), and the Nativity Middle School, which continues to give at-risk Hispanic students “a chance to navigate the dangerous urban shoals and move into the mainstream, a chance to discover the landmarks of values, discipline, and community, a chance to transform the evil genius of their neighborhood into a new and shining city” (21). Jesuit work takes place in the city and to best serve the people the Jesuits must build their landmarks in the city.

The Jesuits had a considerable amount of conflict with Jesuits of other nationalities and with different orders of Catholics; however, they were united by their determination to build their landmarks in the center of life in the city. According to Lucas in Landmarking, “Ignatius was the first founder of a major religious order in the history of the Church to locate his headquarters in Rome and the first to opt deliberately for complete insertion of a religious order’s works and residences in the center of the urban fabric” (23). This decision set the standard for later Jesuit churches, which would similarly be located “within the sacred circle at the heart of the human city” (23). Whether a Jesuit church is located in Japan or Portugal, the church must be built in the heart of the city. Alessandro Valignano built a church in Portugal by having “his Jesuits occupy the disputed territory [where he wanted to build his church]” (5); Father Antonio Maraschi said of a Jesuit church in San Francisco, “Here let us build and wait…This will be the center of a great city” (6); and the power of church building was evident in Peru where Spaniards worked “alongside feather-bedecked Incas and Canares, who sang versions of the Psalms of David…in their own dialects” (11). Despite the protests of Catholics of other orders in these locations, who were worried about the Jesuits taking worshippers from their own churches, the Jesuits persevered. The vitality of their mission depended on the centrality of their churches in the city. In addition to their similar locations, Jesuits of countries throughout the world were also united by their use of Baroque art and architecture in their churches. My art history class studied Jesuit art of the Baroque; the art and architecture of artists such as Bernini gave Jesuit churches common identifying characteristics. According to Lucas, the “baroque church portal serves as a backdrop for processional and civic drama…Its piazza is a monumental transitional zone—a kind of waiting room between this world and The Next. The portal makes a confident statement about the Church’s presence and relevance in this city” (13). The baroque style unified Jesuit churches and demonstrated their mission. The architecture symbolized the importance of the church to the passage from the earthly city to the heavenly city. Baroque architecture characterized the Jesuit church in Rome, and also churches as far as Japan. Many visitors “both Catholic and Protestant, compared it [the Japanese church] favorably to the finest churches in Europe” (14). Baroque art similarly united the Jesuit community by inspiring worship in Jesuit churches throughout the world.

The location, art and architecture of Jesuit churches make the churches clearly identifiable as landmarks of faith. From the beginning, the Jesuits claimed the center of the city as their “sacred place of encounter,” demonstrating the Jesuit belief that “God is to be found and worshipped not on a holy mountain but at the ordinary crossroads of human experience” (2). It is especially important for students at Loyola College to remember the place of the Jesuit in the city. Loyola is not in the heart of Baltimore; rather, it is located at the northern extremity in an affluent and exclusive neighborhood that is largely removed from the actual “pulse” of the city. To fulfill its responsibility as a Jesuit institution, Loyola must work to bring more diverse people from the city to its worship services and become a more active, visible presence in the city itself.