.- In honor of the 125th anniversary of its founding, The Catholic University of America community in Washington, D.C. completed 125,000 hours of charitable service in just over eight months.
President John Garvey said on March 16 that he was “astounded and immensely proud” of the tremendous generosity demonstrated by the students, alumni and faculty.
Garvey had challenged the university community to complete 125,000 hours of service between May 15, 2011, and April 10, 2012, which marks the anniversary of the university’s founding.
“For 125 years, our pursuit of truth through reason and faith has found its fulfillment in charity,” he said in a statement outlining the goal on the project's website. “In this way, our University has borne witness to the idea that knowing, loving and serving God are part of the same enterprise.”
Founded in 1887 by the U.S. bishops with the support of Pope Leo XIII, The Catholic University of America is the Catholic Church’s national university in the U.S.
It currently serves around 3,633 undergraduate and 3,261 graduate students in numerous courses of study.
Garvey said that “reason, faith, and service” unite all Catholic University students, from 1887 until today.
He encouraged the entire community to give of their time and talent to the Church, the disadvantaged and the community in the months leading up to the school’s 125th anniversary.
The response from the university community was immense. Students, alumni, faculty, staff and administration members all participated in the initiative, volunteering for projects including food banks, women’s shelters, habitat for humanity events and mission trips to Jamaica and Costa Rica.
Individuals volunteered alone or in groups. Several clubs and departments held volunteer events together.
The initiative even drew the participation of alumni who graduated more than 60 years ago.
Due to the strong response, the university reached its goal on Jan. 24, nearly three months before the goal date. However, the community did not stop there, but continued its efforts to serve others.
As of March 24, the university had recorded 194,074 service hours, and more will be accepted until April 10.
A webpage dedicated to the school’s anniversary allows students to find service opportunities and offer reflections on what serving others has meant to them.
“I serve because of the joy that it brings others,” said senior Andrew Laux, who started to get involved with service at the university during his freshman year.
After volunteering in different capacities, Laux found his “niche” in helping out as a service leader at the Little Sisters of the Poor Nursing Home.
He said that the experience has helped him to “really appreciate the act of conversation” and understand how God can use him to bless others “by a simple act of talking.”
He noted that the elderly residents are “constantly teaching me things about myself, my faith, and my life.”
Laux also believes that service has helped him grow in his relationship with God.
“I find myself praying more often and realizing how blessed I am to have my family so close and so supportive,” he said.
Alumna Laura Hehman said that she became a full-time volunteer at A Simple House of Sts. Francis and Alphonsus after graduating in 2005. Initially, she only intended to stay for a few months.
However, six years later, Hehman is still at A Simple House. She was recently married to another volunteer and graduate of The Catholic University of America.
She explained that A Simple House seeks to provide for the material and spiritual needs of the poor. This includes a wide range of service that encompasses delivering diapers and groceries to families in need, inviting people to Bible studies and visiting with those who are lonely.
Hehman said that her years of volunteering have shown her the importance of love and taught her that “the problems of the poor cannot be fixed by material solutions alone.”
“A Simple House has been a place for us to learn humility and sow deep friendships,” she said, adding that she and her husband “plan to continue our work here.”