written by: Maura Rocks | Loyola University Chicago ’16
The stress of finals exams has passed. The Christmas rush of gift-buying, White Elephant-exchanging, and cookie eating is behind us. Only a few days stand between us and something new: a year filled with new and exciting possibilities – a blank slate, a fresh chalkboard, a new document on which we are waiting to write. Before we move on, however, our shared saturation in Ignatian Spirituality calls for us to engage in moments of reflection. I want to offer for you my own small reflection on 2013 and the gifts I have been given as a member of the Ignatian Family this year
This past year, 2013, has been filled with new and moving experiences for the Ignatian Family, and we all have so much for which to be grateful. Personally, I am grateful for my first interaction with the Ignatian Family and ISN this July at the University Leaders Summit hosted by ISN and John Carroll University. I am grateful for the 16 hours I spent on a Megabus, the hospitality of the folks at JCU, the sessions that breathed life back into my own passions for social change, and most especially for the students with whom I shared those four wonderful days. I am grateful for the dinner conversations, the brainstorming sessions, the prayers, epic games of soccer, and for the community that was formed in such a short time. I find goodness in the stories that were shared and the support I still receive from my ULS friends. The passion in that room on the last day of the summit was palpable and the hearts of more than thirty college students were most certainly on fire.
That fire continued to burn throughout this Fall semester, especially when I was lucky enough to attend my first ever Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice in Washington, D.C., a city I was first introduced to a year earlier thanks to my alternative break immersion to the D.C. Catholic Worker. Being in a room with 1,300 passionate justice-seekers and feeling right at home stands as one of the best feelings I have ever experienced. Getting a hug and kiss from Sr. Peggy O’Neil, a woman whom I had never met, finding old friends and meeting new ones, and advocating on Capitol Hill for issues deeply important to me are all experiences that have given me enormous amounts of hope for my own journey and my own struggle for justice. The Teach-In, my invitation into the Ignatian Family, strengthened and lengthened my roots and firmly planted me in a community of which I feel a part.
In my reflections on the year 2013, I am also grateful for my Loyola Chicago community. I give thanks to God for those who have pushed for change on our campus, especially for the diligent students working to insure the rights of undocumented and LGBTQI students, dining hall workers, and the low-income residents of Loyola’s two host communities, Rogers Park and Edgewater. I give thanks for the students who fasted for Immigration reform, who raised funds for hurricane relief, who used Pope Francis’s words as inspiration for their work, who met with evicted tenants of a Rogers Park building, and who fostered friendships with the homeless on the streets of downtown Chicago. Loyola students, staff, and faculty have shown me the power of their actions and the ability we share in enacting change on our campus and in our communities. They have colored my year with their powerful stories, inspirational work, and irresistible joy.
In the footsteps of Ignatius, we are called to find God in all things and to seek the Spirit’s movement in our lives. The light of Christ, which is so prevalent during this holy season, shines brightly as I reflect on this past year. In all the goodness that 2013 has brought me, I find God. God’s light illuminates these experiences, gives them depth and seals them in importance. Upon reflecting on the goodness of 2013, I am left in a state of perpetual hope for all that 2014 will bring. As the year comes to a close, I invite you to engage in your own “Examen” of 2013. Where was God? What was good? When did you find hope? And as we prepare to enter into a new year, may our hearts and minds be open to doing God’s work as we walk with each other on the path to justice.