A Real Experience of Service and Solidarity: The Jesuit Mission in John Carroll University’s Football Program

BY JOHN TUCCI | June 14, 2017

Editor’s Note: Since 2011, John Carroll University has participated in the annual Northeast Ohio Jesuit Day of Service with other Cleveland-area Jesuit organizations, including the Ignatian Solidarity Network, St. Ignatius High School, Saint Martin de Porres High School, Walsh Jesuit High School, Boys Hope Girls Hope, Church of the Gesu, Ignatian Volunteer Corps, Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and Jesuit Retreat House.

What began jointly as a 125th anniversary celebration of John Carroll University and St. Ignatius High School has continued as a way of connecting, collaborating, and celebrating the shared mission of Jesuit institutions, with a goal of fostering a real experience of service and solidarity. The activities of the day are not centered on “doing for”, but about “being with”: working side-by-side with community partners.

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
that of knowing that I do your will.
(Jacques Sevin, S.J.)

The John Carroll University football program strives embody what it means to be a “man with and for others,” to practice generosity through service. We answer that call to serve not only in our athletic community, but in the community of all men and women. In this past year, we have logged over 1,200 hours of service—but as a program we feel that quantifying service does not hold ultimate value. For us, it is not the amount of service, but the process though which relationships are built and lives touched in and around our community with those we serve.  We commit ourselves to fostering enduring relationships and through these relationships we continue on our path toward a passionate pursuit of honoring the full potential that we find in ourselves and in others.

The on-field achievements for our program in the fall of 2016, including a trip to the Division 3 semifinals, were incredible; however, we feel that our off-field achievements are just as valuable, if not more. With the season ending the week before finals, we were very busy; however, this did not stop many of our players from continuing to answer the call to serve. On the importance of maintaining community involvement during the football season, junior Ray Brewster says that “it is important to do service in-season because it continues to remind me that service is humbling and it strengthens the community I am working with, the John Carroll community and myself—I should not stop because I am in season.”

Jesuit Day of Service before and after photos from the East 95th St. Gardens in Cleveland.

Our former Head Coach, Tom Arth, was a graduate of both Saint Ignatius High School and John Carroll University. Arth embraces the Jesuit ideals and aimed to ensure that our team embodied them. Recently, we were faced with the decision of whether or not to continue to participate in the 2017 Jesuit Day of Service. Our new head coach, Rick Finotti, took time for discernment and felt that it was incredibly important to continue on with the day because it embodies the John Carroll mission and what it means to be a “man with and for others.”

John Carroll University football team members Jake Santiago and John Tucci (the author) at the Fatima Family Center in Cleveland.

This year, the weather for the Jesuit Day of Service was less than ideal; however, we carried on with the day just as we would have without the rain. To utilize our gifts, we used our strength, both physically and in numbers, to do manual labor in the forms of landscaping, cleaning, and various tasks. Our program recognizes the importance of the work that we do, and many of our partners would not be able to achieve some tasks without the manpower we provide. The Jesuit Day of Service has become a part of our football program’s tradition of excellence, thus another step toward our main goal of creating “men with and for others.”

As football players, whether we realize it or not, we spend a lot of time reflecting. Reflection is an important part of our program; without it, we would not be able to grow and get through adversity both on and off the field. Before and after every team activity, we take time for reflection, to set our minds on what it means to be a “Man of Carroll”—our football program’s term for naming our team values in the Jesuit context. After service, we spend time together talking about the importance of the activity we were able to take part in and what it means to our program and those we serve.

Arin Pruit (right), John Carroll University football player, working with students from St. Thomas Aquinas School in Cleveland.

Our program’s commitment to our Jesuit values manifests in our search for the magis, Latin for “the more,” in everything that we do—a standard we set for ourselves. By constantly working for the betterment of ourselves and those around us, we are working toward the “greater glory of God.” Rising junior Anthony Moeglin reflects that “as athletes, we get caught up in our sport and sometimes we fail to realize that important things do not always take place on the field, but in our communities.”

[socialpug_tweet tweet=”Important things do not always take place on the field, but in our communities”]

Junior Derek Naim believes that service “is one of the key components of what it means to be a ‘Man of Carroll.’” We are working to build relationships with those we serve, and we are working for those who are suffering. We are called to inspire magis in each other, and those that we serve. We are called to work “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam”—for the greater glory of God.

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