BY CARLOS JIMÉNEZ | April 2, 2020
Today’s Readings

Reminiscing about my experience as a graduate of a Jesuit high school, my thoughts gravitate to the joy and gratitude for the tremendous personal, academic, and spiritual growth that Ignatian education gave me during those formative years. Still, I also remember the internal struggles I experienced as a student of color in a predominantly white institution to find my place amid an environment so different from where I came from. My closest friends became other students like me: Latino, Filipino, Indian, Persian, and African American. While we never discussed it openly (in hindsight, I realize that we simply lacked the awareness and vocabulary to articulate our lived experiences), it is clear to me that we found each other because we were going through similar situations.  

Years later, when I returned to Bellarmine as a faculty member, I was pleasantly surprised to see how it had become a vastly more diverse, equitable, and inclusive institution. Nevertheless, it became apparent to me that many students of color and those from low-income backgrounds continue to struggle to feel like they belong. As a response, four years ago we created the Unity Council, which is a group of representatives from the various affinity groups on campus. Together, the Unity Council has collaborated to organize deep and meaningful conversations about race during our Summit on Human Dignity, monthly Diversity Weeks, and the celebration of the wide array of cultural heritages and identities in our school through the Unity Assembly and Global Village. These events have become one of the most anticipated school activities for our community. 

harden not your hearts, diversity, multicultural, diverse

When our school closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Unity Council members were devastated. Suddenly, all the events they had worked tirelessly to organize for months, including the Lunar New Year, Filipino Cultural Night, and Nazaara were cancelled. In the weeks since, we have adapted and held virtual meetings in which students have checked in with each other, offering words of encouragement and laughter and even discussing ways that the group can still carry on its mission through new forms of communication with the rest of the school community.

Witnessing the companionship and the bonds that have been created across lines of difference in the loving Unity Council community has been one of my greatest joys as an educator. In these uncertain times, I have been inspired by their resiliency and determination to not let this situation harden their hearts. These students embody Ignatius’ call to find God in all things, even in times of despair and fear. They have been a great example for me, filling my own heart with hope for the future.

In times of widespread desolation, how can we find consolation in our relationship with God, with ourselves and with our brothers and sisters?  

6 replies
  1. Avatar
    Dr.Cajetan Coelho says:

    Nice piece, Senhor Carlos Jiménez. Thanks. Experiencing God in all things, places, people and events is truly comforting.

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    Sydney West says:

    Thank you, Carlos Jimenez, for sharing your story! My father is a graduate from Bellarmine (his daughters had to go to the other Jesuit high school in San Francisco) and it’s wonderful to see the steps that the school is taking to increase diversity, equity and inclusion. May you find peace and comfort at this time. From a fellow double Jesuit, stay safe and stay well.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Carlos Jiménez says:

      Hello Sydney,

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I am glad to hear that while you were not able to attend Bellarmine like your father, he continued to value Jesuit education and sent his daughters to SI. I know that Jesuits schools across the nation have also worked hard to become more welcoming communities for students of all backgrounds. Please tell your father to stay in touch with his alma mater!

      Sending you and your loved ones blessings during these difficult times.

      Carlos

      Reply
  3. Avatar
    Bryan Leone says:

    As an Italian-American at a predominately Irish-American Jesuit college from 1964-1968 at Holy Cross College in Worcester MA I felt the same sense of isolation. Most of my friends were non-Irish mostly because the Irish wanted nothing to do with me

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Carlos Jiménez says:

      Dear Bryan,

      Thank you for your comment. Indeed, all Jesuit institutions have a tough history of exclusion, othering and lack of representation to reckon with. Your story mirrors the experiences of many current students, hence the importance of communities (including alumni!) working collaboratively to make our schools more welcoming, inclusive and equitable.

      I wish the best to you and your loved ones during these difficult times!

      Carlos

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *