Catholic Relief Services Student Ambassadors from Xavier University of Louisiana gave two workshops recently in Lafayette at the African-American Catholic Youth Congress.
“It was the first time we reached out to our youth,” CRS ambassador and Xavier senior Dominique Savoy said. “Our main approach wasn’t to school them with a lecture about global issues. It was bringing awareness of these global issues and knowing, as students, we can make a difference.”
Savoy said her team of Sarah Bertrand, Brianna Scott, Rachel Hitchens and Josephite Father Etido Jerome, Xavier chaplain and CRS Ambassadors adviser, discussed their individual faith journeys in: “Why Continue Your Faith in College?”
“We wanted to be able to engage them by giving them a true, personal faith journey story so they would be comfortable to share their stories,” Savoy said. “Having college students speak already gained their attention because that’s where they want to be.”
She said ambassadors spoke about their transition into college; how faith strengthened their college experience; its importance on their life journey; and about how faith was now their choice, not something their parents made them do.
“We wanted them to realize the importance of not just stopping where they were in faith, but taking the next step (to get involved at high school or college, and find a home-based church). … We hope they would understand why it was important to get involved in faith.”
Their personal stories touched the participants.
“They all seemed like a group of students who knew God,” Savoy said. “I feel like we demonstrated that God always loves you. If they weren’t in a relationship with God before we talked to them, they were after.”
Savoy said she hoped sharing their stories helped some students avoid the pitfalls of lapsed faith as many college students experience.
“When you get so caught up in life, the weight of everything going on and being away from home without parents to guide you, you get lost with the weight of the world on you,” she said. “That’s what we were trying to give them a head’s up about. There will be times when you don’t want to do the right thing or things the way you want, but just let God guide you. We wanted them to remember where God is in their life and how he walks with them. They’ll know how important their relationship with God is.”
“Action requires commitment and decision, two qualities essential to the success of Catholic Relief Services here at Xavier University,” Bertrand, a Xavier sophomore, told students. “We realize that to effect global change we must promulgate a call for social justice and for action at home and in our surrounding areas. … (There is) the desperate need for examples of faith and for education in the lives of young African-American students. We challenged the students to connect their personal goals to that of their local, national and global community.”
CRS at Xavier
Savoy said she and Jasmine Hodges were inspired to start a CRS Student Ambassadors chapter at Xavier in 2014 when she was a sophomore active in campus ministry. Father Jerome, the campus minister, asked if they knew about CRS and encouraged them to attend a CRS Catholic Social Media Gathering in Washington, D.C. Morgan Weber, a Xavier friend who has since graduated, had done a CRS internship.
“This idea of being in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world” was the draw, Savoy said, yearning to give back and make a difference.
Savoy said her realization about global issues came when she spoke with Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond. She found out some congressional leaders weren’t interested in helping other nations on issues such as global warming, and that bothered her so much she started the CRS Ambassadors at Xavier. There are 17 CRS ambassadors on campus.
“We try to bring the issue to light,” Savoy said. “It’s an opportunity as student ambassador to bring awareness on our campus and in our community. We are helping our brothers and sisters across the world. We want to let fellow students know we can do something. Small things can grow to a larger scale.”
Local events have included discussions on the reduction in scholarship money through TOPS, hosting a CRS Rice Bowl during Lent and preparing a peanut dish from Niger in the cafeteria to bring awareness of what some populations regularly eat. Students also have cooked meals for the homeless and hosted a homeless simulation on campus in January 2016 to let students experience what it’s like to be homeless and show solidarity for the homeless.
“Some people got hungry, and the group then prayed for all the homeless people and what they were going through every night,” Savoy said.
CRS continuing events
CRS Student Ambassadors at Xavier are involved in the Final Exam Prayer Service with Campus Ministry and Alpha Phi Alpha and will host a one-day coffeehouse on campus with performances and sell Fair Trade products (coffee, chocolate, clothing and household goods) in the ballroom. Savoy hopes it grows into a monthly event.
For details, contact Savoy at (832) 540-5257.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.