September 28, 2020

Students, faculty, and staff spent a day helping those in the Brookland community during the University’s annual Mother Teresa Day of Service, which was held earlier this month. Approximately 120 students participated in-person clearing debris in local neighborhoods, cemeteries, and parks, working in a community garden, and sorting donations at Habitat for Humanity ReStores. 

A driving theme for this year’s event was the virtue of simplicity, said Emmjolee Mendoza-Waters, associate director of campus ministry and community service. Thanks to the ongoing pandemic safety restrictions, the scope of the day was smaller than previous years, with fewer students available to participate and less service sites open to the public. 

Mendoza-Waters said she took inspiration from the life of St. Teresa of Calcutta. 

“She was always focused on the individual, and forming relationships with the people around her,” Mendoza-Waters said. “While things may look different or smaller than they have in years past, we can still be out in the community helping in some way. That’s what we’re called to do.”

Junior Theresa Gardner, a music and theology major, participated by leading a group of 20 students in a virtual yoga class for adults with developmental disabilities. Gardner, who is living in New Jersey with her family, has been leading these virtual yoga classes since mid-July. 

“People with special needs, none of their usual activities are open to them so they’re stuck at home with nothing going on,” Gardner said. “This yoga class is not physically taxing at all, but it’s a way to practice deep breathing, hopefully giving them the tools to help them relax and calm down when they feel anxious.”

While she finds teaching the yoga classes to be rewarding, Gardner said she is also grateful to be able to serve alongside her classmates, despite not being together in person. 

“Being able to connect and do service with my community means so much to me,” she said. “Doing service makes you feel like you have a deeper purpose. Still being able to participate in that during this time has been awesome.” 

Senior Jonathan Harrison, a member of the Cardinal Service Corps, led a group of students as they worked to beautify the St. Mary’s Cemetery near campus.  

“There’s a lot of trash that blows in, and dead flowers and grass clippings that can cover the tombstones,” he said. “We spent our morning clearing it off and making it look respectable.”

Harrison said he was happy to volunteer during this year’s day of service. 

“It’s about being able to support our community and show that right now we’re here in Brookland, and we’re all in this together,” he said.