More than twenty years of monastic life still influences my patterns of living and thinking. For instance, when I hear of some trouble or need, my first thought is to take it to God in prayer. Since beginning the Pastoral Counseling program at Loyola, I have been urged to think in more tangible ways such as getting involved in social justice issues, or making a difference by my voice, my hands, and my presence.
And so that evening of June 14, 2012, I found myself driving down Charles Avenue mixed in with the many cars and people joining the Sailabration events going on at that time. I was not heading for the Inner Harbor, or even Fort McHenry. I was on my way to the Cathedral of the Incarnation for a talk called “Pray, Study, Act: the Dream.”
I had no clue about the Dream Act, who it affected or that it even existed. But an invitation to the event sparked my interest, and I felt the gentle nudging of Loyola’s message that we get involved in social justice issues pushing me to do something. So I set aside my summer studies (I was taking two summer courses at that time) and headed out to hear about this issue for myself.
I had no idea that a youngster brought to the states as an infant and whose family paid state taxes still had to pay out-of-state tuition at a local state college. I did not know that this law affected veterans as well. I did not know that 12 other states have already passed the Dream Act and made it law. I did not know that Maryland’s version of the Dream Act was the strictest of all versions, had passed the legislation and been put into law, only for a referendum that put the law on hold and place it on the ballet for a vote in the fall. Most of all, I did not know that children of immigrants who had not become citizens had the most difficult time going on to college because of the restrictions. They had an uphill battle to become self-supporting and independent.
The speakers at this event were varied, from Rev. Glenna Reed Huber of the Church of the Holy Nativity to the Very Rev. Hal Ley Hayek of the Cathedral. Father Joe Muth of St Matthew Catholic Church gave a slide presentation explaining the Dream Act and its implementation in 12 other states. Youth directly involved and hoping to go on to college gave testimony of their status and their difficulties, and asked us to help the Dream Act pass in the state of Maryland. They spoke of their identification with the United States as the only home they have ever known, of their desire to experience the American Dream.
As I was sitting there congratulating myself for getting involved in a social justice issue, I looked around the small room. There were only 83 individuals gathered in the basement of the Cathedral, of which 13 were presenters, at least half of the rest where sponsors of the event, and only a handful were interested spectators. Among this small crowd I found two of my classmates. Elation. Here we were, three Pastoral Counseling students, gathered here not because of a classroom assignment, or to gain extra credit. We were here on a busy weekday evening because we cared.
The Pastoral Counseling program teaches its students the Hippocratic oath, to do no harm to those we serve. But Loyola takes us a step further: to get involved with issues of social justice. The workshop offered me and my classmates the opportunity to learn the truth about an issue of social justice. And we spent that time willingly so that we could understand those who are vulnerable to the law and in need of advocacy.
As we left the workshop, the three of us met up and began to chat. We discussed the issues addressed at the meeting, as well as our summer classes and our time left in the Pastoral Counseling program. We did this naturally, as if this was something we do all the time. For the Pastoral Counseling program has taught us our job is to listen to real individuals telling their story of hope, of fear, and of dependency, and to find concrete ways to address those issues.