We believe that here at SLU, your service experiences should educate you in the same context. What did you do as part of your service? What impact did it have on you? Are you inspired to take greater action surrounding the issue or population served?
The Center recognizes that there are various forms of giving back to the community. It could be through Philanthropy, Volunteerism, or Service. It is important to note that the Center for Service and Community Engagement meets students, faculty, and staff where they are on this continuum - all are critical, and all play a vital role in helping to shape a better society. It is our mission to help guide people on their journeys of service, no matter where they might begin. But it is also important to distinguish the three:
PHILANTHROPY: This involves collecting and giving money to a designated group or organization, for short-term, long-term, or emergency needs. Special collections in churches, direct solicitations for funds, bake sales, carwashes, and any number of grant opportunities, all fall under this category. Concerned with providing physical resources, e.g., money, clothing, buildings, food, objects and real estate, philanthropists often have little or no direct contact with the people their generosity benefits. Clearly, though, while an important and valuable source of necessary resources for agencies and organizations, all over the world, philanthropy is not "service".
VOLUNTEERISM: Another worthy act of kindness, volunteering addresses, more often than not, a "one-shot" task to be completed, often an end-in-itself. Filing papers or other clerical work, building a house, clearing weeds, repairing broken items, or providing immediate, if short-term, help to organizations or agencies. Though generally motivated by charitable or humanistic values, these are optional, and only more or less essential. Volunteerism, per se, does not question values or the relative justice or injustice of a particular situation, nor does it necessarily seek to change or serve any but immediate and presenting needs. When a specific task is completed, more often than not, your work is finished. While a good and necessary resource for these organizations, volunteerism is not "service."
SERVICE: In Jesuit universities, the understanding of why we exist in the first place centers around an understanding of our purpose and our value, in and to the world. For St. Ignatius, our purpose and our goal derived from faith and nourished our faith. Community service, a means to an end, based on-and deriving from focused reflection, calls us to a longer-term commitment to issues, and a more personal investment than merely completing a task. This understanding of service calls us into relationships with the people with whom we work and serve, and from whom we also learn--it calls us into a broader community than we normally define as "my family, my university, my club, or team or organization or activity." Service, in this context, calls us to, and prepares us for, a larger life, not just a college life. It also extends to the interrelatedness, the connectedness, of each of us to all of us--as brothers and sisters in Christ, as the Body of Christ. As a result, at Jesuit universities, we focus on "service" as a part of "promoting the faith that seeks justice."
Special thanks to Fr. Paul Stark, S.J. for his wisdom and guidance in helping us to discern these definitions.