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Sister Darlene Kawulok, CSJ, and chair of the College's Religious Studies Department (third from right), poses with students at one of several social justice trips last year that were part of the CSJ student volunteer program.

CSJs Show Students Real-World Social Justice

Jan. 5, 2009 -- Junior Esther Granados has nurtured her passion for social justice outside the classroom through a volunteer program run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, the College’s founding order of nuns.

Granados is among dozens of Mount students who have traveled around the U.S. over the last five years with Sister Darlene Kawulok, chair of the Mount’s Religious Studies Department, and Sister Anne Davis, both CSJs. Student volunteers feed and eat with the homeless in San Francisco, assist at mobile medical clinics for the poor in Arizona, and learn about human rights issues during an annual trip to Georgia.

“I now have more compassion for homeless people who have gone through so many terrible circumstances to end up where they are,” says Granados, who is double majoring in psychology and religious studies and participated in a feed-the-homeless project. “The sisters invite you to actually get out in the world and see what’s going on. It’s not really a religious project as much as it is an effort to get students to think about advocacy work in a new way.”

“Number one, we want the students to begin to realize that they can be advocates of change,” says Kawulok, who also directs the College’s graduate religious studies program. “And we also want students to see that the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph extends far beyond the classroom. We want them to know that the mission of the community lives inside of them, and they carry that forth by being advocates of justice and advocates of service in the community.”

Granados was one of 21 students to travel with the volunteer program last November to Columbus, Ga., to participate in the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice. The event calls for an end to the bloodshed that has persisted for decades in parts of Latin America. Kawulok says the event focuses on the School of the Americas, a facility located in Georgia that trains Central American soldiers to return to their homelands and use violence to protect the interests of the wealthy to the detriment of the poor.

“The Georgia trip really hits home because my parents fled civil war in El Salvador in 1985,” says Granados, 20. “The war was very traumatizing for them. For a long time in the U.S., whenever my mom would hear a helicopter overhead she would panic.”

Granados says she will continue with the CSJ volunteer program as she finishes her Mount education. “I love going on these trips with the sisters,” she says. “I have learned to see so many issues in new ways.”

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