Service-learning for a catholic university means building self-identity and confidence through the service and learning experiences shared by staff and students with their stakeholders. The immediate community within which the campus is located becomes paramount and the core shaper of what is learned and lived. This type of learning is transformative because it is based on approach to development from the grassroots.
The following notes are excerpts of a document Spirituality for Service-Learning, written by the Tangaza University College (TUC) team, in charge of the Africa Regional Hub of UNISERVITATE.
Reflections on the spirituality that drives everything
Tangaza spirituality is summarized by our identity as Catholics arising from the Creed. In the Creed, we express our belief in the Creator responsible for all beings on earth. To Him we must give account on how we managed this world, given to us to care for. This should make us reflect on our personal response to God, personal spiritual growth and conversion. Spirituality is therefore relationship with oneself, the other, the divine and with the environment. Spirituality is a network linking us to the Most High.
Spirituality shapes beliefs and attitudes. It is the driving force in our lives that comes from our belonging in this world, from the way we understand our connection with other people, the creation itself, and the Supreme Being.
Our faith tradition is the way we nourish this spirituality through our meditation, prayer, worship, moral living and so on. We develop our spirituality by making decisions about how to act in the various situations we encounter.
Spirituality is also living in the heart, speaking and sharing from the heart. It calls for awakeness to the movements of the human spirit, primarily within oneself, and, in the second equally important movement, within the human community. It also entails both listening to the heart, to one’s own inner movements, and listening to the heart to correctly discern the movements in the heart of another, and those in the corporate heart of the community. Spirituality defines the way to make the journey of life, not its destination. It is existentially an endeavour, not an accomplishment. By its nature, a lived spirituality is always self-transcending.” (Churu, 2009: 31).
A situated spirituality
The context in which the college is situated also influence its spirituality. Kenya is composed by 44 ethnic communities, with diverse cultural outlooks and practices. Africa is a huge continent with hundreds of identities, making unity a huge challenge.
Kenya and Africa also share the reality of poverty, division, socio-economic and political exclusion. These have often led to a culture of violence and hopelessness. The consequence has been the polarization of people into radical antagonism. Another reality is the exclusion of women due to rigid patriarchal structures.
This diversity is also reflected by TUC. At the college, students and staff come from 39 African and 32 Non-African Countries. It follows that a relevant Tangaza University College spirituality, has to be one that embraces and promotes cross-cultural/inter-cultural living, tolerance and inclusion. The aim is to create a transformed national, continental and a harmonious global human family.
Emmy Gichinga (2003: 9) warned that in a cross-cultural institution, “many people have their own pre-conceived ideas, biases and prejudices about other cultures of which they know very little”. This may lead to stereotypes, discrimination, and anger, feelings of superiority or inferiority and serious conflicts. In order to avoid all these, we have “to work on our horizon of awareness of the fact that regardless of where we all come from, we are all basically the same people expressing themselves differently (Brennan, 2003).
If spirituality is the understanding and personalizing of the meaning of life, then it gives us the motivation to do what we do. It helps us identify what is good in our situation (our contexts). Compassion and Justice ought to become key values for social transformers. Compassion manifests itself by working in solidarity with God’s people, especially the marginalised. What seems to be required then is a spirituality or a way of thinking about life, based on Compassion and Justice, which embraces a hope full anticipation that things will become better for the human race in the world.
TUC spirituality for service-learning has to be one that prepares staff, students and the surrounding community for this hope. This calls for a spirituality of stewardship, which is the strong message in Laudato Si, by Pope Francis (2015). We are all commanded to go and proclaim the good news of liberation to all peoples scattered everywhere in the world (Matthew 28:19-20). This good news is all about rendering service to all our brothers and sisters in need.
Let us all embrace spirituality for service-learning as the catalyst that will bring about real human transformation.Read the full document!