The definition of service

What does it mean to serve?

As I looked up the definition on the internet, I was partially disappointed because I did not find the answer I was looking for. "To serve" has a bigger meaning to me than the one I found. I have been attending Ursuline Academy, a small girl's school, since seventh grade. Ironically, my school's motto is "Serviam" or "I will Serve." So, maybe I should have answered this question a while back; but now, I am a senior, graduating in a few days, heading to Emmanuel College this coming fall. Now it is my goal to answer that question; on my own this time, not with some Google-produced definition.

For my senior service project, we were asked to choose something we love to do. I am volunteering at the Archdiocese of Boston's Pastoral Center in Braintree with the Catholic Media office. My faith is the most important thing in my life and every chance I get I always look for new ways to grow closer to God. This was my chance to give back to Christ, and what better way than to do that in a place built on the principle of God's love? I also wanted to find out how everything here works to turn the gears behind the Pastoral Center's walls. Of course, I cannot go into every detail of my experience, but lucky for me, I picked up some lessons in just my first week here.

From day one, I made it another goal of mine to start everyday with Mass. As I sat in the pew, I heard Father say, "Listen, hear, follow." I liked the sound of those three steps. Of course when dealing with one's faith, it is a little more complicated, but I figured that it was a great guideline. The priest talked about the comparison of humans to sheep. Sheep, surprisingly, are brighter in one respect than we humans are. When people hear many different voices, they seemingly have a hard time following just one. Sheep can hear many voices as well, but the difference is they only follow one voice: that of their shepherd. So as I listened to the homily, I realized that this might help me to answer my question, "What does it mean to serve?" I met so many people that day, each greeting me with kind eyes and warm smiles, and I saw Christ, our Shepherd, in each one of them. Wherever you are in life, whatever you have done, God is always happy when his sheep come home to him. All we have to do is listen to his words, hear them and understand them and simply follow him in his direction and serve him along the way.

Here at the Pastoral Center, service is huge, it is instinctive. For me, service and doing something to help someone else, makes me feel relaxed. So here is where I uncover more to answer my question; but even now I am still asking, "What does it mean to serve?" Just as Cardinal George of Chicago said at the Cardinals' Dinner to benefit Catholic University, "Some lead with the mind, some lead with the heart," be a leader like Christ and give back with your heart.

At the end of my first week, I defined service. Again, a homily jumped out at me as I was attending Mass with two students, also from Ursuline. "Faith is meant to be shared." So basic, yet so important. I also looked around me and my eye landed on an elderly couple kneeling down holding hands. I don't know who they are, but I knew that they loved each other very much and also were devout in their faith. Doesn't it take love to have faith? And it takes faith to love? This couple had both. Faith is definitely meant to be shared. So that is why it is so important to give back with your heart.

I have seen service in various ways here at the Pastoral Center. I see it every day at Mass as the readers proclaim the Scriptures, or in the Pilot Printing press as thousands of bulletins are produced weekly. I see it every time someone holds the door, every time "The Good Catholic Life" radio program goes on air to share God's message. Everywhere I turn, each ministry is imbued with service. Once again I answered more of my question, "What are the gears that turn behind the Pastoral Center's walls?" The one and true answer would be: faith.

I am once again hounded by the question, "What does it mean to serve?" I believe everyone's interpretation will be different and unique. To serve is to offer service selflessly, for no recognition. To serve is to love and to share in your faith. To serve is to be close with God and to almost imitate Him. Jesus gave up his life to save us, the greatest service of all. Service, or the desire to serve, is a gift he left for us and we must take hold of this and not take it for granted. I have only begun my journey, and I'm sure more questions and answers will arise, but no matter what, Serviam, "I will serve," for that is the least I could do for the One whose love is so great and has given me so much.

Kathleen Grey is a graduating senior at Ursuline Academy in Dedham. As part of her senior service project, she interned in the Archdiocese's Catholic Media Secretariat. She plans to attend Emmanuel College in the fall.

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