CSL Welcomes Vinnie Sullivan-Jacques

1 Mar

Vinnie Sullivan-Jacques

Editor’s Note: Most of you already know Vinnie Sullivan-Jacques, but you may not know that he has now taken on the role of Partnership Coordinator, succeeding Susan Hayes, who served us well for 12 years. Vinnie brings some of his most important responsibilities in Campus Ministry over to Community Service-Learning: The restructuring brings the Reach Out Center into Community Service-Learning. While the latter is tied to academic courses and the other is not, both  responsibilities require building and maintaining partnerships between Assumption University and scores of non-profits who have facilitated service experiences. I must add that Reach Out and other programs Vinnie’s worked with haven’t been tied to courses, they’re almost always educational in one way or another. One obvious example: The Light The Way Scholars, which Vinnie brings over to us from his previous work in Campus Ministry.

I must add that while he didn’t officially start his new role until January, he has been a part of the CSL community for roughly a decade, serving on our CSL Advisory Council and participating in our annual CSL Faculty Workshop. He also helped create one of the most important ventures in my personal service life: He worked with me and Paul Belsito to create a SEND mission trip to my hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, after a deadly tornado mowed an almost mile-wide path. While SEND remains with Campus Ministry, his ability to orchestrate so many of those trips – often simultaneously – is just one more skill Vinnie brings over to our office.

As a way of saying hello, Vinnie has provided the reflection below.

Those of you who know me are well aware that Jesus’ statement in Matthew 25:40. “Whatever you did for one of these least of mine, you did for me” is a passage that reflects my worldview and provides a guideline for living a life that matters. In my 10 years with Assumption Campus Ministry, I have learned a lot about Jesus’s message in Matthew 25 and many of those lessons came journeying with Assumption students, staff, faculty and alumni.  Our SEND program has adopted a relationship-based approach to service with a special emphasis on “being with” and embracing a ministry of presence.

During my time traveling with SEND groups, I had the privilege of walking with students as we listened to people from Ecuador share stories not only about their deepest heartbreaks, but also the joys of caring for one another in the midst of poverty and living the Gospel call of true solidarity.  We received a glimpse at the face of Christ by playing soccer in the streets with children and visiting a hospital for people with Hansen’s disease (once known as Leprosy) where we sang Christmas carols and “Sweet Caroline.”

SEND_Ecuador1a

In Camden, we met community members trying to repair their neighborhoods destroyed by societal neglect and an oppressive drug epidemic. Throughout this nation, we encountered people struggling with homelessness and addiction who challenged our understanding of race, class, and what it meant to encounter Jesus in the poor.  I enjoyed countless conversations with students about how this type of service was their church and how they ran into God in unexpected ways.

On campus, I spent time being with students as they “walked in the shoes” of migrants, supported local farmers, educated peers about the plight of climate change refugees, camped outside in frigid weather to remember our Worcester neighbors out in the cold and advocated for marginalized brothers and sisters. Many of these remarkable students went on to become social workers, post graduate volunteers, teachers, youth ministers, immigration advocates, and other vocations rooted in concern for the common good. Their passion and desire to move our society closer to God’s Kingdom has had a permanent impact on my life and shaped me in profound ways.

Recently, I have transitioned out of my position in Campus Ministry and have taken on a new opportunity to carry out the mission of service and justice at Assumption in Academic Affairs. While I will genuinely miss my work as a minister, I look forward to seeing how the Spirit moves me and how I can continue to support students as they build relationships out in the Worcester community. Over the past ten years, I have learned that service work becomes transformative when we spend time reflecting on our experiences before and after encounters with people at volunteer sites. Through thoughtful reflection on service, students can begin to analyze their place in society, recognize unjust structures, and develop a greater sense of how they can contribute to the common good.  In my new position, I will work with faculty members, students, and community members to uncover the educational nature of community engagement experiences. Service-learning has the power to motivate students by helping them discover their gifts and strengths while exploring the needs of the world.

According to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’” What excites me about working in Community Service-Learning and directing the Reach Out Center is that I can witness the mutuality of service that will take place for Assumption students and the greater community. While our students experience reaching out to a wide variety of community partners, our courses and programs provide the greater community with opportunities to share their talents and lives with our students. Volunteer coordinators and non-profit directors get a chance to serve as mentors, clients in many of the partnerships have the ability to share wisdom from their lives, and Worcester youth can motivate our Assumption students to become more resilient and more excited for what tomorrow brings.

Personally, I am welcoming that change and eager to continue making a positive difference in the lives of students and our neighbors in Worcester. 

 

 

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