Cura Personalis: Sr. Catherine (Missy) Gugerty, SSND
March 16, 2011
Sr. Catherine (Missy) Gugerty, SSND, is the director of Loyola’s Center for Community Service and Justice (CCSJ). She earned a B.A. in Sociology at College of Notre Dame of Maryland, and an M.S. in Pastoral Counseling and a Certificate in NonProfit Management from Loyola University Maryland. Throughout her 30-year career, she has worked for and with people experiencing material poverty and homelessness.
What is Loyola’s community service impact, by the numbers?
Currently more than 2,900 Loyola students engage in almost 79,000 hours of some type of community service at 90 agencies and organizations in and around Baltimore each year. And that doesn’t count what they do on their own.
What’s most fundamental to the Ignatian philosophy of community service?
Very early on, St. Ignatius urged his followers to go out into the cities—he preferred cities—and simply be with the people. Too often we make service about “doing something.” And most certainly there is much to do in this world. But in the midst of the doing, we may also be called simply to be with another. I believe that Ignatius would want our focus on the person rather than the task.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen over the years in student involvement in CCSJ?
When I arrived in the early ’90s, students came to Loyola without much service experience. Over the years, the high schools have dramatically increased service opportunities for students, with some now even requiring a certain number of service hours for graduation. So our students today come with much more service experience. Once students participate in service through CCSJ, however, they tell us that it’s unlike any other work they’ve ever done. They attribute this “service like never before” to two things. First, we encourage preparation before and reflection after service. Second, their earlier experience didn’t typically involve as much direct contact with the people they served, unless they were in an afterschool program. For example, they weren’t prepared to interact with those to whom they were serving a meal. In their preparation through CCSJ, we encourage them to converse with the people they encounter. Again, it’s Ignatius asking us simply to be with the other.
In what ways are the concerns of prospective volunteers the same as they’ve ever been and in what ways different?
Our volunteers are and always have been incredibly generous with their time and talents. One difference is that they now come to Loyola with a greater range of—and more—service experiences. With those students, CCSJ’s task is to help them critically think about and reflect on what they’ve seen and experienced and challenge them to go the next step.
What’s Loyola’s biggest challenge with issues of service and justice?
Many of our students, though very bright, do not always “connect the dots” between what they experience through their service and what they do in their personal lives. One big disconnect for our students is the further work necessary to change the systems that have created the need for service in the first place. For example, we have many students who volunteer in afterschool programs. Our dream is that students will begin to look more closely at why we need afterschool programs, at the quality of the educational system, poverty, parental involvement, and so on. And we hope they will eventually advocate for change to improve the system.
What advice would you offer alumni who are seeking ways to stay engaged after they graduate?
There’s a multitude of ways to get or stay involved. Some ways involve time, some money, some organizing, and some simply being a conscientious citizen and voter. One place to start is on our website.