A Community of Self-sacrifice
(Oct, 2010) It seems more and more frequently I hear adults express a complaint something along the lines of, “Young people today are just so self-absorbed, what with their constant texting and their
obsession with Facebook. They don’t seem to realize that there is anything outside of their own selves.” While this may be true in some cases, the students that I attend Mount Saint Mary’s with shatter this typical mold. Nowhere
else have I met so many young men and women who are so incredibly outgoing and friendly, and so amazingly selfless. What is it about the Mount’s campus that attracts all of these atypically joyful and mature students? When I
first visited Mount Saint Mary’s, President Powell described this quality that as “Mount Spirit.” He explained that the Mount community is simply bursting with a rich peace, openness, and hospitality that many other campuses
across the country seem to lack. It stems from the basic realization of each student that they are not the most important thing in the world. Mount students, fueled by professors and administrators who exhibit maturity, in turn
demonstrate a ripeness that is quite beyond their years.
This summer I had the opportunity to experience the same “Mount Spirit” that I had become so familiar with in a town a little north of Emmitsburg. I took a little journey up to Stamford, Connecticut to
witness the first religious profession of ten young women. They were joining the Sisters of Life, which is a religious community based out of New York City that devotes itself to serving God by upholding the dignity of all human
life. It was formed in 1991 by John Cardinal O’Connor after he visited Dachau, which is a concentration camp just outside of Munich, Germany. He was horrified that humans could be so destructive to one another, and so began a
mission to combat this most fearsome vice of men and women. Today, 19 years later, the community is still flourishing and welcoming young women to follow John Cardinal O’Connor’s example.
Most recently, the community received the vows of these ten women in their mid-twenties. Each publically professed her desire to serve God in the world through chastity, poverty, obedience, and a fourth
vow “to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.” Practically, this means that these ten young women are sacrificing the possibility of a husband, children, grandchildren, fancy cars, and opulent homes all for the sake
of something outside of themselves. Despite their young age, they each felt a desire to serve God and man through the laying down of their lives, and decided to follow it. They experienced something bigger than themselves and
responded with a yes, for better or for worse. They forsook the goods of this world for the promise of something completely different and wholly unseen.
It is absolutely mindboggling to me that there are still young men and women everywhere who are so willing to abandon the promises of this world in order to follow a set of beliefs. How do we stay true to
who we are or at least who we are hoping to become with so many forces against us? How do we confidently say no to starving ourselves for the sake of beauty or searching for answers at the bottom of a bottle? Who can we look to
as examples? In these ten young women, I at least have found an example of how to live for something outside of myself. No matter one’s religious beliefs or affiliation, surely it is evident that these young women have found a
purpose for their lives, and it involves something greater then themselves. They are an extreme witness of self-sacrifice in a world that promotes self-satisfaction above all other things.
Happily, I witness this same willingness to sacrifice every day at the Mount, not just from the many seminarians currently being prepared for the priesthood, but also from the numerous administrators,
professors, and students here. I suppose I should not be surprised; the values lived out by the employees and students here are the very same that appear in the mission statement. Indeed when Mount Saint Mary’s says she,
“strives to graduate men and women who cultivate a mature spiritual life, who live by high intellectual and moral standards, who respect the dignity of other persons, who see and seek to resolve the problems facing humanity, and
who commit themselves to live as responsible citizens,” she certainly means it. It is with extreme selflessness that professors and administrators devote themselves to graduating students who are aware of the world outside of
their own selves. This is done through classes that facilitate students’ exploration of the society around them, the values they wish to uphold, and the challenges that face humanity around the globe. The mission of Mount Saint
Mary’s is also accomplished through extracurricular activities that familiarize the young men and women who attend the school with the very real poverty and hardships that people must face every day.
Altogether, the Mount is a campus that is full of a spirit that is rarely found in the rest of the world, apart from groups like the Sisters of Life, and certainly very rarely found on other college
campuses. The campus community as a whole exhibits such an extreme maturity and awareness of the greater world, that I am constantly confronted with men and women on whom I wish to model my life. I am so very grateful that I
have the opportunity to receive my undergraduate degree from an institution that is so devoted to something greater than the individual, and I can only hope that one day I will be able to exhibit the same self-sacrifice that I
witness here every day.
[For more information on the Sisters of Life, please visit http://sistersoflife.org/
Read other articles by Julia Mulqueen