By Dianne Frances D. Powell
In 2016, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College began celebrating the anniversary of the College’s establishment by putting faith into action through the Foundation Day of Service, a day designated for volunteerism, prayer and fellowship. On Tuesday, classes were once again cancelled at The Woods in order for students to engage in a different way of learning — one that can only be done by doing — through this new tradition.
“Finding your passion for service” was the theme for SMWC’s 4th Foundation Day of Service. This was exactly the opportunity seized by hundreds of students, faculty and staff when they spent the day learning about service and volunteering in a variety of service projects to celebrate the 179th year of SMWC’s founding.
Close to 20 projects were available to volunteers — from clean-up at various buildings and tree planting to painting of bicycles (known at The Woods as Pomeroy Pedals) and the creation of clay bowls for the Catholic Charities’ Soup Bowl Benefit.
Freshman Lyric Krause of West Terre Haute, a Saint Mother Theodore Guerin scholar and softball player, said SMWC’s values and emphasis on service set it apart from other colleges and universities. She joined her freshman class in planting trees around the lake, cleaning alpaca fiber (a process known as skirting) and campus clean-up. The planting was special because for her, the trees’ development will symbolize the growth the class will experience during their time at The Woods.
In partnership with the Indiana Wildlife Federation, 50 native trees were added to the SMWC campus through the service project.
Kortney Buckley, a freshman elementary education major from Elkhart, enjoyed learning about and planting new trees around Le Fer Lake. “It’s Saint Mary-of-the-Woods so, you want to keep it looking like The Woods.”
“It’s nice to know that there’s always opportunities to serve,” Buckley added. “It just makes you feel good knowing that you’re helping the school that is providing so much to you; you can provide something back to it.”
Other service projects were meant to effect positive change beyond The Woods. The Peace and Justice Committee, led by student Catherine Larson, spearheaded the creation of 440 paper butterflies in honor of imprisoned immigrant children. Meanwhile, Volunteer Coordinator Kimberly Payonk ’86 and Associate Director of Campus Life Samantha Robinson led an effort to create more than 300 greeting cards to be sent to members of the Indiana Air National Guard who are to be deployed overseas at the end of the year.
The day began with a prayer service in the Cecilian Auditorium before students, faculty and staff attended breakout sessions on various topics including safe zones, sustainability, and introspection. A Foundation Day Mass was celebrated with the Sisters of Providence in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at 11 a.m., followed by community lunch and then the service projects. The day concluded with snacks in the Woods Student Center.
The brief prayer service included readings from the New Testament and from the journals and letters of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, SMWC’s foundress. “One hundred and seventy-nine years ago today, on Oct. 22, 1840, Saint Mother Theodore and her companions finally made it across the Wabash River to this sacred land to begin her mission…” said Janet Clark, Ph.D., vice president for academic and student affairs, during the welcome remarks.
“Since then, countless individuals before us have sacrificed significantly to advance the mission of The Woods, and we are all the beneficiaries of their efforts. Therefore, it is fitting we, as a College, take one day of the year to honor the legacy which has shaped who we’ve become.”
In her reflection, President Dottie L. King, Ph.D., spoke of the saint’s decision to move to the United States for the mission. King said that in making the choice, Mother Theodore must’ve realized that it was no longer about her; it was about serving others. “She had a choice to stay or to go,” King said. “Whether we are faculty or staff in this room who work at this lovely place or students who benefit from this education, we’re all linked back to that choice.”
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