Rebuild My Church, My World: Producing Leaders for Truth
Matthew Cressler (2006) was a theology and history double major. During the 2005-2006 academic year, Matthew, with the help of the Clare Capstone coordinator Dr. Dave DiMattio, implemented a Local Action Project connecting Bonaventure seniors with local service opportunities. After graduating from St. Bonaventure Matthew completed a masters degree at the Harvard Divinity School. The following is Matthew’s summary of his fellowship project.
“I was entrusted with the organization and implementation of a project that concretely embodies the Franciscan values of St. Bonaventure University through service to the local community. When I began to envision my project for the Yankelovich committee, I desired to create a project that would impassion St. Bonaventure students about serving the local community and allow them to reflect on how that service is central to their educational experience and their future. Under the guidance of my advisor Dr. Susan Abraham, I examined James Cone’s Black Theology of Liberation, Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Sex and God Talk, and Paul Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed to provide the intellectual and academic backbone for a project that hopes to address contemporary social problems that find their roots in oppression.
“The project soon developed into a collaborative project with an institution already working to instill values of community service on Bonaventure students: Clare College’s Senior Forum. One of the requirements for seniors to graduate is that they take the senior seminar class of Clare College, which further requires students to fulfill seven hours of service known as the “Local Action Project.” As my project matured through discussions with Clare 401 Senior Forum director Dr. Dave DiMattio, Yankelovich committee chair Dr. Mary Rose Kubal, and Journey Project director Mike Williams, it was decided that the project would serve as a mediator between St. Bonaventure students seeking service opportunities and community organizations seeking volunteers. We designed a website accessible to both students and community providers to post their respective needs, offer contact information, and allow for more direct communication between the local community and students—communication that has been lacking to a certain degree.
“Community organizations were contacted by me and my project assistant, junior Sarah O’Donnell, who will serve as a guiding presence for the project in the year following my graduation. In January 2006, the project officially launched when I presented the project to Senior Forum students in the first plenary of the Spring semester. During the spring semester Sarah and I worked with a pilot group in coordinating Local Action Projects with community organizations. Furthermore, the project had a built in reflection component through which we sought to instill the lasting significance of community service on the student participants. The Franciscan intellectual tradition emphasizes the truth that knowledge comes not simply from the academic environment, but also from our experiences in and as a part of God’s created world. Thus, this Yankelovich project hopes to ensure that the Franciscan values of this University do not become an added bonus to our education, but an integral and inseparable part of it by allowing for an in-depth interaction with the community through service.”
Click on the following link to see the web page Matthew created as part of his fellowship project: http://clare401.sbu.edu/.
Matthew's mentor was Dr. Susan Abraham of the Theology Department.