A Summer of Service

My name is Lindsey Neimo and I am a rising senior at the College of William and Mary. I am a Religious Studies Major and a Business Management Minor, a unique combination intended for a future in the world of faith based non-profits. My sophomore year in high school I attended my first mission trip with my Catholic youth group. I was blown away by the hundreds of teenagers and adults who had paid to volunteer for a week of service. We slept in a high school, waited in long shower lines, and got very little sleep after long days of work, yet every single person loved every single moment. It was at this point that my love of service was ignited and my inquiry towards its roots began.

I was raised in a house where serving others was not only expected, but the norm. As I have grown up, moved and experienced new communities I still wonder: are people inherently good? This philosophical question has been contested in courtrooms and classrooms throughout the centuries as people try to determine true human nature. Amid difficult life situations, individuals, non-profits and religious organizations try to make a positive difference by changing the human condition for the better. These actions, commonly referred to as social justice, exist worldwide and are found predominantly in religious institutions. Looking specifically at Jewish and Catholic religious communities, I wonder what theological foundations inspire each community’s members to take part in acts of social justice.

This summer, I will be utilizing the Hebrew Bible and Christian New Testament for scriptural guidance as my study will focus on a Jewish Congregation and a Catholic Church in Virginia  and their social justice structures. Archival research will be utilized to map out each religious organization’s social justice programs over the past century in an attempt to discover the common motivational roots behind the performance of good deeds. Observational studies of youth-based service events will be conducted to witness the social justice practices in action. Discovering the drive which emphasizes service work and social responsibility within Jewish and Catholic institutions, will help create an ecumenical platform to cultivate social justice and help magnify it in my years to come.