Mission and Ministry
Alumni Living the Mission

Zach Gerdes, Bethany Kelsch, Michelle Miller

  • Diving into post-college professional life offers the challenges of bringing the Jesuit mission into the secular world. In doing so, we are reminded of the multitude of ways that our Jesuit-educated background can enter into daily life without explicitly embodying itself in an opportunity like Jesuit Volunteer Corps or other Jesuit-affiliated organizations. Though the three of our individual professional paths have diverged from each other (law school, university admissions, non-profit work respectively), we are attempting to bridge the gap between undergraduate volunteer work and service opportunities as young professionals. Indeed this is no easy task!

    St. Ignatius calls us to “set the world on fire,” but it is a specific type of illumination that Jesuit education teaches us. The flame is one of solidarity and compassion; and it is increasingly important to carry with us into the imperfect realities systems of the world. As the three of us approached our respective graduations (and this “real” world), we began to realize that the type of service we had shared through undergraduate volunteer opportunities at Seattle University wasn’t going to be available to us after leaving the University. We shared a common passion for working with incarcerated youth, and this flame was going to be extinguished simply by evolving away from our Jesuit institution.

    When we realized that opportunities to mentor incarcerated youth without being a probation counselor or religious chaplain were few, we knew we must find a way to keep the flame lit for people like ourselves and others seeking a similar service bridge. We learned that if we wanted to foster the method of open, intentional, empowering mentorship with incarcerated youth in King County that we had learned through the Jesuit philosophy of Campus Ministry service programming, we were going to have to replicate and expand this possibility ourselves. Rather than let our undergraduate service flame go out because our professional paths didn’t include the title “Jesuit” or “service,” we attempted to carry the same flame with us into new parts of our lives, and we wanted to make it brighter.

    With the help of many Seattle University King County, and community resources, the “My Action Plan” (MAP) mentorship program for incarcerated youth was born. In the creation of MAP, we realized that carrying the Jesuit mission forward in our lives post-graduation was only going to come if we committed additional intentional efforts supplementary to the jobs that were paying our bills. Kindling and carrying our Jesuit light is difficult without others to share in the torch bearing. It is this shared illumination that allows programs like MAP mentorship to be created. This is why Magis exists around the world and at Seattle University. We are called to carry the fire, grow it, and take it into every corner of our lives, regardless of whether or not those corners are officially affiliated with the Jesuit name.    

  • Michelle Miller – Criminal Justice and Psychology, Seattle University Class of 2012
    Zach Gerdes – Psychology, Seattle University Class of 2011
    Bethany Kelsch – Criminal Justice, Seattle University Class of 2011