Acompañamiento and conscientizacion can together add a lot of value to service-learning experiences, both inside the classroom and within a parish ministry setting. Well done theological reflections on the experience of working with and befriending the marginalized can lead to some truly transformative experiences for everyone involved.Many students do fall victim to the “domestication” mindset that Oakley speaks of and see little value outside of service beyond their own personal gratification. This is not an attitude that leads to acompañamiento; it is an attitude that retains the individualistic currents of modern U.S. society. Students must move towards a new attitude, towards their neighbors described by Gutierrez:
“Nevertheless, the neighbor is not an occasion, an instrument, for becoming closer to God. We are dealing with a real love of persons for their own sake and not “for the love of God,” as the well-intentioned but ambiguous and ill-used cliché would have it – ambiguous and ill-used because many seem to interpret it in a sense which forgets that the love for God is expressed in a true love for persons themselves. This is the only way to have a true encounter with God. That my action toward another is at the same time an action toward God does not detract from its truth and concreteness, but rather gives it greater meaning and import.”
Helping to build friendships between our students and the people that they serve, exposing them to the overriding injustices that plague members of our local community, and then giving them opportunities to act through avenues such as letter writing campaigns, public demonstrations, and other yet to be imagined ideas would be a good way to avoid this danger. It would be a good way to expose them to God’s saving action in the world. It would also be a good, practical model of acompañamiento that the students could follow.
Attached below are some ideas for theological reflection, as well as a rubric for assessment.
A Value Centered Approach to Theological Reflection, adapted from Holland and Henriot’s book Social Analysis: Linking Faith and Justice.
1. Personal values and self-understanding.a. What are our basic beliefs and primary values? What are the foundations for our actions?
b. What values do we bring to the service project?
c. What values does the church bring to the service project? (e.g. in Catholic Social Teaching, human dignity is the highest value, which leads us to ask: What is happening to the people? To the poor?)
2. Description: We may be studying a social problem (unemployment, housing, etc), an institution (church, school, etc.), or a geographical entity (neighborhood, parish, corporation, etc.)a. Impressionistic approach: gather facts and trends by tapping into peoples’ experience.
b. Systematic approach: gather facts through the use of questionnaires, research, etc.
c. History: What have been the major stages through which this situation has moved? What have been some key turning points?
d. Structures: What are the major economic, political, social, and cultural structures that influence the situation? (religion, neighborhood, education, procedures for decision making, access to public influence, capital, labor, technology, etc.)
e. No evaluation or judgment is made at this stage, just a description of the facts.
3. Values: What are the key values operative in this situation?a. Age / Youth
b. Unity / Diversity
c. Individualism / Community, etc.
4. Theological Reflection: Theological reflection can begin from the standpoint of either Scripture or documents within the tradition.a. What reinforces Gospel values, virtues, social teachings, etc.?
b. What undercuts or destroys these values and these teachings?
c. Where is Jesus present here?
d. What are the “signs of the kingdom” in this situation?
e. What is grace in this situation, as an opening up to God?
f. What is sin in this situation, as a turning from God?
g. What does “salvation” mean in this situation?
h. In the “real world” is it possible to put Christian teaching into practice?
i. What is the role of the Church here?
5. Action: What actions should be taken given a Christian understanding of the situation? How have your own values regarding this situation changed, or not, as a part of this exercise?
- Reflection papers
- Journals, turned in once a month or at any other interval
- Research – bibliography, links, outlines
- Discussions on service and links to the current topic
- Small group discussions
- Guest speakers / videos
Rubric for Scoring Reflection
- Student has shown little to no linkage between theology and experience.
- Student has shown some linkage between theology and experience.
- Student has shown good linkage between theology and experience, correctly using theological terms and concepts.
- Student shows strong linkage between theology and experience, using terms and concepts as a critique of the experience.
- Student shows excellent linkage between theology and experience, critiquing both the experience with theological concepts and theological concepts with the experience.
2013 © Steffano Montano. All rights reserved.
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