‘Always Let Your Hearts Be Open,’ Says Loyola Stritch Chaplain to Incoming Med Students on Service Day in Maywood

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Screenshot 2014-08-04 at 1.58.40 PMMonday, August 4, 2014 || By Michael Romain 

MAYWOOD — First-year medical and nursing students at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine gathered on campus last Saturday morning to learn more about the wider community in which their learning would take place. Lois Baumann, founder of Maywood Fine Arts; Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley; incoming Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NOMCO) President Lennel Grace; former assistant Village manager and attorney Joseph Ponsetto; Village Clerk Viola Mims; and Maywood Historic Preservation commissioner Tom Kus presented students myriad opportunities for service.

“A lot of people come to Maywood from various places, they fix up their homes, there’s some liveliness here now. People like yourself coming here, wanting to chip in–you’re a great asset,” Kus said.

“With your help, your volunteering, we’ll show that Maywood as a whole is a vibrant community […] with a great future,” Mims said.

After the early morning session, the students were treated to a backyard barbecue at a community house on Fifth Avenue, which houses a small group of second- and third-year med students and serves as one of Loyola’s several satellite hubs scattered throughout Maywood which are designed to promote the Jesuit institution’s overarching mission of service. Over a feast of chipotle black bean veggie burgers, hot dogs and lemondate, Stritch’s chaplain, John DiMucci, expounded on the day’s historical significance.

DiMucci noted that the day marked Peter Faber’s first feast day as a saint. Faber was the first Jesuit priest who, along with Francis Xavier and Ignatius Loyola, co-founded the Society of Jesus. Pope Francis announced Faber’s canonization last year. DiMucci–standing on the back porch of the community house that was founded in 2005 and whose tenants have went on to start a range of service programs at the University–recounted an old Jesuit adage most fitting for the scene.

“Always let your heart be open to people. Always let your heart be open,” DiMucci said.

Gabriel Lira, the Director of St. Eulalia’s Quinn Community Center in Maywood, said that his organization has directly benefited from that mission statement.

“Having somebody like you was a great blessing,” he said. “It’s sucha  blessing to have people who are ready to work and make a change.”

This was the seventh official service day that Stritch has hosted, said Ginny McCarthy, the Assistant Director of the Center for Community & Global Health. After the feast, students were taken on a miniature tour of Maywood’s repertoire of historic homes, which was led by Grace and Kus. For some students, like Ushma Patel, the tour would amount to one of their first sustained encounters with Maywood. Patel, a Crystal Lake native and graduate of Marquette University, said that she’s more familiar with the hospital than the community surrounding it.

“My grandfather has had various heart conditions and he got treated at Loyola,” she said.

Patel noted that she was attracted to Loyola because of its Jesuit mission and the school’s strong sense of service to community and the world. She said that she’s hoping to deepen her interest in social justice issues through her medical studies, illustrating how extensive the overlap between the two kinds of service–the physiological and the social–have always been to students of the human body. At Loyola, that overlap seems even more pronounced.

“Always let your heart be open.” Maywoodians would be wise to reciprocate the gesture. VFP

(From left to right: Tom Kus, Pauline Villapando, Sister Brenda Eagan, John DiMucci, Lennel Grace, Viola Mims, Chief Valdimir Talley, Joseph Ponsetto and Ginny McCarthy; Medical students and roommates Ryan McMillan, Cameron Furie, Emil Bielecki and Victor Chang; Emily Obringer and Gabriel Lira; Lennel Grace guiding a tour for Loyola med students. Photos by Michael Romain for the Village Free Press).

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