With cake, punch, and balloons, as well as tributes and funny stories, friends of the Catholic Institute for Lasallian Social Action (CILSA) on April 26 celebrated the organization's five-year history of promoting service to others.
Brother Craig J. Franz, president of Saint Mary's College and founder of CILSA, saluted the hundreds of students who have applied their faith and devoted themselves to serving others throughout the Bay Area.
"CILSA is the nexus," he said, "where our spirituality links with our humanity."
Among those feted at the event were staff members of the community organizations that use Saint Mary's students in their work.
"The lives of those serving in community partner organizations are models for us as students," said Ryan Lamberton '05, who worked with the Family Stress Center in Richmond. "Your lives exemplify the faithful devotion to the dignity of all people, and for this we thank you."
Agency leaders also commended the students. Zelma Brown, volunteer coordinator of the Women's Daytime Drop-in Center in Berkeley, said students from Saint Mary's are a vital part of her group's work, and she urged them never to forget what they've accomplished.
"It's important to remember," Brown said later, "that they made a difference. There will come a time when they'll wonder if they made a difference, and they need to know that they did."
CILSA was established in 1999 through the support of the De La Salle Christian Brothers of the District of San Francisco, and it has come a long way in a short time. When it started, CILSA hosted a few speakers and acted as a centralized social justice clearinghouse and referral service. This year, more than 870 students together contributed more than 26,000 hours of work at 60 to 80 Bay Area organizations. And that was just a part of CILSA's work.
"I've been grateful for the response of the students," said Janet Luce, director of CILSA since its inception. "Their dedication and their desire to get involved have been heartening. They've also brought in their own ideas to help shape what CILSA has become."
Equally important, said Luce, is the broad support in the College community-especially among the faculty, administrators, and staff-for CILSA and its work of promoting civic engagement.
"Social justice and civic engagement are now being claimed as central to the mission of the College," she said.
-- by Joseph Wakelee-Lynch