Name: Klaire Mathews
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Schools Attended: John Carroll University
Profession: Current Graduate Assistant at the University of Mount Union for Sorority and Fraternity Life (Student Affairs)
How did you get involved with the Jesuits?
My first interaction with the Jesuits was in college. When starting my undergraduate journey at John Carroll University, the word “Jesuit” was completely foreign to me. I did not fully understand the ride of a lifetime I was in for. I had no idea the knowledge and heart for humanity I would gain, nor what it meant to be a woman for and with others. However, today I am immensely grateful that I gravitated toward the John Carroll community five years ago.
Tell a story about how the Jesuits (or a specific Jesuit) have impacted your life.
During my undergraduate experience at John Carroll, I had the opportunity to travel to Madeville, Jamaica for a week-long spring break immersion trip. During this week, myself and my peers had the privilege of being at a different service site every day: schools, infirmaries, and various residential communities. It was the afternoon I spent in a school that changed my whole outlook on what the word service means. As a student at John Carroll, the word service[GR1] is used constantly, but I did not fully understand it in the context in which it was being used. To me, service had always been the idea of leaving something physical behind in any given place. However, the Jesuits described it as something slightly different. While at a school located within a living community, a little boy walked right up to me and introduced himself as Jason and told me that he was the 6th grade hall monitor. He was so proud of his title; I believe that he would have told anyone who would listen. He then asked me if he could show me his classroom, to which I of course agreed. He led me to the second floor of the building and into a classroom filled with his peers, all of whom upon sighting me, quickly surrounded me in a big circle and began rapidly asking me question after question. No one from my own peer group had any idea where I was and several hours passed while I spent the afternoon with these students. They had questions about who I was and where I came from, and truthfully, I had similar questions for them in return.
It was during this afternoon that these students taught me something I will never forget: service does not have to be physically left behind. Sometimes service happens right where you are with people who you may never see again in something as simple as a basic conversation. My Jesuit education has taught me that we may never have control over someone’s circumstances, their past, present, or future but we can show up for one another; we can meet people where they are, and they will do the same for us in return. Service does not have to be a big affair to be meaningful, it can be simple, and it can happen anywhere. We can show up for people abroad, across the country, as students, and in the workplace. By doing so, we can learn so much about the people we surround ourselves with and learn from them as well.
What have you learned from your involvement with the Jesuits?
I have learned and grown tremendously from my personal involvement with the Jesuits, it is difficult to narrow down all those lessons. However, I believe the most prominent lesson of them all is centered around the idea of cura personalis. I have always known that to care for people is a part of Catholic social teaching, but I never understood it until I was taught it in a different way by the Jesuits. People are people before they are statistics, titles, or their circumstances. This has especially been important for me as I transition into a career working with students. Oftentimes, students are seen as just that—students. People notice their grades, their class attendance, and their participation in and out of the classroom before they notice their humanity. Many of us have forgotten that students are people with everyday struggles, just like the rest of us. For them to be successful, the professionals educating and mentoring these students must recognize this. We must continue to recognize and nurture the whole person instead of bits and pieces of an individual.
How do you bring Jesuit values into the workplace?
I bring Jesuit values to the workplace by treating everyone I work with as an individual before their title. It can be easy in the workplace to only see our coworkers for their job titles and to never take the time to get to know them as individuals. None of us can be successful in working with one another if we have not already done the work of investing in one another and learning how to care for a person based on who they are as an individual. My Jesuit education and those mentors who served me at John Carroll taught me about the balance between work and personal connections, and that we cannot have one without the other.
How do you apply your Jesuit values in your day-to-day life?
One Jesuit value that I have made very clear that I try to practice daily is to care for the whole person instead of only caring for one part of a person. However, there is much more to my Jesuit education than that. Another way that I practice Jesuit values every day is through the practice of gratitude. I learned this on a retreat I went on while at John Carroll called Manresa where my co-leaders had us write down three things we were grateful for that day at the last small group session of each every night. It is a practice that I have not been perfect with, but recently I have found myself bringing it back as part of daily routine. To practice gratitude has many benefits to one’s mental health and happiness, but in a spiritual sense it is a practice that allows you to reevaluate your day, to notice those positives, and therefore to notice God at work.
Which Midwest Jesuit ministries do you find particularly inspiring?
During my year of service, I interned for the youth ministry program at the Jesuit Spiritual Center in Milford, Ohio. While this program was a challenge for me in multiple ways, there were many parts of my role where I was astounded by what I experienced. The piece that I found especially inspiring was something that I noticed over time, specifically with our high school juniors we worked with on an overnight retreat called Montserrat. What I noticed was the difference in the students from the time of their arrival to their departure. When leaving their retreat, students seemed much happier and lighter than they had seemed 36 hours before. I found it inspiring to be part of an organization and a team that was able to do that for those students amidst their busy and heavy lifestyles. They come to JSC with burdens, tasks, and pressures of being students, but by the end of their retreat they have played, they have made new friends amongst their classmates, and they have taken time for themselves mentally and spiritually, and they leave better for it. I have been inspired by this model in many ways, but mostly by the knowledge it has given me and how beneficial it will be within a career of working with students. This model of educating, playing, and offering the space to take care of oneself is something that I know I will find myself using for the rest of my life. It was an inspiration and a privilege to be part of something so beneficial to young people.
What does Ignatian spirituality mean to you?
To me, Ignatian spirituality means that we have a tremendous responsibility for reflection in our complicated world and lives. It means that we need time and space to be quiet and alone. While this takes years to master, it offers great reward. One of the many Jesuit traditions is the idea behind pursuing excellence. As individuals, we are called to pursue excellence in our world, in our workplaces, in the classroom and within ourselves. Recently, I have been working on my own personal excellence in deciding on a career. In transition from college life to adulthood, I decided on participating in a year of service because going straight into a career after college was terrifying for me. Upon my work, I spent a tremendous amount of time during that year alone. At first, the silence was deafening. However, by the time it came time to move on from my position, all the self-development I had done, all the journaling and writing and time spent on my own had paid off. I am still adjusting and processing those things that I learned; however, I was astounded by what came up after diving into a contemplative way of thinking, praying and developing. To me, Ignatian Spirituality is just that, a tool used to better ourselves, better our world, and to better our community through deep discernment development.