Community and Service
St. Mary’s University is a service-oriented learning community focused on developing students through community and civic engagement.
As a Catholic and Marianist University, St. Mary’s is committed to providing students with experiential learning opportunities that inform their development of faith and vocation, their understanding of justice and the common good, and their journey to becoming leaders in our local, national and global communities.
Through involvement with ongoing local volunteer opportunities, service-learning classes, advocacy work, immersion experiences and civic leadership — all rooted in reflection and shaped by our Catholic identity — the Office of Community Engagement connects our students to the world around them as they identify where their passions, skills and talents meet the world’s needs. Simultaneously, our office works to build and maintain healthy and mutually beneficial relationships with community partners, particularly those on the West Side of San Antonio.
We connect students and neighbors in a joint effort to learn from one another in a process of community growth and development, heeding Father Chaminade’s wisdom that “new times call for new methods,” and working together to discover our best possible response.
(noun) The beginning of the fall semester and the beginning of Lent in the spring are marked with Continuing the Heritage (CTH), a day for community involvement and civic engagement.
Education and Advocacy
While our students engage in service opportunities that allow them to respond to immediate community needs, we know that the way to make long-term change is to challenge the structure of injustice — structures that they learn about first hand through those aforementioned service activities. As students build community relationships that allow them to see personally how our neighbors are affected by unjust structures and policies, we accompany them in their journey to grow into more fully informed faithful citizens. St. Mary’s students engage in efforts of social justice education and advocacy both on and off-campus to help create a shift in our global, national and local community narratives, working intentionally and diligently toward a more just and peaceful world.
Examples of the education and advocacy programs our students participate in is voter education and registration, hosting lectures and group discussions and dialogue, informative sessions on immersion experiences, and educational programming around key social issues such as comprehensive immigration reform, global poverty, hunger and homelessness awareness. Our programs are rooted in our Catholic faith tradition and the social teachings we embrace including honoring the dignity of all people, solidarity, subsidiarity and the communal call to work for a more enriched quality of life for all people, focusing most on those who are most vulnerable and are on the margins.
Summer of Service Program
The Summer of Service Program gives St. Mary’s students the opportunity to host a five-week summer camp for children of the Gateway District, West Side community of San Antonio. The purpose of this program is two-fold: to respond to needs of our neighborhood and community, and to offer St. Mary’s University students the opportunity to implement a service project.
The Office of Community Engagement strives to craft immersion experiences wherever possible in places where the Marianist family has a presence, desiring to connect our students to the broader Marianist family and expose them to the many ways and forms in which our charism comes alive in various communities.
Continuing the Heritage
Continuing the Heritage Day of Service Event (CTH) is a University-wide service project that takes place at the beginning of each semester. Each year, students, faculty, staff and alumni take time to serve and learn in community at different projects around San Antonio. They lend their time and talent to paint houses for the elderly in the St. Mary’s neighborhood area, work in community gardens, serve food to the homeless at Haven for Hope, paint playgrounds at Head Start locations, remove graffiti and more.
40 Days of Lent and Service
40 Days of Lent and Service is an annual program that brings University departments, student organizations, athletic teams and residence halls together to offer a robust and diverse range of service activities throughout the Lenten season, which is kicked off by our spring Continuing the Heritage program.
Community-Based Work Study Program
The Community Engagement Office values the partnerships and relationships with our community partners. In order for our students to enhance their collegiate experience, they are encouraged to go beyond the gates of St. Mary’s University, get into the community and give back.