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Institute for Pastoral Initiatives News

University of Dayton students find the beauty around us

By Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski,MHSH,D.Min

We awaken to beauty every day. The question is, do we actually see it and understand it?

As a new year is already upon us, I reflect back to my Vocation & Arts class with the 2023 Chaminade Scholars who explored pathways for becoming more conscious of the beauty around us and in all people. The students celebrated a sense of beauty as a path to holiness, highlighted by Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on the “Call to Holiness in Today’s World (Gaudete Et Exsultate)” and his encyclical, Fratelli Tutti (On Fraternity and Social Friendship).    

For their final project, the cohort created a contemporary photo journal celebrating the semester’s journey of readings, reflections, conversations and contemplative prayer.  

“I really enjoyed reflecting and appreciating the beauty around us,” Allison Herceg (2023) said.  “This project opened doors in my faith life to further explore my Catholic identity and grow closer to God.”

“I was reminded how beautiful life is, as well as to live enthusiastically each day,” Jacob Mantle (2023), said.

The photo journal, titled Awakening to Beauty, Vol VIII, is published with four key sub-headings of reflections:

  • Finding Beauty in other People
  • The Pursuit of Vocation in Community
  • The Middle Class of Holiness
  • Cultivating a Sense of Hope

“Understanding beauty as the act of creating, rather than an inherent characteristic, has given my vocation a stronger purpose,” Abby Hentz (2023) said.

“This project was eye opening,” JP Sheehan (2023) said. “As a computer engineering major, the Chaminade Scholars program enables me to receive a more holistic education and develop my faith.”

Chaminade Scholars, grounded in the charism and vision of our Catholic Marianist tradition, seek to be change agents, transformers for nurturing a culture of peace, justice and beauty in the lives of all we encounter.

Pope Francis states: “We need a community that supports and helps us, in which we can help one another to keep looking ahead.” 

Most people derive their concept of and appreciation for beauty from the works of nature – rightly so, for it surrounds us everywhere.

Psalm 139:14 reads:” I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

We should understand we are in the process of creating a masterpiece of our lives each day.

Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D.Min., is the director of the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives and has taught the Vocation & Arts Honors course for over fifteen years. With pilgrimages to Italy, as well as the Stander Symposiums, and outstanding guest speakers via zoom from around the world, the journey has been to be attentive to the call to holiness and beauty in our lives, as witnessed by the encounters the course has provided us. 

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