Public Policy, Elections, and Making Legislative Change

For this Sunday’s Formation Time, we welcomed Creighton and Cortina alum Patrick Carter to speak to the community about public policy and how it can create justice for all. Patrick graduated from Creighton in 2010 with a degree in Justice and Society. Upon graduation, he completed a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the University of Minnesota. Patrick currently works with Minnesota Department of Human Services as a legislative liaison. Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 9.27.00 PMPatrick provided great insight into the legislative branch and emphasized that you have to understand the system before you can make change. He shared ways how everyone can make an impact on public policy, from bringing ideas to legislators to meeting with your congressperson about a certain issue to contacting an executive leader with your concerns about a new law.

Patrick’s talk was fitting because of Election Day on Tuesday. As Patrick said, every election has a lot at stake, making it especially important that we exercise our right to vote. Here are a few resources to help educate you about important local, state, and federal elections this year as well as important voting information:

Douglas County Election Commission — find your polling place in Omaha, sample ballots, and more.

Voting Requirement/Process by State

Nebraska voter guide — the Omaha World-Herald‘s guide to elections in Nebraska. Nearly every major newspaper has a site like this, so non-Nebraskans can find a similar guide at other major newspapers.

Ballot Hero — sign up with an account, input your voting location, and learn about the candidates looking for your votes on Tuesday. (for Nebraska voters only)

League of Women Voters — create a personalized ballot to take with you to the polls on Election Day!

NBC News Decision 2014 — a nifty guide to this year’s Election Day that will be great for tracking key races across the country. Keep a close eye on Republicans to see if they takes control of the Senate.

Thank you to Patrick Carter for sharing your knowledge with Cortina. And remember to vote this Tuesday!

What Cortina Was To Me: Querencia

Cortina is a loom, a framework holding loose threads together to weave into a fabric. In Cortina, I met different people bringing stories and ideas from around the world and around their hearts.  Cortina guided the shuttle that helped make those threads cross: service trips, time at Metro tutoring, conversations in the NZ at hours that can charitably be described as irresponsible. It flung my friends and I to protests and into the gritty reality, into contact with the real and the pure, into vulnerability.  We learned the stories of our neighbors, our sisters, and our selves.  Each invitation and opportunity helped make the fabric we work together stronger, seamless.  Each conversation, hug, tear — the words and punctuation of a story we are still writing.  They’re the rhythm to our perplexing dance.

My physical time in cortina is over now, but it is an indelible tattoo on my life.  Cortina was normalizing for me: it taught me that these strange ideas weren’t so strange.  That people are sacred, that love is the most powerful force in the universe, that stories are all that matter.  In the wildly tumultuous years of college, the warm embraces of friends’ words and arms made the journey down new roads holy and exhilarating. That doesn’t mean our journeys weren’t and aren’t scary.  But we know we don’t walk them alone.

In the end, Cortina’s lasting impact is the human fabric it helps weave.  My best friends came from those years, as did my first love.  Those people are sacred beyond words and are the true pages on which our stories are written. They are friends for life, friends who all tell each other “I love you” and mean it. In the time since Creighton, they are what gets me through the hardest challenge I’ve ever faced, depression. In this time, it is they who challenge me to do ordinary things extraordinarily.

The way we choose to make the threads of our lives cross shapes how we will go through life. The ties created there are sacred, unbreakable, and everlasting.  Those ties, paraphrasing the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, help us to see what is essential with the eyes of our hearts.  Those ties, to use a favorite phrase of Jon Cortina, help us put little feet to the gospel.

Buen Camino.

One word to describe my Cortina experience: Querencia.(the word querencia means a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn, a place in which we know exactly who we are, and from which we speak our deepest beliefs.)

-Tim Nendick, A Cortinian in 2009-2010, A Cortina RA from 2010-2012

tim picture

What Cortina Was To Me: Strength and Direction in Community

I entered the Cortina Community with a fairly strong sense of social justice.  Social justice first interested me in the 6th grade when I started speaking out against sweatshops and Nike.  This advocacy didn’t garner me much popularity, and I became used to being independent and working on my own.  The high school wrestling team gave me my first real sense of community, of belonging and being part of something.  I finally felt part of my faith community when I attended the Jesuit Family Teach-In my junior year of high school.  I realized how important community is not just for my own health, but also for social justice.  Cortina taught me that.

My best friends Bill, Pat and Tim also joined Cortina.  I thought we would all live in the same suite, but the leadership thankfully changed plans in the middle.  We picked roommates but were assigned suitemates.  Unable to be with only the people that made me comfortable, I had to branch out into the wider community.  I made amazing friends as I became the guy with a minivan, a self-proclaimed giver of excellent hugs and the oddball who always slept on the couch in the common areas.  These experiences not only helped me find joy, but taught me the vital importance of love and community in social justice.

I learned what it means to give myself to community, to serve and to love others.  More importantly, I learned what it means to let others love and serve me.  I share in the brokenness and struggles.  As a weightlifter and wrestler, I sometimes find it difficult to realize that others might be stronger than I am.  The wonderful people on my floor, however, demonstrated inexplicable love and kindness.  They helped me learn humility, generosity, and what how to engage social justice in a way I could have never done on my own.

Many of my community mates also unknowingly helped me discern my vocation.  Most knew I was interested in joining the Jesuits, but only six knew I was in the midst of the application second semester.  Through their support and graciousness I learned what vocation means—to be called not just by God, but just as much by the community.  My vocation, given by God and community, is to be a voice for the voiceless.  It is to live justly, live communally, live as a Jesuit.

-Ken Homan, A Cortinian in

Ken Homan pic

What Cortina Was to Me: Invigorating

Three of my four college years were spent living and engaging in the Cortina Community. To say these three years were life changing would not be giving them enough credit. In many ways I am both jealous of and excited for the upcoming freshman class for the having the opportunity to be a part of this community when beginning their journey at Creighton. However, I was blessed to be challenged and inspired by my peers, resident advisors, and those whom I served (yes, service was not a one way street) all while being a part of a caring community.

Before becoming a part of Cortina, I was ignorant and happy to be so.  Through our Sunday community time, service sites, and community conversations, I was challenged to actually open my eyes and confront the injustices in our society.  Service at Siena Francis, a local homeless shelter, started as an uncomfortable endeavor for me.  How was I, a 20 year old college student, suppose to connect with someone who lost their home, job, and is struggling with addiction?  For some reason I could not get around the prejudices I walked into Siena Francis with.  However, week after week, I returned to serve breakfast and participate in their weekly celebration of sobriety.  Slowly, I began to get to know the clients of Siena Francis and was able to see them for individuals they were as opposed to defining them by their homelessness.

These moments at Siena Francis, along with a service trip centered around homelessness in Denver, ignited my passion and shaped my post-graduate plans.  By addressing my prejudices and deciding to focusing my energy on the issue of homelessness, I ended up a volunteer at a transitional housing facility in Omak, Washington.  Sure, my case may be slightly more drastic compared to most of my peers, but Cortina provided a safe space where I could confront my ignorant attitude.  I was able to reflect on my beliefs, be exposed to social justice issues, expand my comfort zone and gain meaningful relationships, all of which was done alongside my peers and supervisors.

One word to describe my Cortina experience: Invigorating.
-Kayla Zobel
A Cortinian in 2009-2010, A Cortina RA from 2010-2012
kayla zobel

I Am Exactly Where I Need To Be.

This summer I signed up and prepared to go to Detroit to serve in the amazing Covenant House Michigan as a live in volunteer.

Through a few weeks of phone calls and broken connections, I realized I was the only volunteer who had signed up to live in this intentional community house. So, I had to let Detroit go, hope for next summer, and plant myself back home.

I am now doing the same job search I have done since I was sixteen. I am running on the same streets I grew up running down. I am homesick for Omaha, and Detroit, and Cortina. I don’t really know what I’m homesick for. I am bored and frustrated.

I hung a picture on my wall that reads “You are exactly where you need to be.” (Yes, sometimes when I am feeling down I print out inspirational Pinterest quotes). It has hung there for three weeks now, but I was bored and frustrated so I never really believed it. I believed I needed to be in Detroit, or Omaha, or anywhere but here.
That’s beginning to change now. I made a pledge at the beginning of my year in Cortina to “Vocalize Gratitude”. When I started to do that, I started to think about my summer differently.

I am becoming involved with a campaign that I care deeply about. (If you live or are registered to vote in Missouri, check out Missourians for Equality or send me an email at

I get to see my little brother become a man and drive him to tour colleges. I got to watch him vault thirteen feet and be here as he trains for the junior Olympics. I get to love him as something other than a snot-nosed little brother, but as a friend.

I get to train for our 5th triathlon with the most amazing woman, my mom.

I got to see my favorite band with my best friend.

I’m rediscovering the reasons I get homesick for St. Louis.

I found Covenant House St. Louis and get to spend some of my days there.

I fell in love with living in community this year and was so discouraged that I didn’t get to find a new one this summer.

But I’m realizing, every community is an intentional community if I work and love with intention. I think being a part of an intentional community is a call for inclusion. Entering into intentional community does not and should not isolate me from my engagements in the rest of the world. Community creates people motivated by peace, intention, love for others and reminds me that when I take those values into the wider political and social arena, I am not alone.

Detroit isn’t the only place where I can love. Cortina is not the only place where I can love. If I am not a loving person where I am then I cannot be a loving person anywhere.

Mother Theresa once said that we all “belong to each other.” We cannot do harm to one without harming the very integrity of ourselves and our entire existence. Fortunately, it works the other way as well. We are all so intimately connected. It is impossible to affect just one person. We are constantly transforming. I have to be constantly thinking of that transformation and do my best to transform with love, rather than greed or selfishness or boredom. There is no savior or victim. Rather, there is a need to for us all to be transformed. The way I want to do that is through radical, unabashed, extravagant love.

I can do that in Detroit. I can do that here.

So yes, there are days when I lay in bed, watching Netflix and wallowing about how I don’t get to serve, how I don’t get to be in community, and how I am soooo bored. But, then, I have to shake myself up a little bit. I smile, think about all the things I can possibly do tomorrow and think of all the music and experiences and beautiful lives I still get to be a part of this summer. And I am starting to maybe truly believe—this is exactly where I need to be.

–Sarah Peraud, Cortinian 2012-2013,  Live-in Formation Group Leader 2013-2014


¡Buen Camino!: The Life of a Pilgrim

Those around me tell me that as a college graduate, I’m supposed to be preoccupied with my resumé, leveraging my education and diploma, getting ready for a career in my field and getting my life in order after the idyllic world of university.  Since I’m not working, I should be building valuable experience through a post-grad position or internship, applying for grad schools, and entering the ‘real world,’ wherever that is (I’ll let you know if I find it).  In truth, I’m not so good at this.  After all, “pilgrim” isn’t exactly a marketable identity unless you happen to be applying for a job whose perks include a roman collar. So why would someone like me choose to uproot themselves in such an important time, and take a little walk across an entire country?  Why be a pilgrim?

I could tell you about my story, share my camino, but I won’t.  The thing about adventures and stories is that they’re not something that you write about on a blog or shelve away in some special pictures that gather dust. They don’t sit quietly in you heart and you don’t just move from experience to experience, gaining merit badges to put on a social justice sash, “oh, I did Encuentro, and Cortina, and IFTJ and this is my ‘I talked to homeless people!’ patch!”

No, adventures aren’t to be read about. They are to be experienced. You’re on your own journey, and it is just as important.  Walk with me. Let the people and places and love and life that you know come to the surface. Remember what others have taught you and don’t forget their songs. They are sacred.

Fr. Gillick once told a group of us about to depart for the Dominican Republic that “Adventure is, by its nature, something that happens to other people.”  My favorite quote, by a Jesuit named Anthony de Mello, reads, “I used to be stone deaf. I would see people stand up and go through all kinds of gyrations. They called it dancing. It looked absurd to me — until one day I heard the music!”  The point: things that look absurd, like walking across all of Spain with a pack on your back, make sense if you hear the music.  The places and people and experiences you find by pushing yourself to be uncomfortable and meet the world and its brokenness and love will shape you beyond words.  You’ll become vulnerable.  You’ll be hurt.  But you’ll also come alive.  Your heart will be touched in a way that you can’t do anything but follow where it leads.  You just start putting foot in front of foot and pretty soon, you end up in places that you’d never imagine, like being chased by a bull down a street in Puente La Reina.  That’s a story, I suppose, for a different time, though I will tell you that if you get the opportunity to do such a thing, take it.

You have one life. One. It is a wild and precious thing; how you live that life, how you invest your love, is the most important question you can answer.  It is the only adequate response to the incredibly sacred and wordlessly special gift you’ve been given by being alive.  Pedro Arrupe writes that falling and staying in love will decide everything.  This is true beyond words; your task, as a Creighton student, as a Cortinian, is to let the world overwhelm you with its love.  To be touched by the real and the pure.  To listen to the voice of God alive and pulsing around you and within you. It’s to go places and try new things and discover yourself by discovering those around you.  You have an incredible set of gifts to give, and you will never know they exist within you until you find reason to share them.  It’s to let the world, love, and other people mission you.  To have your heart set on fire, and let that fire spread to the world.

So be a pilgrim. What, who is calling you?  Where do you feel your heart and soul longing to be? Find the things worth living for, the people who will touch your soul in a way you cannot escape.  Carry those people in your heart and your eyes, carry the grand spectacles you encounter in the world and in the world of your soul and let them pour from you.  Do things that make you uncomfortable, and bring others along. Go places for the simple reason that you desire to go there; find God and Love alive and let them be the most powerful forces in your life and the world.  Live as a prophet.  Live as yourself.  Live.  As some graffiti on the camino poignantly reads, love and live, dangerously.  ¡Buen Camino! -Tim

Tim Nendick is a 2012 graduate of Creighton University & former RA in the program.  He recently walked a month from St. Jean Pied de Port, France, to Muxía, Spain, completing a centuries old pilgrimage called the Camino de Santiago.

 You can find his pictures here.