Letters to a Future Young Cortinian: “Challenge”

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Dear Future Cortinian,

You are about to embark on a new chapter in your life that will forever change the way you view things and people in the world.  You are going to meet people who have different values than the ones you believe in. As a result you will be challenged. Many people don’t like to be challenged, mainly because most of us don’t like to think that we could be “wrong” or that we could be the “bad guy” in someone else’s eyes. The think to keep in mind though, is that it’s not about being right or wrong. It is about making the effort to get to know the other person, and hearing their story to understand where they are coming from and why they hold the values that they hold. In doing this you will open yourself up, and consequently open upother people to a whole new world of new experiences, new life lessons, and new friendships. Remember to just keep an open mind and to make yourself vulnerable. When people see your vulnerability, they are seeing the truest manifestation of yourself. Most importantly, remember to love, and love deeply. Never let a moment pass you by that allows you to tell someone how you feel about them. You’ll be amazed by the warmth in your heart that you’ll feel throughout the year. Your face will hurt from smiling so much and sometimes your eyes will hurt from crying with and for others. All of this will lead you to understand that you have acquired a new family in your life. Good luck with this coming year! Welcome!

Much love,

Victor Diaz

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

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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

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