Jesuit alums collaborate with community service
They heard the Latin words “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” (“For the Greater Glory of God”) or saw the abbreviation AMDG throughout their high school years at Jesuit High School in New Orleans.
For some, the motto of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), who founded and run the New Orleans high school, stuck.
Now, eight years after graduating, alumni mostly from the Class of 2005 have joined together in a volunteer group called Ad Majorem.
“At first, I thought it had to exist,” co-founder Danny Murphy said. “It was such a logical idea (coming from Jesuit). Then, I called Jack (Stanton), and he said no, he didn’t think it existed. We had to get it going. We had to do it.”
Stanton said the group of Jesuit graduates wanted to continue the “Men for Others” mission after graduation day. Their first project in October 2012 was gutting a house in Braithwaite as part of the Hurricane Isaac clean up organized through Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Then in November, they painted the interior of a home on South Olympia, partnering with fellow Jesuit graduate William Stout, who was renovating it as part of his nonprofit Youth Rebuilding New Orleans (YRNO). That organization buys blighted homes, fixes them up and sells them to a teacher at 80 percent of market value.
Murphy said Ad Majorem also partnered with YRNO to apply for a grant from the Brees Dream Foundation Super Service Challenge and earned a $5,000 grant.
A project in December had volunteers working tables at a “Toys for Tots” event in the 9th Ward hosted by the Marines.
For their latest project, Ad Majorem volunteers returned to the Olympia Street home (the same day as current Jesuit sophomores earning service hours) and used it as an anchor for a three-hour neighborhood cleanup effort in and around the Banks Street-Carrollton Avenue corridor. They picked up 30 bags of trash and seven discarded tires.
“We wanted to come back and work on the neighborhood,” Stanton said. “We noticed there was a lot of trash around the neighborhood.”
Staying connected to school
The AMDG concept is “not a hollow statement for a lot of people there,” Murphy said. “When I started talking to others about it, they became energized by the idea. We wanted to find a way to give back to the place we loved. You hear it so much at school. This is a great way to give back with the group you went to high school with and continue the good works in the community.”
Each monthly service project selected is based on needs in the community, Stanton said, and the majority of the group’s efforts have focused on clean-up so far. But Murphy said its scope is open-ended, considering the variety of careers held by group members. Some are lawyers, engineers or dentists.
“We are very interested in tapping into the different skill sets of the group to increase the impact of our work,” Murphy said.
“As we grow, we will take on bigger projects,” Stanton said.
The group plans to join a cleanup effort April 20 from 9 a.m. to noon sponsored by Bayou Kayaks along Bayou St. John. Those who show up early will do clean up using kayaks, while others will walk the banks.
Ad Majorem is building its volunteer list by word of mouth and email and has about 80 Jesuit alums in the email loop. It continues to grow as other Jesuit graduates hear about the group’s efforts. Murphy said they are planning to meet with the Jesuit High administration to expand the group’s impact.
“We hope to keep doing it every month and expand our reach,” he said. “We are starting to connect to others.”
Murphy said a long-long term goal of the group could be to spread the concept to other Jesuit schools as such as Strake Jesuit in Houston.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion herald.org.