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Juniors Alexandra Canto and Abby Smith, left, graduate student Anna Ferguson and sophomore Emily Reeson stand in front of Catholic Relief Services’ headquarters in Baltimore during a CRS conference in July. COURTESY PHOTO

CU student inspired by faith, service opportunities

Emily Reeson returned to Creighton University in Omaha this fall with a renewed desire to integrate her faith and love of science.  
 
Chosen by the university with three other students to attend a three-day leadership conference in July sponsored by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Reeson said her enthusiasm and focus to help others were triggered by a keynote speaker quoting St. Francis of Assisi: “Do the thing that’s yours to do.”
 
“This really stuck with me,” Reeson said. “It made me reflect on my major and future career.  I realized that it doesn’t matter what major or future careers we are going to have, but as Catholics we are obligated to uphold the dignity of all our fellow humans and work toward a more just world.”
 
A sophomore on a pre-medicine track who hopes to attend medical school, Reeson said she is particularly interested in the brain.
 
“The brain is the center of values,” she said. “Your brain makes you, ‘you.’  It is vulnerable to attacks on human dignity.  I am interested in blending knowledge of the brain with what will uphold human dignity.” 
 
Kelly Tadeo Orbik, associate director of Creighton University’s Schlegel Center for Justice and Peace, said Reeson came to campus last year knowing what she was looking for, and her activities demonstrate her continued interest.
 
“She was seeking the Catholic way of putting love into action,” Tadeo Orbik said. “As a freshman, Emily participated in a service trip, our Ignatian family teach-in, and applied, and was hired, to work in our office second semester of her freshman year. As a sophomore, she is already leading a delegation of 56 students to a CRS conference in December.”
 
And she was among the students the Schlegel Center invited to attend the CRS summer conference in Maryland and Washington, D.C., titled Student Ambassadors Leading Together (SALT).
 
They were among 200 college students representing 60 colleges and universities at the conference, held on the campus of Loyola Maryland. They learned about Catholic social teaching and CRS’ international humanitarian mission and services. They visited CRS headquarters in Baltimore to learn about foreign aid and sustainable, holistic approaches to serving people in need overseas. They also studied ways to advocate for those issues. And they brought those ideas to Washington, where they met with U.S. senators and representatives from their home states.
 
A distant relative of Father David Reeson, pastor of St. Columbkille Parish in Papillion, Reeson grew up in West Point and is a member of St. Mary Parish. She said her faith was nurtured by her parents, Mike and Rhonda, as well as Guardian Angels Central Catholic School. In high school, she was part of a service trip sponsored by Young Neighbors in Action, which included an introduction to CRS.
 
“My parents have always been great role models for incorporating their Catholic faith into everyday life,” Reeson said. “They strongly supported and encouraged my siblings and I to do service in the community, attend retreats, go on service trips.  They stressed the importance of keeping Catholic social teaching and values in mind when making any decision.”
 
The Schlegel Center has particularly close ties to CRS, which works with many colleges, Tadeo Orbik said. Only Creighton and 11 other campuses, all Catholic, are considered CRS Global Campuses, she said.
 
“This means that we have a deepened commitment to CRS,” she said. “We hand out the Rice Bowls during Lent, work to educate people about buying Fair Trade, and educate about Catholic social teaching.
 
“As a CRS Global Campus we also work to apply Catholic social teaching and integral human development applications throughout all departments,” Tadeo Orbik said.  “So the students are not simply learning about – and how to apply – Catholic social teaching in their theology classes, but in history, business and other classes as well.”  
 
Sending students to SALT, and similar conferences, gives them tools to be leaders on campus, and Reeson is growing into one of those leaders, Tadeo Orbik said.
 
 Reeson said the university’s commitment to educating men and women for others, to teaching the whole person and upholding human dignity, has had an important impact on her.
 
“Reserving quiet time to think about where we have come from, how we have changed and what our hearts’ desires are is central to Creighton’s mission, and it has become a central part of my mission as a Catholic,” she said.
 

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