Moving from “small town Podunk Montana” to the University of Portland was “a big shock that blew my socks off” remembers Lindie Burgess ‘11. Setting aside her degree in mechanical engineering to open herself to the homeless community through a year of service at St. André Bessette Catholic Church in downtown Portland made her world even bigger. Today she draws on those experiences as program manager for the UP’s Moreau Center, guiding students through mind- and heart-blowing week to three week long service immersion experiences.
Recently a student summarized her 3-week Social Justice immersion in the South in two words: “It sucked.” Angered by all the injustice she witnessed as she learned about the civil rights movement and talked to contemporary leaders, the student felt burned out, overwhelmed, and alone. Her companions on this intense experience were scattering to summer or post-grad activities.
“Witnessing other folks’ experiences marks us, and she felt that she couldn’t handle any more suffering,” remembers Lindie. Drawing on her own experiences as a Krista Colleague with plenty of space, time, and fellow travelers to mull things over with, she suggested that the girl acknowledge the suffering with friends and others in her network. “Right now it’s too much, but if you create intentional spaces for conversation, it will come out when you allow it to.”
Wearing her “Krista Colleague hat”, Lindie helps UP strengthen structures to support and prepare students for their service experiences. It’s significant work, because a majority of UP undergrads participate in Moreau Center programs. Lindie knows that preparing them to step into service is just the starting point. “There is so much need right now for folks to be accompanied, and so much burnout associated if folks are not accompanied, especially when they return,” says Lindie.