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Profile: Kyle Fitzsimmons
Posted on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010
When Kyle Fitzsimmons’ older sister suggested he attend the spring 2008 Search Retreat, the then-freshman took her advice. Little did he know, Search would turn out to be one of the most defining experiences of his college career.
At the three day retreat, Fitzsimmons, a Seattle native, found a completely non-judgmental atmosphere in which he could explore his spirituality while bonding with fellow retreat participants and leaders. Fitzsimmons, now a senior, enjoyed his experience so much that he has since led four Search retreats, and is currently a Campus Ministry retreat intern. He says his favorite part of his position is being involved with Search from start to finish: from selecting the twenty retreat leaders three to four months in advance and training them, to attending the event himself.
Search is a retreat hosted by Campus Ministry, twice a year, that is open to all undergraduate students. Although the themes of the retreat, such as love, faith, identity, and community of faith, are grounded in the Christian tradition, attendees do not have to be Catholic. In fact, the retreat emphasizes spiritual development and community-building rather than any particular faith.
Approximately fifty students attend the retreat, where they hear talks from the leaders, which they then discuss in small groups. Fitzsimmons says another aspect he loves about Search is the traditions and secrets which only those who have experienced the retreat know. At the end of the weekend, the entire group comes away with a sense of community based on spirituality.
Coupled with strong community-building, the environment in which Search takes place, lends itself nicely to a weekend of spiritual reflection. Located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Search leaders have little trouble convincing retreat participants of the sacredness of the landscape, which, as a creation of God, calls on human beings to be its stewards.
To emphasize a sense of stewardship, Campus Ministry ingrains sustainability into its retreats and daily operations. On the retreat, each student is given a reusable cup and plate labeled with his or her name, thus eliminating the use of disposable dishes throughout the weekend. Reusable marshmallow roasting sticks are also used. Fitzsimmons asserts that Campus Ministry’s strength is in its waste consolidation and reduction efforts. In the office, they recycle, eat and drink from reusable dishes, and even compost, thanks to the encouragement of Campus Minister Matt Smith, who keeps a worm bin in his office.
Personally, Fitzsimmons embraces what he calls the “pay-it-forward” aspect of sustainability, which emphasizes the responsible and conservative use of resources now to ensure that future generations can also reap these benefits.
In addition to Campus Ministry's sustainable efforts, Fitzsimmons takes an interest in other campus sustainability initiatives. Fitzsimmons feels that Santa Clara is a leader in campus sustainability because the school integrates it as a value in academics, as well as campus and community life. Rather than simply encouraging students to recycle because it is “eco-friendly,” Santa Clara approaches environmental stewardship and education through a Jesuit lens, considering sustainability as a spiritual principle. It is this comprehensive presence of sustainability in the Santa Clara experience which has had the greatest impression on Fitzsimmons in his years as a student.
An economics major, he says that instead of simply working in an office, he feels called to use his education to better people’s lives. In the long-term, he sees himself working in the non-profit sector, but first he hopes to work with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps after traveling through Europe this summer. Fitzsimmons’s past experiences, present work with Campus Ministry and Search, and future plans for using his education to promote social welfare exemplify the spirituality of sustainability and how these values go hand-in-hand at Santa Clara.
By Hannah Slocum, '11, Sustainability Intern.