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Kaitlin Kelsch

11/11/2015
9:00 am, MWF
Civic Engagement Assignment
What Activity did you choose for your Civic Engagement Activity?
For a civic engagement activity, I chose to go to 6:00 pm catholic mass at the Cathedral of the Madeline
in Salt Lake City. I (along with the rest of my family who wanted to come and experience it as well)
attended on November 1st, 2015, which, in the catholic religion, is All Saints Day, the celebration of all
catholic saints known and unknown. My mother had attended a catholic mass when she was a teenager
because of an old boyfriend of hers who was catholic and one day, while I was discussing some of my
possible ideas for the civic-engagement assignment with, she suggested that I attend catholic mass for
the project since she thought that it was a very unique and interesting experience to be a part of. In
fact, even if I didnt have a civic engagement project to do, she wouldve eventually had taken me and
my sister to one anyway; she believes that there is much we can learn from observing other religious
services and that it is important for us to understand different cultures and perspectives. Thus, because
of her assurances that it would something worthwhile to see for myself, I decided to take her up on her
offer.
With whom did you speak and what did you learn from them?
After the mass had ended, I felt brave enough to approach the priest and shook his hand. I told him it
was a lovely service he had just performed and he said, You look as if youre visiting here. I explained
to him my purpose in attending the mass, that it was part of a college assignment I had to do for my
humanities class, and he said that the service is open and free to tall and that he was happy that I
decided to get involved in the Catholic community. I told him that I was very impressed with the level of
dedication and reverence that everyone showed and also told him that loved the organ music and
everyones singing voices. He said that he was just as impressed with the congregation as I was and told
me that Catholics have always been dedicated towards their religion that way, even since the days of
the Early Christians. Finally, I apologized just in case I might have interfered with anything or offended
anyone around me. He said that he was sure that my family and I conducted ourselves very well during
the mass and said that we were welcomed back any time. Overall, it was a very pleasant conversation!
What does civic engagement mean to you?
Civic engagement, to me, means doing something that lies completely outside your comfort zone in
order to learn something new about a certain culture, community, segment of society. You might seem
out of place at first, but the rich and exciting rewards civic engagement brings, such as increasing your
knowledge, spirituality, and awareness of different cultures, most certainly outweighs any anxiety you
might feel. In addition, there are many different things one could do to become civically engaged. You
could attend a lecture, seminar, or film screening, you could volunteer for a charity or event, you could

participate in a religious tradition, or, as I have done, you could attend a religious service. It all depends
on which activities appeal to you and to what degree you want to get involved in a particular activity or
community.
Becoming civically engaged may also inspire you to advocate for different groups and peoples, who,
historically, have been impoverished, discriminated against, or denied privilege. Perhaps after working
at a homeless organization, for example, you might be so moved and touched by the experience that
you decide to keep volunteering there every Thursday afternoon.
Finally, you could also choose to draw creatively from your experience and channel it into a wide variety
of art mediums, such as painting, music, sculpture, and literary works. Not only would this allow you to
create something beautiful and unique to immortalize the event, but you could also share the artist
works you create with others; so you can showcase your talent and, perhaps, bring awareness to what
you have observed. Furthermore, magazines, newspapers, and social media ensure that your work will
be seen by a wide audience.
In short, as long as you go with the intention to learn something new and try to see life from an entirely
new perspective that you may or may not have thought about before, you are becoming civically
engaged.
How did this assignment help you to be civically engaged?
I think this assignment helped me to be civically engaged because it gave me the chance to observe the
very intense beliefs that Roman Catholics hold. One of the things that impressed me the most about the
experience is that everything in Catholicism is heavily steeped in symbolism and religious imagery. To
the sentient gargoyles that survey the entire land from high up the rafters, to the bright, beautiful,
crystalline colors of the stained-glass windows, to the giant, vibrantly-colored frescos that cover every
single inch of the inside walls, everything in the cathedral has a story to tell if only you take the time to
look for it.
Therefore, it seems as if those of the Roman Catholic faith take great care to decorate their worship
spaces. It creates a warm, inviting atmosphere for all those who enter and it reminds them that gods
presence is always with them. I also remember from history class that this symbolism has a practical
application, as well. Most Roman Catholics during the Medieval Era did not have the ability to read back
then, so what better a way to convey the biblical stories and spiritual messages that the people needed
to know than through art that decorates the inside and the outside of the building!
I also loved the variety of the rituals that make up a catholic mass. Indeed, during the mass, we were
signaled to stand up, sit down, and kneel at least a dozen times, so we could recite prayers, sing
(amazingly beautiful) hymns, and exchange a sign of peace with our fellow men, for instance. It was a
little difficult to know what we were supposed to be doing and when since we werent raised to
memorize the order of it all, but we tried to the best of our ability and we especially tried to make sure
that we didnt ruin anything for the other churchgoers.

Also, during the priests sermon, he said something that I am not likely to forget anytime soon. Ive
been having a difficult time connecting to our unit in class that pertains to Identity, Privilege, and
Inequality. Although I am a woman and I understood the section on Gender Inequality rather well, I am
of European descent and I dont feel as if I identity with any one particular ethnic background. But
during the lesson the priest said that if you want to make a change in the world, you have to give up
your identity and the preconceptions about the world you hold in order to see things from others point
of view. That really struck me as being profound and once I decided to apply it once I went to the
lecture the next day, I was finally able to see a point to all the madness!
So, overall, I feel as if I learned some very fascinating aspects of Catholic religion that I never knew
before.
I realized just how many intricate prayers and hymns and recitations you need to know in
order to participate in a catholic mass successfully and I feel as if I was exposed to. I also realized that
Catholics are very dedicated to their faith. There was one woman in the pew in front of us with her son,
for instance, that that seemed to be completely within her element. I loved to see everyone around me
so heavily invested in what was going on around them and it made me feel so proud of how diverse and
unique human beings are. And because I took the time to civically engaged, I feel as if I understand their
viewpoint and position on life just all that much more.
Did you enjoy this experience?
Yes, I enjoyed it very much! I loved seeing the beautiful artwork both inside and outside the cathedral
and I feel as if I learned a lot about Catholic culture just through sitting and observing! And it was just
absolutely splendid to hear and sing along to all of that lovely music!
Would you do it again? Why or why not?
I cant really see a time in the foreseeable future where I would have to go again, but if I found a reason
to go, yeah, most certainly! I just wish that I wouldve went this time knowing that I didnt have to dress
quite as formally as I did. In Mormonism, were taught to wear our Sunday best whenever we attend
sacrament meeting so thats what we just assumed that we ought to wear. But pretty soon, as the
cathedral started to fill with more and more people, we started to realize that nearly everyone was
dressed in their everyday attire. Some of the men in the congregation were even wearing sports
jerseys! So if the goal to silently observe and participate without drawing too much attention to
ourselves, I think we kind of failed, at least in that regard.
I also wish I would have done more research on the order of catholic mass before I went, just so I could
know about the appropriate times to stand and sit and just so I could know more about what to expect,
in general. It wouldve been tremendously helpful if someone who is catholic or at least had been to
mass before was there to escort us and give us tips on how to fit in, but unfortunately we dont know
anyone that fits that description. It wouldve eased my nerves rather considerably, especially towards
the beginning of the mass when I felt the most self-conscious.

How did it relate specifically to the course? (250 Words)


Attending a catholic mass relates to our classroom theme of Happiness and the Good Life because
Catholicism is just one of the many religions and philosophies humans have created in order to explain
their position in the world and the steps one should to take to lead good, fruitful life. As many know,
Catholics believe that Gods Son, Jesus Christ, came to earth in a mortal body so that he could teach the
people and lay the foundations for what would eventually become the Catholic church. He was unjustly
crucified as part of a sacrifice for all of humanitys sins and three days later, in one of the greatest
miracles of all time, he was resurrected. Jesus Christs sacrifice remains important to this day because it
shows that forgiveness for ones sins remains possible so long as a person is willing to work towards that
forgiveness. Therefore, to a catholic, happiness means worshiping and revering god, remembering the
magnitude and gravity of Jesus Christs sacrifice, living as righteous and humble a life as you possibly
can, and seeking forgiveness for the sins one commits so that one may eventually reach heaven in the
afterlife.
Another way that this could be applied to class is the concept of Identity, Privilege, and Inequality. In
the early days of the church, as it began to spread throughout the Roman Empire and beyond, Christians
began to be persecuted by their own government because the burgeoning religion was seen as a threat
to the Roman gods. For years, innocent Christians whose only crime was having the wrong beliefs were
stoned, beaten, tortured, and taken prisoner. Being a Christian was not only extremely risky, then, but
early Christians were actually expected to die for your faith. Therefore, the Christians continued to
practice their religion in secret, developed symbols such as the fish to communicate with each other
without giving away their identities, and developed tight-knit communities each other so they could
keep each other safe from Roman guards. These early Christians still set an example for Catholics and
other Christian religions to this day because of the tremendous amount of courage they had in staying
true to their convictions and their willingness to assist each other during tough times.