How We Serve



By Sister Mary Ellen Dow, SNDdeN

Welcome to Selma

Let me share the inspiring story of a service trip, history relived, and life-transforming values learned in Selma, Alabama by students from Trinity Washington University during an Alternative Spring Break Service Trip (ASB), in March 2012.

Our journey began when eight Trinity students and three staff supervisors prepared themselves each week in active learning sessions. The topics included: Responsibility to Community – Service and Being Servant; Historical Context Comprehension – Selma and The Civil Rights Movement; Intercultural Competence – Creating a Diverse Community as Trinity Sisters; Spiritual Awareness – Grounding and Motivation for Service; Leadership Development – Skills for Servant Leadership; Mission Development – Mission-Driven Motivation.


On March 3-10, 2012, we flew from Baltimore-Washington to Birmingham, and then went by bus to Selma. Working with an organization called Blackbelt and Central Alabama Housing, under the supervision of the founder Mr. Dave Fulford, we cleaned-out, painted, and rehabbed four houses, and beautified neighborhoods. The focus of our week was to serve in any way that we were needed, while educating ourselves through about the people and history of the Civil Rights movement. We actually met Rev. F.D. Reese, the organizer of the first Selma to Montgomery march, and listened to his story of strength and commitment to justice, in the midst of hoses, dogs, and physical violence from law enforcement. The African-American struggle for equality truly had its birth in Alabama, with the march for voting rights, from Selma to Montgomery

The greatest gift to the “Trinity sisters” was arriving in Selma in time to participate in another march from Selma to Montgomery, in commemoration of the 47th anniversary of the original event. Standing outside Brown Chapel in Selma, where the march began in 1965 and would again in 2012, we heard original marchers challenge us not to give up the struggle: Jesse Jackson, Ralph Abernathy, John Lewis, etc. We marched with the crowds to the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge, as many began their five day journey once again to Montgomery. This new civil rights movement puts the focus on immigration reform and the repeal of the registration requirements for new voters, which make voting difficult, if not impossible, for those most vulnerable in our country. On our last full day in AL, we traveled the 45 miles by bus to Montgomery to visit the Rosa Parks Museum and joined the marchers who had walked all week from Selma to the steps of the Capitol in Montgomery. We raised signs, listened to impassioned appeals to let our voices be heard, and renewed our commitment to being “women of service” into the future.

new civil rights


Our Trinity women shared an evaluation with the following:

•  Doing service and being servant are not the same. Being servant is about an inner attitude that respects and celebrates differences, and honors the reciprocity of giving to and receiving from, “They brought the light of Christ to me…they served us…”

•  Spirituality is not just about going to Church or reading the Bible, or giving praise. It is about “...embracing who you are, your gifts…if you cannot love yourself you cannot love others…”

•  The Civil Rights movement continues today, “It is our turn, as young people; back then, young people looked death in the eye; we must share our small gifts.”

My ministry as Campus Minister enables me to experience Trinity Washington University as an institution of vision, and alive with the Mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.