Rooted at the core of the St. Thomas Basilian educational experience is the commitment to transforming the minds and hearts of the Eagle campus community through advocacy and social justice education.
Theology faculty member Danny Hernandez ‘08 is continuing that legacy of service, engaging his senior scholars to cultivate moral imagination, practical wisdom, and the courage to act within curricular programs for students.
During the 2023 fall semester, Hernandez and director of student life Joe O’Brien are organizing and executing a series of student-led participation at Martha’s Soup Kitchen and Loaves & Fishes Soup Kitchen to help provide an interdisciplinary look at poverty to understand the forces that maintain it and the forces that resist it.
Hernandez searches for a service component to support discussion topics relating to deprivation, homelessness, and human trafficking. His multi-tier goals relating to the dialogue are to raise awareness through education, show solidarity with those in particular need, and take immediate action. Affecting short-term relief may fuel long-term solutions that address systemic causes.
“Students can be presented with a high volume of facts and textbook examples of poverty but what they experience firsthand is much more powerful,” Hernandez says. “I wanted that practical component outside the classroom.”
Martha’s Kitchen was founded in 2002 by St. Martha Catholic Church in Kingwood. The ministry serves the Second Ward in the city’s East End. Sister Carmen Sanchez assumed the director position in January 2019 and collaborates with a mix of full-time employees and 20-plus volunteers who prepare and serve meals each Monday through Friday, as well as providing grocery programs.
The unsheltered population is drawn to Martha’s Kitchen, the same as to Loaves & Fishes, desiring basic needs or a fast lunch. Students quickly discovered that within extensive urban redevelopment and the burgeoning high-quality, mixed-use environment is a view on the streets telling a different story.
“The students accepted the involvement without judgment,” Hernandez says. “The mission was to feed the hungry, no questions asked. You come. We will feed you regardless of the circumstances.”
Giving without seeking reward.
Embracing a personal responsibility of each individual, based on talents and gifts, to contribute to the common good.
At the same time, promoting a culture of social justice that can flourish when society removes barriers so that each person can contribute fully to the betterment of that society.
The Social Justice senior curriculum is built around the Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching – Life and Dignity of the Human Person; Call to Family, Community, and Participation; Rights and Responsibilities; Option for the Poor and Vulnerable; Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers; Solidarity; and Care of God’s Creation.
Champions For Change
Hernandez was introduced to Fishes & Loaves during his sophomore year as a St. Thomas student. As that and similar connections continue, he has seized the responsibility that institutions of higher education have to better the human condition of all people.
During the 2023 academic year, Hernandez teamed with campus ministry director Andrew Quittenton to spearhead a four-day immersion into a homelessness crisis in Los Angeles. Previously, Hernandez teamed with Eagle fathers Rafael Garcia and Ed Cordes as the driving forces in leading St. Thomas students representing diverse religious backgrounds to aid the under-served in Honduras.
“For me, service is such an important element in building young men of good character,” Hernandez says. “This is proactive goodness in (the Basilian credo) Teach Me Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge. Applying that context outside the classroom is essential. At the end of the day, these students are seeking opportunities to give back, and to do good in their communities. The best I can do as a teacher is help provide that chance.”
Hernandez is boldly extending the St. Thomas legacy of service, appealing to his senior scholars through activism, volunteerism, and community-based learning.
Embracing a personal responsibility for each individual, based on talents and gifts, to contribute to the common good when society removes barriers so that each person can contribute fully to the betterment of that society.
Human dignity. A call to family.
Catholic. Basilian. Teaching Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge since 1900.