Juniors serve community through theology class


Katie Ercolani

Ms. Michelle LeBlanc and her students discuss the value of serving others in the Discipleship in Society class.

All BSM students are required to take the semester-long Theology course, Discipleship in Society. This class was created as an elective 15 years ago by Service-Learning Coordinator Ms. Lisa Lenhart Murphy. “We are standing on the shoulders of the teachers who crafted this class,” current Discipleship teacher, Ms. Michelle LeBlanc said. In the class’s early years, students were required to serve a total of 50 hours as a component of the class, but today are only required to log 35 hours. Those hours of service are dedicated to working with groups around the community who are considered marginalized or disenfranchised.

Discipleship in Society––also known simply as Discipleship––was created to teach students to directly respond to the call of our founders: the Benedictines, Sisters of St. Joseph, and the Christian Brothers. This call tells students to seek out the least, the lost, and the last in our community and make the systems of oppression known and to lift those in that situation out of their oppression. When a student begins to understand this, working with those who are less fortunate than us helps their success in service come more easily. “When students have success or have some cool insight because of their service, and then they share it with the class, that is my favorite part,” LeBlanc said.

To teach this, LeBlanc and another Theology and Discipleship teacher, Mr. Joel Loecken, structure their classes in a way that the students are learning inside and outside of the classroom. In the classroom, they learn about the poor and disenfranchised, and how we, as Christians, should respond. Outside of the classroom, the juniors learn about similar topics through their service work with specific marginalized and disenfranchised groups around the Twin Cities.

Following Jesus often means becoming uncomfortable or putting yourself out of your comfort zone to learn what God’s call is for you.

— Ms. Michelle LeBlanc

Doing this service is a life-changing experience for the students, because it forces them to step out of their comfort zone and work with people they wouldn’t normally meet in their day-to-day lives. “[Lenhart-Murphy] has developed a curriculum that has helped students see that following Jesus often means becoming uncomfortable or putting yourself out of your comfort zone to learn what God’s call is for you,” LeBlanc said. Students still enjoy doing the service, but agree that they are put in an uncomfortable situation at first. “It is a good experience for juniors to have to be put in a situation that they aren’t very comfortable with,” junior Joey Simpson said.

The way that the Discipleship class pushes students into new experiences is why BSM decided to make it a required class for juniors. Each year students have developed a better understanding of the poor and marginalized people in and around the Twin Cities areas. This personal growth began freshman year in Christology the Person of Jesus, learning about hunger, charity, and ways to alleviate hunger; all leading students toward the Discipleship class. By junior year, students are ready to understand their role in the world. Also, juniors take the class so they are prepared for the senior Theology elective, Faith and Action, in which they learn to advocate for the groups of people who are marginalized and disenfranchised.

“[The goal for Discipleship is to] grow in our individual awareness of God’s call in our lives to alleviate the suffering of others,” LeBlanc said. LeBlanc knows that this class will continue to affect students long after they graduate. “After taking the class every career move, college choice, lifestyle choice, and vocation [will] be influenced by their new awareness of the poor and marginalized,” LeBlanc said. Though Discipleship is not an easy class, and demands a lot of hard work, the outcome is sure to last a lifetime.