Sursum Corda works hard to keep community

 Sursum Corda members on their fall retreat in 2019.

Sursum Corda is one 10 service organizations at LMU — and they, like many of the other orgs, have struggled finding how to maintain a service org from far distances. Nevertheless, they have been able to maintain a sense of community. Their outgoing president Courtney Hughes, a senior screenwriting major, explained how.

Jordan Boaz (J.B.): How has Sursum Corda adjusted to the pandemic? What have been the challenges / rewards?

Courtney Hughes (C.H.): After we went completely online in the spring, we were not able to do any SOC affiliated service, meaning we could no longer go to our placements officially in groups of Sursums. We continued to have weekly meetings over Zoom, but attendance was not mandatory. In order to maintain connections within Sursum, we met as an organization once over the summer on Zoom. It has definitely been a challenge to facilitate community while being completely online. I know our members miss going to do service together. There are just over 50 Sursums. The energy that is usually felt when we are all in a room together just does not translate to Zoom. I know that’s not unique to us or [the service org community] or any group or class at LMU, but there’s definitely a lot [of] intangible things that are lost to being online. We accepted 22 amazing new members at the end of February. Their first meeting was supposed to be the Monday after spring break. Unfortunately, they have not been able to experience any in-person meetings or events so far. We were unable to have littles retreat, induction and fall retreat. I’m having a hard time identifying any rewards that have resulted from the pandemic since our members have had to miss out on a lot. On a personal level, this time has served as a reminder of how important Sursum is to me and how grateful I am for all of its members. It wasn’t a new realization at all, but not being able to be in U-Hall for meetings on Monday nights or do service together really highlighted how significant Sursum is in my life.

J.B.: What are Sursum Corda’s priorities for this semester?

C.H.: Really the only priority for this semester has been to keep Sursum alive. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Our current executive board focused on creating and maintaining a new routine for the organization so that this community can continue on.

J.B.: How has Sursum Corda facilitated community among its members and L.A. at large?

C.H.: This semester, we meet once a month as an organization over Zoom. We still practice our typical meeting traditions including: inspo, Francois talks and Sursum dates. We are also meeting weekly in small groups of eight to nine members to be able to check in with each other on a more frequent basis. Each group is organized by one e-board member, and the groups change every month. These meetings are less structured. Sometimes it might be a 30 minute chat, a text check in if the group is having a particularly busy week or playing a few rounds of skribbl.io. The main point of these groups is to make sure everyone is at least surviving and to provide a consistent touchpoint for our members. As far as facilitating community in L.A., that has been a bit more challenging. We are still not permitted to do any affiliated in-person service. We have encouraged members to seek out service opportunities on an individual level wherever they are right now while prioritizing health and safety.

J.B.: How will Food Justice Week look similar or different to previous Food Justice Weeks?

C.H.: Food Justice Week looks completely different this year because unfortunately we are not hosting any official events. Zoom fatigue is real. Under current circumstances, people have had to take on a lot more responsibilities outside of Sursum. I reached out to a handful of potential panelists to try to get something on the calendar, but it simply did not work out in our favor. While there are no official events, follow @sursumcordalmu on Instagram to learn more about our mission and related efforts. We try to share food justice resources or any important information on our story as much as possible. Other accounts you should follow include: @streetwatchla, @lacommunityfridges and @sfs.national (all on Instagram).

J.B.: How does Sursum Corda’s focus on food justice tie into the pandemic and / or online school?

C.H.: A lot of students were displaced after having to suddenly move off campus in March and/or not being able to return to campus this semester due to social distancing requirements within residence halls. Students lost stable housing and access to food. Meal plans were canceled for this semester. Students who are living on campus now either have to pay for meals out of pocket or cook for themselves. Cooking for yourself requires time and access to transportation in addition to cost. Not everyone is within walking distance of a grocery store. Some people might not have a grocery store in their town. The food pantry is a great on-campus resource for anyone experiencing food insecurity. Unfortunately, off-campus students are not able to access it at this time. The food pantry is still accepting donations; @csa_lmu has a highlight on their profile with all of the current information about the food pantry.

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