The VISION Student Leaders

The Six Components

VISION's foundation

Each VISION experience is unique in its location, host site community, justice issues, and team of St. Thomas students. What unites these diverse VISION programs every year are the Six Components present on every trip: Service, Simplicity, Cultural Exchange, Community, Spirituality and Justice Issues. The components are incorporated into group reflections throughout the trip. Scroll down to learn more about how these six components are foundational to our program. You'll also find resources to dig deeper into each component, hearing from a wide range of voices across centuries and cultures. 


Service is foundational to VISION trips. You will work alongside residents of the community you visit to address human, social and environmental needs. Your service may be tangible: building a home and seeing the finished product. Or your service may be intangible: tutoring a child without knowing the impact of your work.

Soundbites on Service

Come and Learn: The voice of God spoke to each Israelite, that means to each and every person God’s voice was heard and understood because the voice spoke to each individual person according to that person’s particular ability to hear and the elderly in keeping with their ability, to the young in keeping with their ability, to the little ones in keeping with their ability, and so on.

Exodus Rabba 5:9

You know well that these very hands have served my needs and my companions. In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Acts 20:34-35

If anyone is unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.

II Thessalonians 3:10

Compassion is not a relationship between a giver and a receiver – it is a covenant between equals.

Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J. Tattoos on the Heart

Further Reading

Tattoos on the Heart by Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J.

"In the Service of Life" by Rachel Naomi Remen, Noetic Science Review, 1996

Questions for Reflection

  1. Am I aware of my power? Can I think of a time when I used it well? Badly?

  2. What could it look like to let go of some of my power while on my trip?

  3. List specific ways in which you will make your goals a reality (get specific and tangible)


Simplicity is a difficult component for many of us. We come to depend on conveniences or luxuries and have many choices about how we spend our time. Your group will decide together how to take with you only what you truly need. At your site, your choices may be limited by geography, money, transportation and safety. These limitations challenge our habits and help us examine the difference between needs and wants.

Soundbites on Simplicity

And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”

Luke 3:10-11

Seek what you need and give up what you do not need. For in giving up what you do not need, you will learn what you really do need.

Rabbi Schlomo ibn Gabirol, 11th Century Spanish poet & philosopher

Who is rich? One who is content with his lot/happy with what he has.

Ben Zoma, Pirkei Avot

Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people — first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving. I am strongly drawn to a frugal life and am often oppressively aware that I am engrossing an undue amount of the labor of my fellow-men. I regard class distinctions as unjustified and, in the last resort, based on force. I also believe that a simple and unassuming life is good for everybody, physically and mentally.

Albert Einstein


…We need to take up an ancient lesson, found in different religious traditions and also in the Bible. It is the conviction that “less is more”. A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. To be serenely present to each reality, however small it may be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfilment. Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little. It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack. This implies avoiding the dynamic of dominion and the mere accumulation of pleasures.

#222 Laudato Si’, Pope Francis

Further Reading

"Saint Francis of Assisi" by Pope Francis, Laudato si': On Care for Our Common Home, 2015 (#10-12)

Engage the Component

  1. Keep a consumption journal for one week, writing down what you’ve consumed each day (don’t forget things like electricity, gasoline, and water). How can you reduce your ecological footprint?
  2. Take a walk in a public space. Collect any trash you find along your route.
  3. Consider the contents of your wastebasket. Take a moment to give thanks for all the people and natural resources its contents represent.

Cultural Exchange

Cultural Exchange is a two-way street: sharing your culture with those you visit, and learning about theirs, too. Depending on your site, you may be invited to an Appalachian Jamboree, a Southern Gospel Church, or a local historical or cultural institution.

Soundbites on Cultural Exchange

A group is the manifestation of this need to belong. A group can, however, close in on itself, believing that it is superior to others. But my vision is that belonging should be at the heart of a fundamental discovery: that we all belong to a common humanity, the human race. We may be rooted in a specific family and culture but we come to this earth to open up to others, to serve them and receive the gifts they bring to us, as well as to all of humanity.

Jean Vanier

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Albert Einstein

Socioeconomic problems can be resolved only with the help of all the forms of solidarity: solidarity of the poor among themselves, between rich and poor, of workers among themselves, between employers and employees in a business, solidarity among nations and peoples. International solidarity is a requirement of the moral order; world peace depends in part upon this.

Catechism of the Catholic Church #1941

Further Reading

"Culture Is Destiny: A Conversation with Lee Kuan Yew" by Fareed Zakaria, Foreign Affairs Magazine (March, 1994)

Watch: "The Danger of a Single Story" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at TEDGlobal (2009)

Questions for Reflection

  1. What are some characteristics of your culture – both on macro (national) and micro (family) levels?
  2. Think about a time when you interacted with a different culture. What happened? How did it affect the way you see the world?
  3. What skills or qualities were important to navigating cultural differences? How can you cultivate these qualities?


Community is developed within the VISION team and in cooperative work at your site. Your team will create a group agreement, reflect together and grow as a community through shared work. You will also establish connections with other volunteers and residents at your site through work, play and learning experiences.

Soundsbites on Community

Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 14:7-14

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:13

Hillel says: Do not separate yourself from the community; do not have confidence in yourself until the day of your death; do not judge another until you stand in his place; do not say something that shouldn’t be hear; in the end it will be heard; do not say, ‘when I have time I will study,' lest you never find time.

Pirkei Avot 2:4


The belief in the inner beauty of each and every human being is at the heart of L’Arche…and at the heart of being human… We do not discover who we are, we do not reach true humanness, in a solitary state; we discover it through mutual dependency, in weakness, in learning through belonging.

Jean Vanier

In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be... This is the inter-related structure of reality.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Further Reading

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert Putnam (2000)

Watch: The Power of Vulnerabillity by Brene Brown, TEDx Houston (2010)

Questions for Reflection

  1. What kinds of community have I experienced?
  2. What role(s) do I generally fill in community?
  3. How does my willingness to be vulnerable affect my participation in community?
  4. How do I approach tasks asked of me by others?


Spirituality is about your own faith, beliefs and convictions as well as the context for this program. VISION is directed from the Center for Campus Ministry. It springs from the Catholic tradition of social justice and the Gospel call to service. VISION welcomes students from a wide variety of faith perspectives to explore and share issues of faith. Nightly reflections offer the opportunity to share your own spirituality with others in the light of the day's experience.

Soundbites on Spirituality

Let us not forget that human knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth. What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses, and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the enquiring and constructive mind.

What these blessed men have given us we must guard and try to keep alive with all our strength if humanity is not to lose its dignity, the security of its existence, and its joy in living.

Albert Einstein

Open closed open. Before we are born, everything is open

in the universe without us. For as long as we live, everything is closed

within us. And when we die, everything is open again.

Open closed open. That's all we are.

Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, translated by Bloch/Kronfeld

When a person falls from their spiritual level - know that this comes from Heaven, because distance is the beginning of closeness - and thus one falls so that they will be aroused to bring themselves closer to God. And it's recommended that one then begin anew in entering the service of God, as if they had not yet begun at all. And this is the general rule in the service of God - that you need, with each and every day, to begin anew.

Likutei Moharan I:261

Now anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity. It is the fruit of unanswered questions. But questions cannot go unanswered unless they first be asked. And there is a far worse anxiety, a far worse insecurity, which comes from being afraid to ask the right questions— because they might turn out to have no answer. One of the moral diseases we communicate to one another in society comes from huddling together in the pale light of an insufficient answer to a question we are afraid to ask.

Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

Further Reading

Listen: "Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso: The Spirituality of Parenting" an interview with Krista Tippett (2010)

No Man Is an Island by Thomas Merton

Questions for Reflection & Discussion

  1. What was your childhood experience of receiving (or not receiving) faith from your parents?
  2. How would you describe your first religious/spiritual home? If you feel you did not have one, how has that affected you?
  3. What are experiences of daily life that connect to your spiritual life?
  4. Who can you identify as a spiritual mentor? (Need not be someone you know personally). What qualities does this person have?

Justice Issues

Justice Issues are the broader concerns of your work. Beyond direct service (e.g. serving a meal) you will learn about the causes of poverty, oppression, etc. and responses to these issues. Through presentations and educational opportunities, you will discover the political, economic, social, historical and religious issues behind your service work.

Soundbites on Justice

Learn to do good,

Seek justice,

Relieve the oppressed,

Bring justice for the orphan,

Seek defense for the widow.

Isaiah 1:17

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?

James 2:14-16

If a person resides in town for thirty days, that is person is responsible for continuing the soup kitchen; After three months, the charity box; After six months, to the clothing fund; After nine months, to the burial fund; And after 12 months, that person is responsible to the repair of the town walls.

Talmud, Baba Batra 8a

Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills --against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence... Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation .... It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

Robert F. Kennedy

Further Reading

Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963)

Listen: I've Been to the Mountain Top by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968)

Questions for Reflection

  1. What justice issues do I recognize in my daily life?
  2. How do my choices and actions contribute to or mitigate issues in my community?
  3. How can I use my power to work for justice?