The University of Portland has earned honors as one of the nation’s top campuses for promoting faith-based service and volunteerism.

The Maryland-based Catholic Volunteer Network issued the rankings in April, citing colleges that help students serve full-time in roles such as Lasallian Volunteers, Jesuit Volunteers, L’Arche assistants and various teaching positions in low-income areas across the world.

Volunteers in hundreds of programs usually live in small Christian communities and pray along with doing their work.

Focus of the honor is U.P.’s Moreau Center for Service and Justice, which helps students act out their beliefs and become Christian leaders. It is named after Blessed Basil Moreau, founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

The center not only sponsors service opportunities but hosts post-graduate program recruitment events.  

“Working full-time for people on the margins is a great opportunity,” said Laurie Laird, director of the Moreau Center.

Post-graduate volunteers get to explore another part of the country or the world and receive plenty of support, said Laird, who previously worked for Jesuit Volunteers Northwest.

The Catholic Volunteer Network said that professionals in campus ministry and service centers play a key role in helping young people decide to serve. During college, students are helped in their vocations via immersions, service projects and prayer opportunities. A focus on spirituality and social justice opens doors to service, network leaders said.

U.P. is one of three schools in the West honored for demonstrating “consistent excellence” in the tasks. The others were St. Mary’s in Moraga, California, and Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles.

Laird has observed that students who try service during college get attracted to it. They become especially interested if they meet current volunteers in their work and communities. For example, U.P. students often are impressed on annual immersions when they meet young volunteers serving in and around places like Northeast Portland and Yakima or Tacoma in Washington.

“I think people can gain a whole lot from a year of post-grad service,” said Laird. “Living in intentional community allows people to develop some really important skills in learning to live with someone who is different than they are. There is communication and conflict resolution.”

— Ed Langlois