One man’s calling helps lead students to serve

FFrank Daggett in Guatemalarank Daggett got tuckered out as he labored to build a
health clinic in a small Guatemalan village
with a team of Saint
Joseph’s College students in January – with not a bulldozer
in sight to do the heavy lifting. “It’s the hardest work I ever
looked forward to doing every morning,” he says.

A 1980 graduate of Saint Joseph’s and now the coordinator
of social justice and leadership
at the college, he admits he
was bone-tired from the
digging and hauling,
but buoyed by what he
saw happening to the
students during their
week of volunteering.

When students
encounter people
suffering, they see
“Christ active in the
world,” he says. Having
just served on his third
trip in one of Latin America’s poorest countries, he believes
Christ is present in human suffering and that compassion is
active and alive among students in the face of that suffering.

“We don’t preach to them (the students),” he says. “We invite
them to reflect on what they see.” Often, they see that “faith is
not only about them and God, but about the relationship with
our brothers and sisters,” he says.

Daggett was raised in St. Raphael Church in Kittery, where
his mother, Marge, is active in parish bereavement ministry. He
now lives in Harrison, where he moved after a 20-year career
in the U.S. Navy. After leaving the service, he began to work
as an academic advisor at Saint Joseph’s in the adult distance
education division. During his six years there, he earned a
master’s degree in pastoral theology. When he graduated, the
campus social justice job opened up, and he was ready to give
back to a ministry and community he had felt a vital part of as
an undergraduate.

A big part of his focus is developing student leaders to
initiate and organize community service. Every March, groups
of students volunteer in low-income areas of Appalachia,
New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia during their spring
break. With Daggett’s guidance in group dynamics, leadership
principles, faith development and aspects of Catholic social
teaching, the students carry out the fundraising, assemble the
work teams and run the group reflections at the worksites for
Spring Break Workfest.

He also directs the Mercy Service Corps, a group of student
leaders who volunteer locally and get other students interested
in volunteering. He is also adviser to the Social Justice Club,
which recently collected baby clothes, baby goods and money
for women with crisis pregnancies.

Daggett understands that students at this time of their
lives are exploring and questioning their role in life and their
relationship with God, just as he did at that age. “You have to
be open to that,” he says of their soul-searching.

Remembering his years in the Navy, Daggett says the
young men and women were expected to take on a lot of
responsibility. He encourages that approach at Saint Joseph’s
as well. “Students want challenge and they want to do good
things that make a real difference,” he says.