Service & Justice Experiences (SJE)

Service and Justice Experiences provide opportunities for students, faculty, staff and alumni to serve locally, around the United States, and abroad during university breaks.


Mission of the Program

The Service & Social Justice Experience Program plays an important role in the education and formation of the Villanova community.  It provides opportunities for students, faculty, staff and alumni to serve locally, around the United States, and abroad during University breaks.  Service & Social Justice Experiences enable participants to:

  • Serve with people and partner organizations who work every day to improve the lives of people who are in poverty and who are marginalized by society.
  • Build community within their groups and begin to develop relationships with the people with whom Villanova partners.
  • Complement class work with first hand experiences of life at the margins of society and exposure to the knowledge and insights of the people they encounter.
  • Explore their spirituality and develop a deeper relationship with God while living out Augustinian values.
  • Examine issues of injustice and develop a life-long commitment to working for the Common Good.

Restless Heart Experiences

As an Augustinian University, St. Augustine’s idea of the “restless heart” helps to frame these experiences. The Augustinian Vocations website explains the idea of the “restless heart” experience well:

Saint Augustine writes in his Confessions, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”  Perhaps Augustine’s most often quoted phrase, it captures something that resonates deep within the human person.

Restlessness is that desire to be filled and fulfilled. We all have it. We try to ignore at times, but still it remains.  We Augustinians believe that it can direct us to God.

Are you restless? Are you searching? Do you have the desire to live in a community of friends that is Christ-centered?  Do you have the desire to bring that very same desire to others?

Restlessness is a key aspect to our life together, igniting our common search for God through our prayer, community life, and ministry. (Adapted from

Each of these experiences will involve 5-6 weeks of group meetings before the experience.  These preparation meetings will involve getting to know your group, the community you will enter, Catholic Social Teaching, and other social justice elements of the program. Post break experience will focus on advocacy work related to their host community and of living simply and with an orientation to the common good after the week experience

See the Community Partner page for the current Restless Heart Experiences.

Broken Heart Experiences

These experiences go to a deeper level with a mixture of direct service and social justice elements. The framework for these experiences is adapted from Fr. Dean Brackley’s idea of Broken Heart Experiences:

So the big question for me is: How can I help you folks to educate yourselves. I'm really interested in having you become ‘lifers.’ That this trip, that these studies of justice and peace… is not just an adornment for your vita. I think the university has as its agenda, ruining your lives. And having this experience of the poor sets your agenda. All I mean to say is that we would hope that you would be Christian revolutionaries for the rest of your lives. And that doesn't come unless your heart has been broken. That doesn't come from reading statistics about homeless people in the United States. At the university, raising questions has priority over providing answers. What we are all becoming aware of, here as well as in the States, is that the necessary revolution ─ using the language of Paul VI, the ‘radical transformation' ─ has to take place from the ground up. From Bridgeport up, from the South Bronx up, from the suburbs up. And it's got to be grassroots work.

Each of these experiences will involve at least 5-6 weeks of group meetings before the experience, with international experiences meeting for several additional weeks in the fall semester.  These preparation meetings are intended to go a bit deeper than the Restless Heart Experience groups.  They will involve building community but will go more in-depth to learn about the host community, Catholic Social Teaching, Social Analysis, and other key social justice components.  Post-break experience will focus on advocacy and continuing to live out the experience through pursuing related academic study, media presentations, and making involved choices related to purchasing, sustainability, and more developed sense of solidarity.  While all SJEs are a commitment, the Broken Heart Experiences require each participant to fully invest in the experience from the very start and to continue that investment into their daily lives.

See the Community Partner page for the current Broken Heart Experiences.