Isaac Cardenas ’20
Next Step: Volunteer with Rostro de Cristo in Guayaquil, Ecuador
Isaac Cardenas will graduate with honors as the Theological Studies Program Scholar. Cardenas entered LMU with a declared major in theological studies and an open heart towards change.
“I wanted to become a motivational speaker at first, but all of my experiences gradually made me aware that I was being called towards the ministry of presence,” says Cardenas.
As a sophomore, Cardenas participated in an Ignacio Companions trip to a children’s orphanage in Cambodia and an Alternative Breaks trip to California prisons. These experiences exposed him to social injustices, so he declared a minor in sociology.
Cardenas reflected, “At the heart of spirituality are relationships. My sociology classes helped me understand that the ways in which we are socialized reflect systematic injustices, and my faith was tested at this time.”
As a sophomore resident advisor, Cardenas found it challenging to create community in Del Rey North. However, this leadership experience allowed Cardenas to realize he was again being called towards change. So, he studied abroad in Córdoba, Argentina through the Casa de La Mateada program.
“Casa was instrumental in my growth. Not only did my Spanish develop exponentially, but I also felt grounded by living simply and intentionally. Most importantly, I felt God’s undoubtable presence while accompanying communities.”
Cardenas is a first-generation college students and found his Mexican roots strengthened during his immersion in Argentine culture. “My parents were surprised when I returned from my semester abroad fully able to express myself in Spanish. Our relationship has grown tenderly ever since then,” he remarked.
Even so, Cardenas recalls how uprooted he felt upon returning from Argentina. His desire for community and intentionality led him to become a De Colores leader as a senior. Established by LMU Alumni, Julianne and Chris North, these weekend long immersions give LMU students the opportunity to be with community partners in Tijuana, Mexico.
De Colores works with Build-A-Miracle to build a part of a house together. Then students break bread with migrants at Casa del Migrante. De Colores weekends end by going to the Tijuana/San Diego border wall.
Cardenas shared, “My heart breaks every time I see that wall. But I am grounded in my hope that our human family will recognize how love makes borders irrelevant, and how connection fosters justice.”
His global immersion experiences led him to enroll in Professor Abe and Professor Christie’s cross-listed course, “Contemplatives in Action.” This course emphasized contemplative practices and psychologies of liberation.
“Professor Abe and Professor Christie founded the Casa program, so I knew I wanted to take their class during my last semester at LMU. Their passion for teaching created a vulnerable and reflective environment for my peers and I. This was one of my favorite classes because it gave me the tools to be intentional during our quarantine. Right now, it is even more important that we stand up with the vulnerable,” says Cardenas.
Cardenas is preparing himself for his year of service in Guayaquil with Rostro de Cristo (Face of Christ). This program emphasizes a faith that does justice by “living the Gospel of Christ in solidarity with marginalized communities.” Although Cardenas does not know which specific community organization he will accompany, he looks forward to connecting deeply with his neighbors in Guayaquil.
“Guayaquil has been particularly impacted by COVID-19. It is going to be a challenge to be there amidst this suffering, yet I know God has called me there to share in the lives of my brothers and sisters. I love Rostro’s mission since it is grounded in being with as opposed to doing for,” says Cardenas.
Throughout his four years at LMU, Cardenas has had many opportunities. From his self-study in The International School for Jain Studies’ winter program in Ahmedabad, India, to his experience living in the Center for Service and Action house. He will be graduating with multiple awards such as LMU’s Presidential Citation and the theology department’s Marie Anne Mayeski award. While at LMU he also became a member of Theta Alpha Kappa and Alpha Sigma Nu. He aspires to return from his time in Ecuador to earn his Master of Divinity and become a Hospital Chaplain.
Cardenas closed saying, “I would have never envisioned myself being where I am today. It all illustrates how God has a blessed path for each of us. I leave LMU with a passion for spreading love and with a grateful heart for those who have impacted me along the way.”