One young man’s latest fete is both a nod to his past and a sign of an impactful future.
As a third generation supporter of Chicanos Por La Causa — an organization committed to community development in an underprivileged area — A.J. Arvizu has stayed true to that mission while paving his own path. He’s a first generation college graduate who majored in political science, justice studies and human rights and has his eyes set on graduate school to study international relations.
Arvizu is also among the early members of the Alumni Service Corps at Brophy College Preparatory. Now, he’s embracing his second year with the Corrymeela Community, the oldest peace and reconciliation center in northern Ireland.
The latter role also helped label him among “40 Under 40: Latinos in Foreign Policy.” The announcement came during National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Specifically, the inaugural list surfaced during Global Diaspora Week, a celebration focused on contributions to global development in a “diaspora” community. The term refers to those who live outside a shared country of origin or ancestry, but maintain active connections with it.
Paul Fisko, Arvizu’s scripture teacher at Brophy who also paired with the students for service projects, noted his willingness to share his opinion and faith with others.
“His special gift was to keep people motivated in their conscience about the poor and doing service. He was always well-read about systemic injustices and the plight of immigrants as a major concern in Arizona,” Fisko said.
He noted Arvizu’s ongoing commitment to justice. It’s a characteristic Brophy looks for in its graduates, but Fisko knows the pressures of college and young adulthood often sideline such efforts.
“It is wonderful to see that A.J. never lost sight of justice in the world as the circumstance that needed his gifts. He is the kind of success story our Catholic schools need to applaud and further,” Fisko said, noting his hope for Arvizu to continue to be an example of global solidarity while answering the call “to build up the kingdom of God in every corner of the earth.”
Arvizu began a year of service as assistant to the Executive Director Department within the Corrymeela Community this month. It’s a step up from last year’s assignment as one of 12 long-term volunteers selected from across the globe to facilitate customized programs for various groups such as a bereavement group of officer families or a local elementary school. They also rotated kitchen shift and housekeeping duties.
“Preparing food or cleaning was the best break you could have,” Arvizu admitted. It allowed his mind to contemplate solutions to problems.
It’s a gigantic leap for a young man whose main world from ages 5 to 18 consumed the city block that comprises St. Francis Xavier School and Brophy. This year, Avrizu’s assignments will be more project-based. That includes preparing the community’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
Arvizu said he learned about service from his dad’s example. The family often picked up trash before and after Chicanos Por La Causa events. He recalled shadowing his dad to union halls and the struggle of losing a church in the Golden Gate Barrio of Phoenix.
Independently, Arvizu spent years as an altar server at St. Mary’s Basilica and much of his time in high school in the Office of Faith and Justice. It was the hub where he could connect his faith with action, Arvizu said.
“Brophy is what put a mission … a faith to service work,” Arvizu told The Catholic Sun on one of his last campus visits before returning to Ireland.
He found that three mission trips to Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos communities in Mexico and Guatemala — to meet orphaned children Brophy sponsored — catapulted him along a human rights path. He saw people living on essentially “four-story trash heaps,” Arvizu said and felt lingering connections to the children he only knew a short time.
It was in Guatemala that he met volunteers from France and Germany. Arvizu learned that it’s typical for young adults there to temporarily support the military or civil service and he was inspired to do the same.
In Ireland, he learned to see the U.S. through a different lens. He also learned to quietly discern and listen to the needs around him. That Jesuit ideal of going out and setting the world ablaze is ingrained in his soul.
“The real credit is my family, my background, where I came from,” Arvizu said. “Brophy is the catalyst.”