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Cardinal Service Commitment Guidelines

What Counts, and What Doesn't When Reporting Service Hours

When you give freely of your time and talent to the disadvantaged, the Church, or the community, we want to count those hours toward our goal of 125,000 hours of service to celebrate Catholic University's 125th anniversary. Please follow these guidelines when reporting service hours, which we are calling Cardinal Hours.

Who can contribute Cardinal Hours?

  • All Catholic University undergraduate and graduate students, full- or part-time
  • All full- and part-time CUA faculty, staff, and administration, including members of the University Board of Trustees
  • All alumni of Catholic University

What time period does the Cardinal Service Commitment cover?

Service must have been performed between May 15, 2011, and April 10, 2012, to be counted toward the 125,000-hour goal.


  MLK service day

Examples of service hours that will be counted:

  • Direct unpaid service to agencies, non-profit organizations, churches, schools, health-care facilities or community groups
  • Direct unpaid service to individuals in need who are not related to you, such as elderly neighbors, school children, or persons with disabilities
  • Unpaid internships and service-learning hours, including for-credit service activities and internships that benefit the disadvantaged, the Church, or the community
  • Unpaid time spent performing indirect service, such as organizing service projects, planning fundraisers, or educational activities to benefit organizations that serve the disadvantaged, the Church, or the community
  • Pro-bono professional service
  • Unpaid time spent participating in fund-raising events for organizations that serve those less fortunate, the Church, or the community, such as sales, phone banks, or sponsored walks/runs
  • Serving on boards or committees of organizations that provide direct service to people who are disadvantaged, the Church, or the community

Examples of service hours that will NOT be counted:

  • Paid employment or paid internships
  • Direct service to relatives, such as caring for elderly parents or children with disabilities
  • Time spent doing advocacy work to influence public policy or political campaigns
  • Internships or service-learning work for commercial organizations that do not serve the disadvantaged, the Church, or the community
  • Serving on boards or committees of organizations that do not provide direct service to people who are disadvantaged, the Church, or the community

Members of the Catholic University community reporting Cardinal Hours for this project will be asked to affirm that their service meets the guidelines outlined above. Questions about the eligibility of specific service activities not covered in these guidelines can be directed to the Office of Campus Ministry: 202-319-5575,


Q & A

What are some specific examples of direct service that is eligible to be counted?

Everything from serving meals at a homeless shelter to coaching little league to tutoring school children to mowing your elderly neighbor's lawn counts as direct service, as long as you're not being paid to do it. In general, if you are giving freely of your time and talent to serve others, count the hours.

What kind of direct service is not eligible?

If you're being paid for your time, even if working at a homeless shelter is your job, we can't count those hours. If you're freely volunteering your time at an organization that does not provide direct service to the disadvantaged, the Church, or the community, we can't count those hours.

What about direct service provided to relatives?

If you care for your elderly parent or other needy relative in your home, God bless you. In some cases, such care can amount to a 24-hour-a-day commitment. But for the purposes of the Cardinal Service Commitment, those hours cannot be counted.

Can I count all my volunteer activities at church?

In short, yes. Whether you serve the church as a religious education teacher, member of the choir, youth group chaperone, lector, or sacristan, unless you are getting paid for your service, you can count it toward the Cardinal Service Commitment.

What about my public-policy advocacy activities?

In general, public-policy advocacy should not be counted as service, whether you're campaigning for passage of a particular law, or campaigning for a political candidate or party. For example, marching in the March for Life can certainly be a powerful witness, and could be seen as a form of service to victims of abortion, but the purpose of the march itself is to advocate for changing public policy. Therefore, marching in it should not be counted as service hours. However, if you provide the direct service of hospitality to people who are marching in the March for Life, those hours can be counted.

Similarly, demonstrating outside an abortion clinic does not count as service; working at or raising money for a pregnancy counseling center does. Taking part in an anti-death-penalty protest does not count as service hours; visiting people in prison does. Making phone calls to rally voter support for or opposition to some proposed legislation does not count as service; volunteering at your local polling place does.

Do my internships and service learning hours count toward the Cardinal Service Commitment goal even if I'm earning class credit?

Yes. We are guided in part by the federal government’s Corporation for National and Community Service, which recognizes internships and service-learning hours as community service, as long as the organization you are working for is providing direct service to the community. So, whether you're a nursing student doing clinical hours, a social work student interning in a counseling center, or a politics student working as an intern in a government office, your hours count.

What about volunteer work done for the University?

In general, when you freely giving of your time to serve the University and/or the offices, departments, student organizations, or committees established by the University, you can count those hours toward the Cardinal Service Commitment, provided you are not being paid for your service.

University employees who serve on committees should not count those hours if that work can be considered part of your job. For example, the staff members who are on the Cardinal Service Commitment committee cannot count the time we spend organizing this effort as service hours because we are being paid for our time. However, the students who are on the same committee can count the time they spend as service hours because they are not being paid.

Can I report Cardinal Hours in advance?
We'd prefer that you wouldn't. Despite the best of intentions, circumstances might prevent you from carying out the service you had planned. So please report only completed hours of service.

What about retroactive reporting?
Yes! Please report all the hours of service you have completed since May 15, 2011.

Can I report hours for people other than myself?
Yes, if you are doing so with their knowledge and consent. Some service leaders might want to report hours for a group of people who worked together on a project. That's fine. If you are doing that, it would be best if you could report each person's hours separately with names and e-mail addresses for each so we can send them a thank-you note. But if it's too much of a hassle to report each volunteer's hours separately, you can report a total for the group. (A note about that in the "Service Performed" field would be helpful.)

What about priests and religious? Can they count their entire lives as service to the Church?

Well, yes and no. But only the hours of service for which neither they nor their religious communities are being paid can be counted as part of the Cardinal Service Commitment.

Is there a general rule of thumb to determine what counts as service and what doesn't?

Ultimately, we are putting our trust in the good judgment and consciences of the members of the Catholic University community to consider the spirit of these guidelines and decide whether their activities should be counted as service hours or not.

How can I participate in this project even if I am unable to give of my time and talent?

Click on the "Make A Donation" button at the top of this page, and contribute to the University's 125th anniversary fund.