by Margaret Antonio
The Church in the 21st Century (C21) Center at Boston College brings renowned speakers from a variety of disciplines to engage in and facilitate discussions on the Catholic faith and spirituality. These popular events attract people from BC, Boston, and surrounding universities. One of the Church in the 21st Century Center’s more popular initiatives amongst students is “Agape Latte,” a monthly event hosted at Hillside. With guest speakers, often including Jesuits, faculty, and staff, the coffee-shop style event centers on the theme of “agape,” love that seeks nothing in return. A recent C21 initiative reached beyond the city limits of Chestnut Hill, attracting the attention of acclaimed pop singer, Taylor Swift.
“Espresso Your Faith Week,” from September 29 to October 4, encouraged the BC community to express their faith through a variety of events, including prayer, Frisbee with Jesuits, free coffee at the bus stops... and “shaking it off.”
A student-produced video, inspired by “Espresso Your Faith Week,” featured over 1,000 students, faculty, and staff dancing and lip-syncing to Taylor Swift’s top hit, “Shake it Off.” On September 24, the video was published by the Church in the 21st Century Center on YouTube “as an invitation to Shake Off our burdens and choose to foster ‘Agape: unconditional love that seeks nothing in return’ in the lives of others.”
The video immediately went viral, gained over 100,000 views on YouTube, and garnered the attention of Boston newspapers and magazines. Then almost three weeks later, Taylor Swift re-ignited the publicity with a shout-out via Twitter: “YES, Boston College, YES. Thank you to everyone who took part in making this, it just made me SO happy! #ShakeItOff.”
The video’s creators, John Walsh, BC '17 and John Campbell, BC '15, were surprised by Taylor Swift’s tweet.
“When I first found out, I was completely stunned,” Campbell told Boston.com. “I had said the day before that our video had run its course at BC, and the next day she tweeted the video and it started all over again.”
Despite their excitement about the attention Taylor Swift attracted to the video, Walsh told Boston.com that he was mainly glad because “it’ll help extend the reach of [Agape Latte].”
Taylor Swift’s tweet, including a link to the video, alone was retweeted over 7,000 times and marked as “favorite” by over 12,000 (more than the undergraduate student population at Boston College).
What began as an initiative to encourage BC community members to express their faith and to “shake off” their burdens, has clearly made its way to more people than expected, prolonging the “one-week” event’s goal into a three week viral sensation.
To learn more about Agape Latte and other initiatives and events by the Church in the 21st Century, visit http://www.bc.edu/church21/, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.