Putting Jesuit Values into Practice
SJU’s Winter Immersion Program sends 62 students on international and domestic service trips
Friday, January 19, 2018
by Katie Smith '15
Forgoing relaxation and time with family, 62 students from Saint Joseph’s University spent their holiday breaks engaging in community service and cultural immersion. Five student groups, each under the guidance of two student leaders and two adult facilitators, traveled to Piura, Perú; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Guatemala City, Guatemala; El Paso, Texas; and New Orleans, Louisiana, for two weeks.
“My immersion trip to El Paso made me think more deeply about those affected by the hardships of immigration policy,” says Julia Abbattista ’18 of Westfield, New Jersey. “When you learn about legislation on the news, it’s easy to hear percentages and data points. But having a personal connection with people whose lives are altered by these policies was powerful and unforgettable.”
Each location required different work of the volunteers, including construction, after-school programming, meal preparation at shelters and accompaniment of local community members.
The service projects, offered through Campus Ministry’s Winter Immersion Program (WIP), require a yearlong commitment that features pre-trip formation, the travel experience and opportunities for post-trip reflection. Though the program asks a lot of students, Campus Minister Tinamarie Stolz believes each component is vital.
“A student’s perspective will change on the trip,” says Stolz, “but the only way for their lives to change long-term is with continued reflection in a supportive community.”
Campus Ministry first offered immersion experiences in the 1980s with their Project Mexico trip. The yearlong program focused on migration and workers' rights and culminated with a two-week visit to Tijuana, Mexico, in May. Since its inception, the program’s goal is for students to put their Jesuit values to work.
“On these trips, students immerse themselves in different places and people,” says Stolz. “They are challenged to find God in all things — even the difficult moments — and students leave with hearts that are both full and broken.”