The first Catholic-themed immersion trip at Hope College was an initiative of the Saint Benedict Forum and was generously co-sponsored by Hope College’s Campus Ministries and Union of Catholic Students as well as Holland, Michigan’s St. Francis De Sales Catholic Church. The theme of the trip was poverty, religious life, and social justice in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. The group lived with and worked alongside the Franciscans of the Eucharist who run the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels.
Humbolt Park, once a vibrant, middle class area, is now one of the poorest areas in Chicago with a 42% unemployment rate and 67% high school dropout rate. Fr. Bob Lombardo came to Chicago in 2005 at the request of Francis Cardinal George and eventually, the Franciscans of the Eucharist was created to help rebuild the neighborhood and keep a Catholic presence in the area.
Hope students worked directly with the Franciscans of the Eucharist, witnessing social (in)justice firsthand as they cleaned and organized community spaces, worked with senior citizens and youth at the YMCA, volunteered at the food pantry, and engaged with the Build-On Program at Orr High School (where they planned curriculum and taught classes about students’ futures after high school).
Students came away from the trip with a heightened understanding of what the religious sisters and brothers do at the mission as well as the history and evolution of Humbolt Park. Incorporated in students’ daily activities were prayer, Bible study, services such as daily Mass and holy hour, and faithful discussions with other visiting student from the University of Tennessee.
Abby Reeg, a Hope College Regional Advancement Director and adult mentor on the trip, said she was “impressed with the Catholic and non-Catholic students’ willingness to serve with loving and open hearts, to have meaningful discussion, and to support each other in their faith journeys.”