In Their Own Words: Immersion Trip 2015

For Spring Break 2015, eleven Hope College students worked alongside, prayed with, and learned from the Franciscans of the Eucharist in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood.  Below are some of their beautiful reflections on the week.

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The Trip in Three Words

“I’ve been trying to think of a “quick and easy” way to respond to your questions… But my heart is so full after the trip that I don’t really know if that’s possible. Well, here goes: “Taste and see.” (As in, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” Andrew brought a few hymnals, and this was one hymn we sang that really hit home.)”

“I had such a hard time putting my growth from this trip into words. My heart is truly overflowing . . . Three words to describe the trip: discovery, perspective, inspiration.”

“Relationship-driven, reflective, peaceful (in that we were removed from the clutters and stimulation of life centered on material things while living with the nuns)”

image_1“Awe-striking, Heartbreaking, Inspiring”

“Thought-provoking, refreshing, simple”

“Challenging, thought-provoking, stirring”

“Intense, edifying and hopeful”

“Community-based, prayerful, loving”

“Frustrating, heartbreaking, joyful”

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One Memorable Highlight or Story

“Any day spent in the after school program with the little kids was awesome (I was with the 6-8 boys). Tutoring William who has autism was incredible and having Darrian try to teach me how to “slow dance” was a great slice of happiness I will carry with me.”

“The best part of the trip was seeing how the sisters interact with the community that they are now a part of. They are truly respected by the people they are helping and they are not seen as outsiders.”

image_4The sisters are possibly some of the greatest people I have ever met. I was blessed with opportunities to have serious one-on-one conversations with almost every one of them over the course of the week, and each time I felt completely inspired.”

Sister Kate tried to convince us that we were having blended liver for dinner one night, but we caught her in the joke because it was a Friday in Lent, and we knew there was no way they would serve us meat.”

image_3“It all just seemed so hopeless, like there was nothing that anyone could do. But at the same time, seeing the dedication of the people who run the afterschool program, talking to some of the kids at the high school who really do have hopes and dreams and plans for college and were so willing to work to make those real, witnessing the good work the Franciscans are doing in the neighborhood… All of that was so full of hope. It blew me away how there can be so much good and so much beauty in such a broken, difficult place.”

“My favorite moment of the trip was when one student opened up to us during the reflection shortly after he learned of his grandfather’s passing away, and how everyone rallied around him and the whole group came together to support him and each other.”

image“I’d like to share two highlights, the first being Daniel’s witness story, and how it so effectively touched me and made me notice what might also being missing in my faith journey as well, and then the other highlight would have to be when I talked about my father, and grandfather on the trip, which was very hard but at the same time very humbling.”

“While the entire trip was one huge highlight in itself, I especially loved how the trip helped me see past stereotypes and make connections with so many people despite vast differences. Watching the sisters’ willingness to reach out to the community, I was inspired to abandon my own preconceptions or criticisms and open my heart to discover the power of sharing Christ’s love through service. It was extremely uncomfortable at first, but it allowed me to discover the freedom that lies in selflessly giving to others in big and small ways. I built such powerful relationships through service with the community, with the nuns, and with my peers.

I also was able to discover the value that lies in a life of simplicity, humility, quiet, and all-encompassing service. The sisters have created such a calming, faith-focused environment despite the chaos and despair in the neighborhood. It is truly a little piece of heaven.

image_3“Near the end of the trip, Sister Stephanie told our group that their boiler had just broken. So the sisters were without heat in their home.  Sister Stephanie seemed surprised but not worried. Her attitude wasn’t “We don’t have the means for this. What is God thinking?” but rather, “Well, that happened. Here’s another chance to lean on God.” It was at this moment that I realized just how much the sisters place their trust in God. The sisters had said multiple times before how everything they have is donated, but it didn’t really sink in until Sister Stephanie told us about their boiler. This realization of how much God will provide if we let Him, and of how much He wants to provide, has helped me tremendously in trying to say “Jesus, I trust in You” for all aspects of my life.

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The Impact of the Trip in One Sentence

“After this trip life does not make any sense without God.”

“This trip taught me that God’s mercy is present even in the darkest, most seemingly hopeless of situations.”

“This trip not only helped become conscious of where joyful self-giving and reckless abandonment to God are called for in my life, but also intensified my appreciation for genuine friendship and community that is rooted in Jesus Christ and His Church.”

image“This trip gave me some hope for the world by showing me some of the unseen work being done to help those living in poverty and violence both spiritually and physically.”

“A relationship with God is necessary for complete fulfillment and joy.”

“This trip challenged me to re-examine a faith I had grown all too familiar with, helping me rediscover my appreciation for Catholicism and the way it is being lived out in humble service today.”

image_2“In one sentence, man this will be fun… Ok so here it is:  My spiritual life was in a way shattered, and the trip led me to re-evaluate what my journey has been, and try to piece together what my life means.”

“Staying with the Franciscans really made me realize how important it is to rely on God’s provision, in terms of material things, of course, but also in terms of spiritual and emotional stability. I don’t think the sisters could do what they do where they do it without relying on Him for sustenance through prayer, through His Word, and through His body and blood. We had a difficult enough time, and we were only there for a week.”

“Much of this week was challenging to witness, even in the context of all the amazing work that the sisters are doing in the neighborhood. At several points during the week I found myself very discouraged in regard to God’s plan for His people in the area as well as in regard to my helplessness. In a time of reflective prayer and reading, it was brought to my attention that like St. Veronica, sometimes the Lord calls us to wipe the sweat from the brows of those who are suffering. It was a beautiful revelation for me, and probably the main message that I’m taking out of the immersion trip. I felt blessed by the compassion that I felt for the people that I met and stirred by the freedom I found in the calling to suffer with others. I tend to want to fix all the problems in the world, and this week really showed me that it is not my will to change the world that I must chase but rather the will of my Heavenly Father, who is often simply calling me to love others and walk with them through their journey instead of try to fix them.”

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