A unique retreat experience brought Saint Viator underclassmen with students from Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep, in Waukegan. Their time together lasted less than 24 hours, but its impact surely will last a lifetime.
They were the latest group to go on an urban immersion retreat, organized through the Br. David Darst Center for Justice, Peace, Spirituality, and Education, located in Chicago’s Southside. Mr. Brian Hansen, of the Campus Ministry Department, led the Saint Viator contingent.
“We broke up into two groups,” Mr. Hansen explains, “and one group went and visited with men at a homeless shelter, while the other went on a ‘night walk,’ as a way to walk in the shoes of homeless people at night, when they’re out in public and face tight restrictions about entering buildings.
“In a word,” he adds, “it was eye-opening.”
“I was a little nervous,” he concedes, “but they turned out to be really easy to talk to. Not all of them wanted to talk, but the ones that did seemed happy that we were interested in them.”
Patrick spoke with one man who shared some of his life story, including how he had been abused as a child and how it led him to have anger issues himself as an adult.
“He was so angry,” Patrick said, “that he lashed out at people and almost killed a man once.”
He had been spending nights at the shelter for the last few months, where he receives wrap-around services, including personalized case management, referrals, and advocacy from Cornerstone staff members.
While visiting the shelter, Patrick and the other students were surprised that many of the men they saw had Bibles among their possessions, indicating they valued their faith.
“We talked about all that we saw in the sharing session afterward and that helped,” Patrick said. “I’ve always been fortunate, but seeing these people made me realize that we’re all human and that you can’t just label people as homeless. They’re people too, who have been through so much.”
Beyond their separate immersion experiences, the teens also had to shop and prepare a meal for four, using a regular allotment from SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which came out to $1.50 per teen.
This was the third urban immersion retreat at Saint Viator and the first that partnered with students from Cristo Rey St. Martin. Br. John Eustice, CSV, and Mr. Bart Hisgen started the experience last year and Campus Ministry continues to offer the experience twice a year.
Mrs. Nancy Devroy, director of Campus Ministry, says this type of urban immersion retreat explores issues of justice and the reality of oppression.
“Through partnerships with local agencies, retreat participants are able to get to know people, challenge stereotypes, confront fears and break down barriers,” Mrs. Devroy says, “that protect us from the unknown and the different.”