Reflections on the Social Justice Retreat – Molly Caulfield ’18

Line dancing in a church basement in Worcester, MA on a Friday night.  If you had asked me two years ago where I would be in as a sophomore in college, I can guarantee you that location would not have been anywhere on my list.  However, that is precisely where I found myself a few weeks ago.  Among  questions of what am I doing here? and how in the world did I end up in here?, I smiled to myself in gratitude.  Many things and many people led me to be where I was that Friday night, and I was and am so grateful that I made it to that Macarena with the kids of Concordia Lutheran Church.

A few weeks ago, ten other Holy Cross students and I had the opportunity to spend a weekend of reflection in Worcester with Isabelle Jenkins and Marty Kelly.  The retreat, called “Reflections in the City,” gathered a handful of student leaders from different areas of campus, including SPUD leaders, CBL students and interns, Multicultural Peer Educators and more, who all share a common interest and passion for working for social justice.

During the 24-hour retreat, we had the opportunity to get to meet and hear the stories of some of the members of the Concordia Lutheran Church, to learn a little more in and about the Main South neighborhood, and to spend time in reflection individually and as a group about working for social justice.

The retreat was a respite from our usual responsibilities to “live some of the questions” we are always asking ourselves and one another.  We had the chance to reflect on what exactly is “social justice.” What does that look like and how do we work towards that?  What are our responsibilities individually and as a community to get there?  How does our identity as members of a Jesuit school community call us to this work in a particular way?  How do we deal with the frustrations of this work?  What are the issues of social justice in our hearts, in our everyday surroundings, in our cities, in our country, in our world? The retreat pushed me to ask questions that at times I forget to ask myself and it was frustrating because we did not find all the answers in those 24 hours.  If anything, we simply found more questions.  However, the beauty of that space was that we discovered questions together and together with meaningful dialogue wrestled with the discomfort those questions cause.  The retreat was but a glimpse of the beauty of accompanying each other in community —both the community of Worcester and our HC community within that— in these questions, which left unasked could rob us of the opportunity to be men and women willing to be broken open for and healed with those who are suffering around us.

Dos Años Después: A reflection on my time at Ascentria – Jeff Warden ’18

Dos Años Después: A reflection on my time at Ascentria

I am currently writing this blog post at a time of great change in my life. It is the end of my second year here at Holy Cross and come August, I will be traveling to Leon, Spain, leaving my friends, family and everything I know at home to study in a foreign country for the full academic year. As a result, I want to take this opportunity to reflect on my time here spent at Holy Cross thus far, including my time volunteering at Ascentria Care Alliance.

During my first two years at Holy Cross, I have volunteered once a week at the Ascentria Care Alliance Client Center with their Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program (URMP). URMP is responsible for refugee, asylee and trafficked young people under the age of 18 who are in the U.S. with no parent or guardian. Within URMP, I have volunteered in the tutoring program and this year my role as a CBL intern has been to run this program. Through the tutoring program at Ascentria I have been able to meet many Holy Cross students and work with inspirational youth from across the world.

Working with a refugee and immigrant population for two years now has given me an avenue for my personal development, shown me the importance of cultivating authentic relationships, allowed me to engage with the city of Worcester and maybe most importantly, it has engendered my passion for learning about social injustice issues. I grew up in a predominantly white, upper-middle class suburban town and never dealt with the prevalence of injustices in today’s society. I was relatively sheltered and had the privilege of not being forced to encounter the issues that I am now witnessing just outside the gates of Holy Cross. Volunteering with Ascentria has opened my eyes to issues such as inequity in education in the United States, the inefficiency of our immigration system, and the stigmatization of marginalized populations. Before coming to Holy Cross, I viewed these issues with a sense of ignorance, not truly understanding the gravity of the situations and the plight of those affected by such injustices. Now, my knowledge and empathy about these topics continue to grow.

CBL and tutoring in the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program have been greatly beneficial for my academic growth and personal development. These programs together have elicited my passion to learn more about refugees and immigrants in this country. Building relationships with the kids in URMP has completely eradicated any previous opinions I may have had about the immigration and refugee population, which have been shaped by the media and the environment in which I grew up. What we don’t hear about every day is the eighteen year old boy from El Salvador who graduated from high school in his home country and is now taking extensive ESL classes so that he can enroll in college; or the young girl from Guatemala with the infectious personality and an affinity for science. These first-hand experiences and conversations are what I am going to remember in the future. Those are things in the back of my mind when I am advocating for the equality of this marginalized population or trying to explain the complexity and challenges of the American immigration system. So I would like to say thank you, Ascentria and CBL. Thank you for forcing me to grow as an individual and teaching me so much. I have learned so much from the unaccompanied youth I work with and I just hope that in that same time, they have been able to learn something from me as well.