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.