Thursday, March 2, 2017

Trip #6: Habitat for Humanity (2016-17, T2)

On Friday, February 24, students from our class traveled to the Pullman neighborhood to work on the Habitat for Humanity houses. Students assisted with painting, cutting, window framing installation, and more, under the guidance of the Habitat team. Part of this block of houses is the Pope Francis Home Challenge house - an anonymous donor put up $60,000 and challenged Habitat and Chicago to match the donation with their own fundraising last year. The 16-lot block of Habitat houses is over halfway done, and we worked on the 3rd set of homes.

Here are some thoughts from Ryan Hong (who wrote a reflection on Habitat but did not serve on-site) and Kezia Danso (who participated in the service day):

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Ryan Hong

In Catholic Social Teaching, most of the class went to build houses for Habitat for Humanity. The organization is a non-profit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry that invites individuals of all backgrounds, races, and religions to build homes together. Habitat for Humanity reminds me of NBA Cares or Build A House Foundation because both organizations work for the benefit of the community to help families find shelter. Habitat puts God’s love into action by having volunteers work to build houses in Chicago. The organization provides an opportunity for society to come together and help families that need shelter. Our country is a melting pot, filled with stereotypes and conflicts, but the organizations brings our diverse community together to help slowly solve a problem. I think everyone who volunteers is benefitting by understanding a new perspective on life and now appreciating their possessions. Habitat for Humanity built 90 homes around Chicago seeking to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness. Building houses provides families a safe place to live along with affordable housing. God created everyone out of love so, by volunteering to help the marginalized it will help society come together.

Habitat for Humanity invites anyone and everyone to volunteer. The organization offers an opportunity that a person will never forget. After a house has been built by partner families and volunteers, the home is sold to families that are in need but have the eagerness to invest their sweat into the organization's work. Habitat makes no profit off the homes sold, but the affordable mortgage payments are deposited into the Fund of Humanity, that helps pay for the construction of more homes. Society revolves around money and is meant for us to struggle. In recent years, the number of homeless individuals have increased along with unemployment rate in the United States. Individuals tend to leave out the homeless or poor because they have their own problems to deal with. There is an ongoing cycle of neglecting the homeless and poor because people think they use their money for drugs. We all have the option to try and work for our money. The homeless and poor do too, but with their living conditions and hygiene do not allow them to have an appearance to not get judged at an interview. An employer will always look for a good first impression like clothes, scent, handshake, and etc. I think there should be more places for the homeless to keep up with their hygiene. The past will keep repeating itself until multiple movements are formed to help solve an issue.

The Catholic Social Teaching theme Preferential Option for the Poor and Marginalized is relevant because every individual has the choice to help another. There are many volunteer opportunities to help the marginalized like Habitat for Humanity, soup kitchens, and etc. Preferential Option for the Poor calls us to consider the people who are poor or marginalized in the decisions we make individually, communally, and socially. Sometimes people get judged for helping others, which gives a negative persona that helping others is bad. In reality, we all should help one another no matter what shape, size, color, or religion they are. We are all made in God’s image and should embrace all of our flaws. We have one life to live and are blessed to have the opportunity to breathe. Now, I take advantage of every opportunity I have to help another person out.

In my opinion, we should all Care for God’s Creation because it will help create a more peaceful community. I personally love volunteering for the benefit of others. Working and seeing the end product is a reward and feeling that cannot be described. Christ calls us to persevere the world by being good stewards of it as God’s gift to humanity. I was always told you cannot judge a book by its cover. In a personal experience in 6th grade, I was made fun of for sitting next to a kid that was sitting alone at a lunch table. I ignored the other immature bullies and went along with my day. By caring for another's well-being you will never know how much it affects the individual being cared for. I love serving people and making others smile because it makes me happy. By putting God’s love into action it speaks the most truth because actions speak louder than words.

People will keep walking past marginalized individuals until society makes it know that it's okay to help each other. Society creates an image that everything is a competition. I think as individuals we may be too focused on money and the way to make it. Many families and people are not able to support themselves even if they have a job. By creating billboards and posters it will help expand the issue to the community. Everyone will go through a difficult time in their life but not everyone will have someone to help them go through it. By being an upstander in society we can help the marginalized by just giving attention to them. For example, it can mean giving the person sitting on the street money or just by having a conversation with them. I personally love having conversations with people I’ve never met before because I always learn something new. I challenge every individual to care for each others well-being even a stranger. A person can express God’s love everyday by complimenting someone or just by giving them a hug. Every individual is equal and deserves care.

Kezia Danso

Having the chance to participate in Habitat for Humanity last year during Agora has left such a great impression for me. Participating at Habitat for Humanity two years ago was amazing, and I only hoped to visit again sometime before I graduated and even the summer before college. On February 24, 2017 the Social Justice and Vocations class had the opportunity to help in the finishing of some of the homes. From the first time I participated in Habitat for Humanity to my recent visit, it was rewarding to see some of the homes that were under construction two years ago and are now completely finished. Habitat for Humanity Chicago works hard to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness in Chicago. Regardless of your background, races, and religion, Habitat for Humanity Chicago seeks to help areas that are in need as well as those who are in need. Habitat for Humanity then sells these houses to those in need at an affordable price. In Chicago, especially when one thinks of the south side, the thought that runs through their minds are very negative thoughts. In our society today we often judge others and things based on the outer picture without knowledge of what truly goes on behind closed doors. Just because bad things do occur in the south side does not mean it is acceptable to neglect that area of Chicago or those who come from bad neighborhoods. On the field trip the class was divided into various groups, and each group was assigned to a specific home. With my group, we had the pleasure to work with Jack who was our group leader. In our home we spent the morning cleaning up areas that needed to be cleared up. Hunter and I then proceeded to clean windows and dust certain areas as well as sweep and vacuum the second floor of the home. In the afternoon, Hunter and I were given the task to install knobs on the kitchen cabinets. Though this was hard at first, with practice we soon got the hang of it.

Judging others is the often the first mistake we as humans make. Habitat for Humanity in general works to help those who want help and are willing to help themselves. They see past the appearance and what society sees as the “norm”. When we seclude others we are preventing many relationships from being built, many great things from occurring, and most importantly we are overlooking others which is incorrect. Judging others because of where they come from whether it be from a bad or poor neighborhood is never the case. The mentality to not help places like the south side and overlooking such places is really hurting us in the long the run. We are all one regardless of the nice home you may live in, your fancy cars, fancy jobs, or your fancy clothing at the end of the day we are all brothers and sisters in christ so if one of our brothers and sisters are in need of encouragement and uplifting then it is our duty to help in that process.

This situation reminds me of Luke 14: 13-14: “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.” In this verse the Lord calls us to include the poor, the crippled, the blind, etc. in everything that we do. Meaning we must include those who are deemed to be the outcasts as Jesus did with the people. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, we must stop marginalizing one another and instead start uplifting each other. We are made in God’s image, therefore all of God’s creation is good and beautiful. We must not leave others behind but do everything in our power to uplift and be that supporting system for all people. Christ calls us to love each other, therefore we should not judge a person by their appearance but rather give them a chance. This situation also reminds me of the Catholic Social Teaching theme Rights and Responsibilities. Christ calls us to protect access to the things we need so as to live justly for others, society, and ourselves. In other words it is our duty to provide for the good of others, society, and ourselves. It is also our responsibility to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to improve our society while following in the footsteps of Christ. Though our lives may be great it is important to think of others from all different walks of life. Just because an individual does have the same clothes you have on your back does not mean they do not deserve a home either. Again it is our duty to make sure that think about how our actions whether it be judging will affect others.

My faith calls me to love everyone as Jesus loved us. My faith also calls me to be of service to others. Anything that I can do to help my community and ultimately make a huge difference is something I am striving towards. I have come to the realization that I do not need to do anything extravagant but making small changes to my life each day will create a big change. The goal that I have set for myself is to be of service to others. Where help is needed I want to present. I want the world to reach a place where we acknowledge each individual and look past our differences. To bridge the gap between social reality and what we hope for we must accept all people. Taking things day by day and loving everyone is the key way to see change. I want to take each day a day at time and work on being positive which will in return exude positive energy. I want to change how see the world, refrain from judging others, and devoting myself to others. Take small days a day will create a bigger impact and that is what I plan to do bridge the gap between social reality and what we hope for.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Trip #5: Chicagoland Methodist (2016-17, T2)

On Monday, January 30, students from our class visited the Chicagoland Methodist Senior Services facility, Wesley Place, on Foster Ave. We collaborated with their activities department to match seniors (high school students) to seniors (elderly residents) for an art activity. Students worked with residents to create decorative birds, custom decorated by the partnerships to be hung around the center. The bird were made of crumpled foil that was wrapped in masking tape and painting by the participants. Here are reflections from Emily Gutierrez and Felixia Rivera...

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Emily Gutierrez

Recently, our Social Justice and Vocations class visited the Chicagoland Methodist Senior Center. Those who inhabit the center are mainly elderly people who are retired and either in their 60s, 70s, or 80s. The first man I came in contact with was an artist throughout his life. He told me he attended Lane Tech and he was accepted into a college for his academic standings and his appreciation for art. The man did not want to paint or decorate the birds because he preferred sketching in his pad where he has completed multiple drawings in the past. As I moved tables, I met another older woman. She suffers from Alzheimer's disease, which made her forget how to speak English. She understood when I spoke to her but when she tried to speak to me, she spoke in Spanish. Majority of the time when she spoke, I was capable of understanding because of my background in Spanish classes. The assistant nurse would help me communicate with. She could still understand when I pointed to thing or by the expression on my face. When I helped the woman paint her bird, she finished her project quite quickly. She painted her bird with a baby blue with a smile on her face. She seemed happy to be living in this center because she was still accepted, loved, and cared for.

Society is left to believe that those who are left in nursing homes/centers do not have families to take care of them. This is often a problem for many senior citizens. Sometimes they do not have the proper care meeting their mental, physical, and emotional needs insinuating they must be put into certain facilities. Without care for senior citizens, they would not be able to thrive . The elderly are often marginalized because people do not necessarily want to come in contact with them as most are very old-fashioned, opinionated individuals, but society must break that belief to be capable of accepting the elderly. They must be cared for unconditionally regardless of their age and mindset.

In Acts 20:35, it states: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” This clarifies that Jesus has stated that it is better to give than to receive because we must work together in harmony to better ourselves. Everyone seeks help, but everyone must be willing to lend a helping hand without assuming one would receive something in return. The elderly are referred to as the “weak” because they can no longer provide for themselves nor can they do every day actions without assistance.

As a person of the Catholic faith, I do not wish for anyone to be marginalized in society, but it has become a problem that many people of different ages and races must endure. When my grandma became older and fell sick to cancer, I found myself spending more time with her. The elderly deserve the equivalent attention a newborn receives. It’s disheartening to see the elderly in nursing homes, but often it’s the only place where they will receive the proper care and attention. When humans reach a certain age, they can no longer provide for themselves, so they must rely on others, such as families or homes. Most families will have private care for the elderly if necessary, but others might not be able to afford it which would lead them to the decisions of putting them in a nursing home. Most nursing homes are covered by the elders’ insurance. I feel society devalues the elderly because they have lived a full-length life up to this particular point which seems like they no longer have a purpose, which I believe is completely false.

To bridge the gap between the social reality and what we hope for, we must take into account that the elderly still have purpose. They must be able to cherish their life time from start to end, regardless of their age. As creation of this earth, we must be unified and be willing to help those who feel marginalized in society simply by visiting the elderly who don’t have families who visit them often or those who don’t have any other family living. I long for the elderly to no longer encounter discrimination and and hope people would be willing to reach out to those who are aging meeting with loneliness.

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Felixia Rivera

What I saw was that everyone at the senior center was very happy to meet everyone. They all just wanted to share their story and talk to someone new. The way they had the craft set-up for us was very efficient for us. The craft we were doing was very simple, so our senior could participate without it being a struggle. Each group of 3-5 students was paired with 2-3 seniors. The way everyone interacted was also very efficient because the seniors we were with were very open with what they wanted and how they would get things done.

Looking at the way people are left here it is evident that the people in their lives do not have time for them, or in better words, society left them. Now that they are seen as useless because of their age they are thrown aside like trash. Back in other cultures, the seniors are seen as the wise people you go to if you have a problem with something. Now that society has changed and you can just go on the internet to look things up these people are no longer seen as wise. These people are also sent here if the families do not have the means to support them like they should. Whether that is they cannot take care of them or they just do not have all the supplies they may need, all of this is just based on society and what the abilities of the family are.

“A gray head is a crown of glory; it is found in the way of righteousness.” (Proverbs 16:31) This shows us that we should respect our elders and give them things that they deserve. They spent all their life giving us things, so we should return the things they gave us. It also says that they are righteous because they have been around for a long time. They have lived life and know what has to be done and what is right and wrong. We should respect that and know that if they tell us something they are a majority of the time right. If we do not believe in their judgement instead of fighting with them we should respectfully decline their idea.

With seeing these seniors and then comparing them to seniors in my life it made me grateful. It made me grateful that I can see them everyday and talk to them whenever I feel like. Seeing that some of the seniors there rarely see their children or grandchildren made me sad. To see that they are essentially stuck with the same employees everyday that already know their stories. That was just heartbreaking. When we walked in their faces just lite up with joy and enthusiasm that you would see in a young child. That was the best thing I have seen in a long time.

What we can do to help these people is we can go in and see them. We can set a day aside to spend it with them doing crafts or just to listen to them. That is all they want is to have some listen to them and show them some love. Even though they get that from the staff it is nice from time to time to get attention from other people. So we can act by just going to your locale senior center and volunteer there or even just going and seeing the seniors in your life that you do not always see.

Note: Minor grammar/style edits have been made to each post not affecting the content or perspective of these students.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Trip #4: Misericordia (2016-17, T2)

On Wednesday, January 25, students from our class spent the afternoon at the Misericordia campus on the north side of Chicago. Students were split up into different assignments around campus, ranging from laundry to bakery to art classes to office work and more. Students partnered with clients and residents from Misericordia to participate in these activities for the day. Here are some thoughts from Ryan Hong and Gary Dodovich on their experience...

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Ryan Hong

In our Catholic Social Teaching class we visited Misericordia. I worked in the Art Department with a teacher. He was going over the Holocaust with the residents and how Jewish people were required to wear the star of David. Kurt then asked for a volunteer and picked a resident. He asked her “How would you feel if every disabled person had to wear a patch like the Jews did?” Before she could respond, he put a handicap sticker on her then asked her how she felt. She responded with “I feel angry.” In that moment I realized some people degrade the disabled because they may not have had the opportunity to truly spend time with someone who has a disability. Also, people exclude the disabled because they don’t fit with what society calls normal and may not have the ability to do certain activities. Some disabled individuals walk different which attracts attention to them. Society needs to become less judgmental and focus on the dignity and value of human life. In my experience at Misericordia the staff was welcoming and I loved interacting with the residents.

I was painting with a resident, and he told me that he painted a picture that sold for $1,000. He then showed me a painting that he recently painted which was a ship. I was amazed with how detailed the painting was and asked him what inspired him to paint the picture. He shared with me that he gets his ideas from magazines and YouTube videos. I heard more than half of the residents in Misericordia are Catholic. In my opinion, believing in faith helps individuals get through obstacles in their life. He is Catholic, and I told him that “God is my friend and a listener”; he responded with “God is my friend”. I was reminded that a person's religion or beliefs can change an individual's decision because their faith might not agree with what the status quo has become. I learned life isn’t fair, and we have to roll with the punches. We cannot let the obstacles in our lives define us. In society today, change takes time, and by sharing issues with others, it will help make the issues known. Groups of people are still marginalized in the world because some are not open for change and like to follow the status quo. The past affects the present because individuals get caught up in their own issues and may not focus on large scale issues that could affect them in the future.

I lived out the theme Solidarity, which is loving and being mindful of everyone as a brother or sister. Everyone is created in the image of God and has a purpose in their life. I had a feeling from God that I was in the right place while I was at Misericordia. The time we spent there went by too fast and I wish I was able to spend more time at Misericordia. I felt like I was just hanging out with some new friends. In my opinion every high school should make it a requirement to have their senior class volunteer at Misericordia. I mentioned only seniors because they are more mature and are able to analyze situations and understand how it effects society. God blessed the disabled with a new perspective on life, and I took advantage of the of the opportunity to learn from them.

In the theme Care for God’s creations Christ calls us to be good stewards to the world by taking care of the earth, caring for others’ well-being and helping others. The theme connects to CST because volunteering makes an impact in someone's life. Actions speak louder than words and volunteering gives attention to the marginalized people in society. Our society is based around money which is sad but by donating to organizations it will make a difference in someone's life as well. Another way to live out the theme Care for God’s Creation is going out of your way to make someone’s day by complimenting them or surprising them with a gift. My experience at Misericordia was a great and I want to volunteer again soon. After, spending time with the residents I really enjoyed their energy and positive outlook on life.

I personally dislike it when people judge one another because no body is perfect and everybody makes mistakes. Everyone is unique and special in there own way. For example, twins have a similar appearance but may have different beliefs. I’ve gotten bullied and discriminated against for being Asian. A kid in fourth grade said, “Ryan only needs dental floss to cover his eyes.” I know what it feels to be excluded from a group and have no one there for me in a situation when I needed someone. Anytime I see someone being bullied I immediately interrupt the conversation and stand up for the person being bullied. I don’t marginalize the disabled because they are one of God’s creations and have a purpose in life like everyone else. I learned that we need to enjoy life and take advantage of every opportunity we get to make a difference in someone’s life. We need more of our youth to be volunteering so they can comprehend the conflicts that our world is facing and later on can make a difference.

In society today we can make a difference by treating everyone fairly and equally. Living in solidarity with one another. There should be more special training for the disabled, more job opportunities, and more handicapped accessible buildings. I think with the help of a Misericordia and the Church the issue would gain more attention. Everything starts small so posting fliers around Chicago helps make the issue more known. Also, setting up a peaceful protest or rally makes a huge difference. From my experience at Misericordia I learned that getting out of my comfort is something I really like to do. I am going to start volunteering on my own time outside of school, for the benefit of myself and the community.

Gary Dodovich

At Misericordia, people with physical and mental disabilities live and receive assistance. This seemed like a great place for disabled people who are not self-sufficient enough to live by themselves. The caretakers and employees here all seemed like great people who were genuinely there to help people and not solely there for a paycheck. The employees here do a great job at assisting the residents of Misericordia to participate in numerous jobs and activities such as working in the bakery or participating in the art rooms or greenhouse.

Misericordia is provided a portion of the money it needs to continue to be able to run the facility by the government. The money provided by the government is solely for necessities, and none of this money can be used for things such as their greenhouse. It would be unhealthy for these people to live their entire lives without participating in any activities; it would probably feel like jail. Misericordia has to raise a certain amount of money a year by themselves to keep these extra activities running. The majority of this money comes from donations.

Matthew 10:8 says, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” This is saying for anyone in need you should be there to help them. The physically and mentally disabled people at Misericordia need support from others, and this is why we need to help them by either volunteering our time or donating. Without help from others it would never be able for these people to live such an active and healthy life.

I feel that it is unacceptable to marginalize these people. We are pushing away people in need because society simply views them as “different”. I do not feel personally responsible for marginalizing these people. I have a neighbor named Ricky; he is a few years older than me, and he has down syndrome. I remember when I was younger I used to play video games with him and also do things such as play basketball in my alley with him. I always knew there was something different about him when I was younger, but I never really knew what it was, but I never saw that as a reason to not play with him or spend time with him. I believe Jesus would call us to accept the mentally and physically disabled and help them in any way possible. I believe a very simple way to bridge the gap between mentally and physically disabled people and the rest of society is simply being kind and accepting towards them. As I have learned from my visit to Misericordia these people are some of the kindest people you will ever meet. All you have to do is treat them kindly and they will do the same back. If we simply talk to them, smile, and wave instead of ignoring and marginalizing them it will make their day. It really is not that hard to treat them like we treat everyone else.

Note: Minor grammar/style edits have been made to each post not affecting the content or perspective of these students.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Experience #3: Religious & Ordained Life Panel (2016-17, T2)

On Wednesday, January 18, our Social Justice & Vocations class hosted three guests in our classroom to discuss their experience in religious or ordained life: Father Robert Pajor, associate pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Sister Helen Marie Kling, parish sister for St. Benedict Parish, and Brother Peter Lamick CSV, a Viatorian brother currently living at Saint Viator High School. The students had an hour to hear their stories and ask questions about their life experience. Here are some thoughts from Lexi Gillen, Hunter Kogen, and Brooklynn Marchan...

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Lexi Gillen

After discussing discernment and the meaning behind our calling in life, our Catholic Social Teaching class was spoken to by religious figures that feel they have been called to their vocations. Sister Helen Marie Kling, in addition to one of our priests, Father Robert Pajor, and a long time friend of Mr. Masterton, Brother Peter Lamick, enlightened us on how meaningful their journey has been. It was very interesting learning about how each different religious member has embarked upon their journey through life and with God.

Sister Helen Marie King slowly began to find herself called to her community through visiting the community and naturally becoming drawn to the lifestyle. Not only did taking the vow of obedience strengthen her relationship with God, but it helped also to broaden her life experience. Just as we have about learned in Catholic Social Teaching, Sister Helen acted upon a calling that she feels she has received from God. She felt that her vocation was not just about spreading the words of Catholicism, but by helping people through even the simplest of means. Sister Helen enjoys being a friend to the elderly that are often times forgotten about at the nursing home that Sister Helen works with. Sister Helen also helped answer some questions that our class had about the modern day system of nuns, explaining that the sisters try to accommodate for new generations by giving prolonged exposure that allows for adjustment.

Brother Peter Lamick, also a history teacher and baseball coach, helped our class to learn about the dexterity that taking vows comes with. He explained that he defines discernment as “coming to a decision that God helps you with.” Like the prophets and other religious figures that were called to their vocations in some way, Brother Peter felt that he was given his sign of confirmation when he was confirmed in the church (no pun intended). Brother Peter began to follow his path set by God as he embarked on various journeys to different parishes and schools throughout the country. Living by the evangelical counsels had taught him that his path would not always turn where he had expected, but he had to just follow his heart that was close to God. In Brother Peter’s intending to maintain his vows for life, he has been able to lead others in discernment and students to victory with God’s guidance.

Our third speaker, Father Robert, gave us insight into his vocation and journey to becoming one of our priests here at St. Benedict. I was most intrigued by Father Robert’s story about his discernment, and his unexpected path provided evidence for the faith required in the process. Not only was Father Robert only a mildly religious man born in Poland, but he was an aspiring chef with little inkling of spirituality until his mid 20’s. Although Father Robert still has a passion for cooking, amongst other hobbies, his understanding of his faith leads him down his path. Father Robert explained a vocation as “anything that God calls upon you.” This explanation helped relate the meaning of a vocation to those who are not invested in religion, and it taught that being an avowed religious leader does not just involve proper study but real life enactment of those studies.

Having Sister Helen, Brother Peter, and Father Robert speak to us about vocations and discernment helped me to understand and relate to the reality of being an avowed religious figure. I previously thought that ordained figures like priests would have been extremely religious and involved in their faith throughout their entire life. Father Robert’s story about finding his faith while balancing many different passions with his love for God helped me to grasp the flexibility that religious figures can have. Additionally, Sister Helen and Brother Peter both shared stories about their various hobbies being intertwined with their callings to discernment. Although I do not necessarily believe in God, I do believe that the activities I take part in are meant for me to do. I feel called to do many things in life, and my purpose ranges just as broadly as the speakers’ purposes from Catholic Social Teaching class. Just as we learned about, I do believe that having faith (whatever it may be in) will lead us to follow our journey down various paths that may not always be anticipated.

Hunter Kogen

On January 18, 2017, Sister Helen, Father Robert, and Brother Peter came to talk to the class about their vocation. All three of them shared their story and experiences with their chosen vocation. Brother Peter had shared his story on how he was called to be in the religious life. He said during high school he started to think about his religious life. Brother Peter felt that he was supposed to serve and help other people. Today, he works with students who have learning disabilities. Brother Peter loves what he is doing because he gets to build relationships with his students and he gets to help them. He also gets to find ways to bring the Gospel values in what the students are doing in their life. Sister Helen told us that she believes her vocation is to serve the poor. She was inspired to be a sister when she saw what the other sisters were doing and how they were helping people. I learned from Sister Helen that the vow of obedience has given her the opportunities she thought she would never have. She got the chance to be creative and to learn more about the senior life and she was able to start up the Senior Leadership Team. Father Robert said he never thought about priesthood in high school and was not sure if he wanted to be a priest. He said that his vocation is to help people maintain their spirituality and to serve God. Father Robert told the class that we should be open to God’s words and to give God a little bit of time each day.

There are many types of religious and ordained life. There are priests, deacons, bishops, sisters/brothers, and nuns/monks. They all have many differences but they all have one thing in common; they want to help people and serve God. People whose vocation is to be in the religious/ordained life help people in their community. They believe that they are on this planet to help others who are in need of help. Anyone who is in need of help can go to them and they are more than willing to help them out.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you” (John 15:16). This bible verse reminded me of what I had learned last week and what I heard from the panel. God chooses us to what we are suppose to be and to do in life. We might not know yet, but God will guide us in the direction of our vocation. Every priest, sister, deacon, etc. I have met are very nice and helpful. At my parish, St. Hilary, the old priest that was there was Father Eddy. He was always welcoming to newcomers and was always there to help someone in need. He would be at every event that the school held and was always behind a counter helping out. Father Eddy sadly passed away last year and it affected everyone in the parish. Everyone was sad and shocked that he passed away during the time that he did. Even though everyone was sad that he passed away, they were excited to meet the new priest that will follow in Father Eddy’s footsteps.

Brooklynn Marchan

In class we learned about three different religious perspectives and their religious orders. They talked about all the experiences they have went through and the things that made them chose the path that they did and why. Sister Helen talked about how she went to a place and saw the sisters in their environment, and she then noticed the way they were being and got interested. When she became interested, she asked a sister about her vocation and learned more about it. You could see how happy she is with her vocation and the path she chose. She talked about how her community is evolving and meeting the needs of young women interested in the religious life. She told us how they maintain their job and stay in a home with sisters, and at the end of that year they join an apostolate and then they go to a seminary, which is 18 months of very intense spiritual formation; then they receive the habit, which is a blue skirt and white blouse, and will go on and live on the mission and after seven years they can make vows for the first time. In her community their vows last for one year with the intention for life, but every year they make new ones. Father Robert talked about how he got interested in his path after he finished high school when someone came to visit his school and he suddenly started thinking about his calling more and more and it was drawn to religion. He kept thinking about it. He couldn't get rid of the thoughts. He took action and tried it out but was not 100 percent sure. And once he stepped into the environment and wants to help people and serve god. He sees his vocation as one that helps others to maintain healthy spirituality.

They are in communities and do not earn money, but they are rewarded by their happiness by giving their time. Sr. Helen is working with seniors and ministers of care, so the people who visit the sick and those who cannot come to church. She encourages these people and visits the elderly, and they are kind of like a friend. Her attraction grew by time, and she wanted to help others more and she wanted to become a part of the community. Father Robert was ordained here, and he has to promise to be obedient to the place he was ordained to. He studied in Poland for three years, one year of English here in the US, and eight years in total with some other years of education in total. After his years of studying he learned more about the Catholic faith, and this changed him and filled his empty box, this helped him understand more about his faith. Brother Peter works with students with learning disabilities; he listens about relationships and issues that people have in their life. He also brings gospel values to what they do every single day, shows them we are trying to live out the gospel, and Confirmation helped him realize he wanted to religious life. A retreat in high school also helped and reinforced it as he saw people living out their faith and he wanted that for himself. He felt an attraction; he liked going to mass, and he also liked praying.

When they came to speak to us, I was very interested to hear what they had to say about their religious orders. Although I feel as if my calling is to take care of people and look after those who need the help, it was still interesting to hear about how the three of the religious orders chose their paths and why. One of the themes that can connect to this situation would be Call to Family, Community, and Participation. The reason why that this connects with this theme is because we can clearly see how these three people expressed that their calling was important to them. When we are called to family, community, and participation it is important to focus on our family and communities. It is also important to take action in what needs to be done if we are able to act upon what is going on.

I feel inspired by these people because they found out what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives, and they they learned from the experiences they have been through. For example, Sister Helen said that obedience has given her the opportunity to do things she thought she would never do like working with seniors. Working with seniors gave her a chance to learn more about the seniors. She said some motivating words that could be applied to an everyday life situation: “you do not say no if there is not a good reason to say no, you're going to do what needs to be done unless their is a serious reason not to do it; once you get involved in it you learn from it.” This spoke to me a lot because not only is it true but we can all learn from the opportunities that are brought into our lives whether it is good or bad. The way that we can fix this is by being more open to community and helping out in their environments by donating and volunteering our time. We can also teach people that this path is not a bad path because when we usually hear about people who commit their life to a religious vocation we think that they are crazy because committing to that almost seems impossible. We can show people that this is okay for people to do and it is not about being antisocial or you get away from the world and never get to see anyone. We can see the religious orders as something positive and a path that could be for anyone no matter what.

Note: Minor grammar/style edits have been made to each post not affecting the content or perspective of these students.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Trip #2: Warren Park Healthy & Living Center (2016-17, T2)

On Wednesday, December 14, students from our class went to the Warren Park Health & Living Center. Residents at this community live with different disabilities, including mental and psychological challenges, and some of them are wards of the state. The staff at the center invited residents down to an activities room, and our students spent an hour and a half playing games and conversing with residents. Here are some thoughts from Seyoum Asefa, Tessa Nykaza, and Kezia Danso.

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Seyoum Asefa

After taking a short bus ride to the Warren Park Health & Living Center, our class had an enjoyable time with the people living in the center. I had a fun time with a nice lady named Suzanne. She told me she was in her forties and has been living there for a little while but has said she has enjoyed her time. Suzanne also mentions her education - finishing her Bachelor's degree at Columbia College. She was journalism major and had a hard time finding a job in that field because of the decrease in the newspaper industry. She didn’t necessarily tell me why she was at the living center, but I did notice she had a somewhat hard time talking. (Editor's Note: Residents are asked not to share that information, and our students are encouraged to limit their conversations to small-talk and general discussions.)

The Warren Park Health & Living Center is a treatment facility to help adults with a variety of medical conditions associated with aging, injury, and psychological health, and while I was there, it wasn’t necessarily easy to notice any of those things. I talked to a good amount of people who didn’t seem like they had any problems, but they probably did. I certainly enjoyed my time there because of the great personalities of the people there. When Stefani and I were playing the card game “War,” there was a time where I continued to win and Suzanne complimented my enthusiasm and wished she could be like that. She also compared me to one of the security guards at the center saying, “Both of you guys are alike. You both have a great amount of energy and are both full of joy. I always wanted to be like that… I admire how you act. I can definitely tell you have a bright future ahead of you.” After Suzanne told me that, I had a little hope in my life to strive for greatness. Despite people having some issues with their mental and physical nature, they are all wonderful people. I truly loved my experience having fun with the people at the Warren Park Health and Living Center.

“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘“I love God,’” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:19-20) As I was going to the living center, I was a bit skeptical of the area because, usually, I don’t enjoy my time there. I don’t tend to help others because growing up I didn’t have all that help with me so why should I help others. Visiting the people at the living center opened my eyes completely. I guess I was known as a liar because I didn’t help others and I’m hating my brother. I always thought helping people meant giving stuff for people but, finally, I got through my head that just having a nice conversation would help and even make the day of a person.

After going on the trip, I felt exceptionally happy that I made Suzanne’s day. She told Stefani and me that we were a delight to have, and it certainly made my day. I didn’t have an open mind going and didn’t during the first few minutes I was there, but later I certainly had a great time there. It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me. I don’t know if I would put their people in a marginalized category because they are cared for on an everyday basis. I would think some of the people don’t have the family to talk to since they don’t talk to them or associate with anymore, but I am having a hard time even thinking they are in a marginalized.

Living in this center for people with mental or physical issues, we should hope for those people to receive the help they might need. In my opinion, I believe just talking to them is the best form of medicine. I don’t know if they have any visitors visiting them on the regular but I believe that would be the best thing for them. Anyone can help because it is easy to give your time for others no matter what is going on in your life. There are a lot of people in the world who have much more problems than you may have and helping others can give you a bit of joy and happiness.

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Tessa Nykaza

On December 14, our class went to Warren Park Health & Living Center, where we spent time with developmentally disabled people. We were able to sit down with them and keep these people, who lived in Warren Park, company. Felixia, Emily, and I formed a group and stayed together for much of the excursion. We played Uno with this lovely lady named Dorothy. Our class was able to see how people with developmentally disabled issues lives. Some people had families, but unfortunately for others, they did not get many visits. It was nice to be able to spend time with them because they seemed very excited to get to spend time with our class, but because of these mental/physical disabilities sometimes their families don’t have time to see them or even view them as a burden. This problem is universal and does not just pertain to the United States.

The people with developmental disabilities are somewhat dependent on us to try and help them get the care that they need. In this case, the rich have the money and power to make a change. No one specifically decides to be in these positions, but as far as help, we can all chose to help. People who are developmentally disabled are often excluded for their restrictions of movement or speech. Our culture makes it hard for people like this to succeed, and it is harder with physical/mental restrictions. Our influence from community can sometimes make us discriminate towards them because we find fault in their differences.

Instead of what looking at what makes us different, we should focus on ways we are alike. This bible verse provides us with a valuable lesson about how we should treat marginalized groups (Luke 14: 12-13): He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind."

This bible verse shows us that we should treat all people with as much as care as we would our family. Our outing was a good example of how we should spend some time with them and think about what we can do to help them. This situation opens my eyes to the untapped potential we have to help them and make a change to the negligence we showed towards this situation. Personally I have not never been in a similar situation nor have I been exposed to anybody closely related to me in a similar position of developmental disablement. My lack of knowledge about the subject and the need for help these people need shows how much awareness that is yet to be spread. It can start as simply as sympathy that can be extended towards this group. Christ would expect to share our time with these people to treat them as real people and not view their disablement as a difference that sets us apart.

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Kezia Danso

On December 14, 2016, our class took a trip to Warren Park Health & Living Center. At this facility each student got the chance to hangout with members of the center. Many of us played games with the residents; some spoke to the residents; and others simply listened and easily became a huge support for members of the center. In my group, I was given the chance to play games with my classmates as well as five residents of the facility. When we first walked into the room, it was evident that many of my classmates as well as myself were hesitant to start conversations or did not know to interact. After a while, it all became natural and did not feel like I was on a class field trip. During this trip, I realized people of disabilities are placed in certain categories. Those people are then marginalized because of things they cannot control, which is not right. When playing games with the residents at Warren Park, I learned something from them. I did not know how to play Uno or any of the other card games that we played; however, after I learned it became very enjoyable very quickly.

In our society, there is a constant mentality that those of disabilities, whether it be physical or mental, cannot do the same things as “normal” people. Placing individuals in certain categories who do not have the same things we have is totally unacceptable. The cycle of labeling individuals is where the problem lies. If we can see others for who they are despite the things they do and do not have, then I truly believe the world would be a better place.

This situation reminds me of how Jesus always acted amongst the poor. There were many situations where Jesus included the outcasts. For example, in the story when Jesus was at the temple, he said, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Matthew 21:13) Throughout Jesus’ life he aimed to include those who were the outcasts, whether it was the poor, murders, etc. This story teaches me that we should not think highly of ourselves but rather view each other equally. God says we our each other’s brother’s and sister’s keepers. This activity reminds of the Catholic Social Teaching, Solidarity. This theme calls us to love and be mindful of everyone as our brother and sister. No matter how different we all maybe we are still each other's keeper.

My faith calls me to love everyone as Jesus loved us. I believe that it is extremely to important treat everyone the same. Although, I am guilty of not including others all the time, this trip really opened my eyes. I learned that at the end of the day, we are all human, and we do need each other. I also learned that in order to help someone, that does not necessarily mean one has to donate money; however, giving my time is all that isI needed. In order to bridge the gap between society and reality we must put our pride aside and be mindful that not everyone has the things we have. Also as a society we must eliminate that mindset that those who are disabled can not do the same things as what society views as the norm. Moving forward, I am going to make it a goal to give everyone a chance. I do not want to judge other because of their disabilities or come to conclusions without any knowledge. We are all human and children of God; therefore, we are each other’s keepers. We must empower one another not tear each other down.

Note: Minor grammar/style edits have been made to each post not affecting the content or perspective of these students.

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Trip #1: Urban Immersion Exercise (2016-17, T2)

We are officially into Trimester 2 of the 2016-17 school year, so we now have a new group of seniors beginning the course. If you need a refresher on what this blog is, jump back to our first post.

On Thursday, December 1, students traveled to Lakeview to undertake an urban immersion exercise, centered on Clark & Belmont. This activity is inspired by The Night Ministry, who have found that homeless teens use this neighborhood and intersection as a frequent meeting point and try to fend for themselves from there.

Students had the following information:

Your group will imagine that you together are one homeless teenager – you are roving around Lakeview by yourself, with only the clothes on your bag and $5 in your pocket (without knowing where your next money is coming from). Keep in mind that homeless people often have worn-out clothes, hygiene challenges, and dilemmas over breaking vs. following the laws.

Starting from this meeting point (Clark & Belmont), your group will explore an area of Lakeview (your adult will follow behind you and let you know if you need to turn around). You have 45 minutes to answer the following questions that face homeless teens every day:

  1. Where/what am I going to eat?
  2. Where am I going to go to the bathroom?
  3. Where/how am I going to warm up?
  4. Where/how am I going to sleep? 
  5. Also, as you explore Lakeview, look around and take in the neighborhood: why do you think it is an attractive environment for homeless teenagers?
Representing our class this week on our blog, here are the thoughts of Emily DeMuth, Maisha Kasole, and Stefani Tabar...

Emily DeMuth

On December 1st, 2016, my classmates and I went on a trip to Lakeview. This is a place where homeless teens come and meet up. While I was on this trip, I had to think about where these teens slept, used the bathroom, and ate. We split up into groups to find these different places that would help.

In my group we went to three different places. The area that we were in didn’t have many stores or facilities, but there were lots of houses. The first place that we found was one of the public libraries in the area. Here, I was able to talk to a librarian about how this place helped homeless teens. I was told that the teens that came here could have access to the drinking fountain, the bathroom, and the computers. The second place we stopped by was a learning center of a community college. Here, our group learned that anyone who came here had access to bathrooms and, if they wished, could sign up for tutoring. The education they provided there was free. The last place our group went to was the 44th Ward office. The people there said they would not let homeless teens use the bathroom, but they said that they would help send them to a shelter in the area. While I was there, I didn’t see too many homeless people at that time, and I couldn't see any obvious reason that this was happening.

From an economic point of view, I could see that larger companies had more to provide or give because of their standards. I know that from a social point of view, that the homeless are mostly ignored and are brushed aside because of the state they’re in. I think that teens that are homeless are mostly LGBTQ+ because they are either kicked out of their house or scared to return home. Lastly, from a cultural point of view, I think that the way the public or our society acts towards the homeless only makes it worse, because we are not acknowledging them enough.

I want to connect this journey with a story when the people told Jesus not to associate with sinners but he did so anyway. I think this relates to the trip because here, the people that we talked to wanted to help the homeless even when others did not want to. This could inspire others to do as he did and acknowledge the homeless more even if it is something small like a simple hello.

With what I saw and learned, I want to be honest. I feel very sad about how we are treating the homeless and I want to change that. For some reason, I feel like it’s hard to change that. Seeing someone in a state like that makes me feel unsafe for one reason or another that I don't know, and I feel awful. I don’t want to feel that. I don’t directly relate to the homeless in the fact that I’ve been without necessities, but understand what it’s like to be overlooked or ignored.

I think that we can change this by finding places that people can help in the closest way they can. If we could find shelters or organizations that people could easily provide for, we could close the gap. We could also ask how they homeless are doing. It could help make things more positive and set a good example for others.

Maisha Kasole

On December 1, 2016, our Catholic Social Teaching class was invited to experience the life and choices of homeless teenagers in the Boystown area of Chicago. After walking around a bit in the neighborhood, we met two crossing guards who told us that a lot homeless teenagers were part of the LGBTQ community, and got kicked out by their own parents. Some homeless teenagers just got out of foster care or could no longer be supported by their family. One of the crossing guards told us that it’s part of why the kids choose to come to the neighborhood. After being repudiated, abused, neglected, or violated by those who are supposed to love them most, these homeless teenagers turn to what they perceive as a safe environment from discrimination. Boystown provides homeless teenagers, whether they are part of the LGBTQ community or not, with a safe and relatively welcoming environment.

In addition to sexual discrimination, teenage homelessness is also caused by economic reasons. Whether it’s because their families refuse or are unable to support them, most homeless teenagers have no way to provide for themselves. The social stigma against the homeless makes it even harder for them to find a job and lawfully earn money. When they turn to stealing in order to survive, society punishes them through incarcerations, lead by a misguided thirst for justice, instead of trying to rehabilitate them to society. Historically speaking, our judicial system has always discriminated against the poor and vulnerable, because they couldn’t afford good lawyers to argue their innocence or a fair sentence. Homeless teenagers are thrown by our judicial system in-and-out of juvie, which just adds to the common perception that they are untrustworthy. Indeed, many of the small business owners in Boystown said that while they wished to help homeless teenagers and did so through charities, because they wanted to be sure their money went to a good cause. The cycle of distrust between those small business owners and homeless teenagers is just a symptom of the larger problem in our society, when it comes to social stigma against the poor.

As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors like ourselves, and we are expected to understand that the homeless teenager begging on the street is also our neighbor. The Parable of the Good Samaritan does a great job at illustrating how we should treat the homeless. Christ calls us to show mercy to the destitute, especially the vulnerable homeless teenager. We must act as good samaritans and honor them, perhaps not by pouring oil and wine on them, but by acknowledging them as human beings and lending them a hand. From this directive, two themes of Catholic Social Teaching come to mind: Solidarity and Preferential Option for the Marginalized and the Poor. Through these two themes, we are called to respond with love and mindfulness towards all people as our brothers and sisters, as well as to consider the poor in all the decisions we make as individuals, as a community, and as a society.

Personally, I believe that nobody should have to live on the street, if they don’t wish to. A lot of homeless teenagers are not given the choice. For my entire life, I have been granted the safety of a home. It’s my duty to not just help them, but realize that the only difference between us is that I was lucky enough to still have a home. I believe Christ calls me to respond with gratitude towards my family and love towards those who aren’t as lucky as I am. In the United States, there are 1.6 million homeless teenagers for a variety of reasons. According to the National Network for Youth, family disfunction, sexual abuse, aging out of foster care, juvenile justice system involvement, and economic hardship are the main causes of teenage homelessness. I believe that the best way to bridge the gap between social reality and what he hope for is to elect officials who actually care about the homeless. We need to create more laws in order to protect them instead of laws to ostracize them.

Stefani Tabar

Last Thursday was our first activity or outing we did as a class. We got to explore the neighborhood of Lakeview but in a different way. We walked around trying to find shelter, food, a bathroom, and other assistance to survive as a homeless teenager. As we learned in class, this area is very well known for two things; one being Boystown, and the other for the high percentage or rate of homeless teenagers. Even though it is hard for teenagers or anyone who is homeless to get by, this area has some features to help those in need such as late hours, open public bathrooms, and guidance to nearest shelters. Even though I didn’t see any teens in this situation, I can only imagine how hard it can be to live like this at a young age.

Lakeview is a very popular area due to the LGBTQ community that has a very strong presence in this neighborhood and is still growing. In this area, there are many stores that are common to us like Walgreens, Starbucks, Marshalls, etc. When we did the activity, the area was under a lot of construction, and new buildings are going up that are going to house more common stores. This part of the city is open to anyone no matter what race, sexuality, or gender you are because of the LGBTQ community, but it is still difficult to live as a homeless teenager in this area. Even though there are shelters in place, teenagers most likely would not want to go and stay at a shelter. If they are in a popular neighborhood where they can try to survive, they will, yet it is a challenge. They might feel left out because they might feel different from the others since some teens could be gay, lesbian, or transgender and have no one to relate with. This could be one of the reasons why they would want to stay on the streets rather than being in the shelter.

In Matthew 25:35 it states, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” I believe this passage can relate to this situation because we see homeless people everyday and they go unnoticed. It is our duty as Catholics or believers in the faith, to help one another no matter who it may be. I believe if someone were to be walking through the Lakeview area and saw a homeless teen, they wouldn’t do anything about it. It’s times like those where someone can stand up and be a voice to all and to show everyone that it is okay to help someone who needs help. Like in the scripture passage, they were a stranger and they were welcomed; if one person were to help one teen who was struggling, that would help greatly. You don’t need to be part of a faith to help anyone who is homeless or marginalized because it should be a natural instinct as humans to help one another. It is greatly emphasized on Catholics because we are called to be good people and the littlest amount of help can go a long way.

In some research I have done, I found that 15,000 teens are homeless in Chicago and 3,000 of those are part of the LGBTQ community. One of the most difficult things to hear is that someone who is transgender is not allowed to use a restroom because of their situation. It bothers me even more to think that many of those people are homeless and aren't treated fairly. Knowing that there are that many teenagers in this city who are struggling makes me take a step back from my life and not take anything for granted. The activity really opened my eyes and now that I am aware of the situation, I can do whatever I need to do to help. I wish to sometime in the future to help those teenagers who are struggling to find a place to reside or to call home because everyone deserves a place where they feel comfortable and can be themselves no matter who they are.

One thing I think we should do as humans if we come across this is to give them guidance. Since the issue we are dealing with is directed more towards teenagers, they need nothing more than guidance. This can be by talking to them and getting to know them or helping them get back on their feet. I think a great thing for those who are in this position is to get active in a church since most churches have food pantries or give out lunches during the day or dinner at night. I also think another way to help this problem is to build a shelter exclusively for teenagers around 13 to 18 years of age. This will help because depending on your sexual orientation or what you identify as, it will eliminate the judgement that some will receive from adults in a regular shelter. They will have a judgement-free environment where everyone is accepted for who they are.

Note: Minor grammar/style edits have been made to each post not affecting the content or perspective of these students.

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A photo posted by St Ben Campus & Youth Ministry (@stbencym) on

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Trip #8: Habitat for Humanity (2015-16, T3)

On Friday, May 27, students from our class traveled to the Pullman neighborhood to work on the Habitat for Humanity houses. Students assisted with painting, cutting, siding installation, and more, under the guidance of the Habitat team. Part of this block of houses is the Pope Francis Home Challenge house - an anonymous donor put up $60,000 and challenged Habitat and Chicago to match the donation with their own fundraising. Check out the status of the challenge here.

Here are some thoughts from Randy Hang, Brahim Fall, and Sylvester Trotter...

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Randy Hang

For this week's service, we volunteered to help an organization called Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity is an organization that builds homes for those with low income and sells them for a price that is affordable for families. Many families around the world suffer from having a low income and with organizations like them helps gives every family around the world a chance to live the same.
To be living in a large city like Chicago, it’s hard to be able to afford a house, especially when you are single. With a flexible payment plan, many families could be able to live the same life just like any other family with a income able to purchase a home. Those who are poor have to worry about where they will be living next if they aren’t able to next month’s rent. Habitat for Humanity helps solve this problem. Families are able to take advantage of the help that Habitat for Humanity is able to provide.

In my theology class, I’ve learned many Catholic Social Teachings. For this service trip, I could tie in Preferential Option for the Poor and Marginalized and Dignity/Value of Human Life. We should all care for each other as if we were brothers and sisters and share what we have. Even if it’s just sharing our time, because through something simply like that we could help everyone to live the same lifestyle. In the Preferential Option for the Poor and Marginalized, Christ calls us to consider the poor and marginalized in every decision we make personally, community, and socially. For Dignity/Value of Human Life, Christ calls us to view and treat all human life as inherently and completely valuable in all forms at all stages of life. 

In order for us all to recognize those who need the help, we need to understand the Catholic teachings. As we understand the teachings, we could then start with giving a hand to the poor and help. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity are a wonderful way to help and enact the teaching that the Church offers.

Brahim Fall

On friday, I went with my Catholic Social Teaching class members to work on a Habitat for Humanity project. We met at school at 7am and used the school bus. A lot of students were missing, and others chose not to go, but that did not stop us from participating in this trip to volunteer for Habitat on the south side of Chicago. When we arrived, we realized that there were some houses that were already finished, and others were still in the process of construction. For example, one of the new houses just needed to be painted.

It was our choice to decide to help on this trip and put hard work and effort into it. It was our decision. Some members of my group chose to work outside, some inside, and others were painting the ceiling and the corners of the walls. Randy and I were working as inside painters with Brittany. We each painted the ceiling with the rollers and white paint. We made sure that we were doing the best job we could because we knew these houses were very important. Randy, Brittany and I made sure to take our time, but to work efficiently to make sure that we got done what we had to do.

After we had been working what seemed like a long time, we took a break around 11:00 am. I was starving, and I hadn’t packed any food because I wasn’t trying to be late on this trip. Luckily one of the people from the Habitat crew got me a nice Chicago Hot dog. I appreciated it very much. Then they explained to us how the houses are fixed up and sold to people who do not earn enough to afford a stable, comfortable, and nice house to live in. Habitat is able to continue this program because of the money that they get from the donations they receive. This allows them to get the proper supplies and necessities to do the work and get it done well.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?” (Matthew 25:34-40). This quote goes really well with our trip because we helped to build homes for people in need. We helped to provide shelter for the less fortunate and it showed us that hard work really does go a long way.

It felt good knowing that my effort of working in these house as a volunteer will help someone to have a clean house, safe home and to have a better life.

Sylvester Trotter

Last week me and my classmates participated in Habitat for Humanity. In Habitat, they go to lower income areas and build affordable homes for people in that area. When we arrived, I immediately felt connected to the neighborhood. I live not that far from the houses we were building and as a child went to church right up the street on 119th. It felt great knowing that I was giving back to this community that gave me so much. I know tons of kids and families that struggle to keep a stable household and pay for it too. Many houses on the south side can either be really nice or horrible. Most of the time they’re not in the best condition. Since it wasn’t a lot of us, we had double the work. Most of the houses had been built, so a good portion of my class wanted to paint.

I somewhat feel implicated in marginalizing these people. This group is pushed to the edge socially since people will not take time of their day to communicate with them; business owners will not allow them into their homes; citizens reject them as they ask for change. However, I believe these people receive much help compared to other groups. For example, Franciscan Outreach gives homeless people in Chicago a place to stay for a night as well as providing for them a nice, warm meal. Similarly, Habitat for Humanity helps low-income persons receive a home with no interest payments. In addition, the government tries to help these people. For example, when my parents were at the verge of losing their homes, they were able to declare bankruptcy, which meant that they could eliminate all or some of their debts such as their house debts, which goes to show that the government tries to help those in need financially. Because of the help homeless people receive, but the way society pushes them off, I am implicated somewhat in marginalizing this group.

Even though I feel as if this group is somewhat marginalized, I still believe that we should help them in every way we can, since Christ asks us to shelter those who are homeless, and he emphasizes helping those in need, which is seen through the story of the rich young man (Mark 10:17-22). We can help those who are homeless by volunteering at a pantry, helping construct a home for those who need it, or by incorporating these people in our lives by talking to them as we approach the train.

After this trip I felt that since I live so close and I’m so impacted by the work Habitat for Humanity has done, that I’ll go help just in my spare time.

Note: Minor grammar/style edits have been made to each post not affecting the content or perspective of these students.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Experience #7: Full-Time Volunteer Service Panel (2015-16, T3)

On Thursday, May 19, we had visitors from Franciscan Outreach come to our class: Dan and Katie, two full-time volunteers, Merrill, the volunteer coordinator, and Megan, the director of the volunteer community. Students had the chance to ask our panelists questions about volunteer life, community life, and working directly with marginalized people. Here are some thoughts from Brittany Parker and Thien Han...

Brittany Parker

This week four people that worked at Franciscan Outreach came to visit us and talk to us about their lives there. They told us about their living situations and how they live off their money. They don’t pay rent, but every two weeks, they get paid and receive a weekly $50 stipend and $25 a month for public transit. They’re supposed to live off only their stipend so they can connect with the guests that come to stay at the shelter.

It’s an amazing thing that these people volunteer to help other people that they don’t even know. It’s really incredible to me that they can love random people and want to genuinely help them out of the kindness in their hearts. Nowadays people are so heartless, and they don’t care about anything or anyone. That’s why things turn out so inadequate in life, because people are so darn careless.

We only care for ourselves, and we don’t care about the world and the people in it because we’re too focused on things like money, power, and all these other materialistic things that don’t mean anything. It’s such a greedy world. There’s no way people should be hitting the lottery for $36 million while there’s people starving in the streets. There’s no way that some people should own planes and yachts while other people don’t have houses. Even if you earned it, you still owe. If I was walking down the street and I had $5,000 on me, I would feel wrong giving a homeless person only a quarter.

After hearing the volunteers talk about their experience at Franciscan Outreach, it has me thinking a lot about what I want to do with my life. I’m seriously thinking about doing some volunteer work over the summer. I’m not sure what I want to do with my life because there’s so many things that I love to do. I love writing, ceramics, acting, photography, and I love helping people but I can’t seem to think of something to do with my life that involves helping people besides being a nurse or doctor. I don’t do well when I see blood and things like that so that life won’t work out for me. However, some volunteer work actually seems like a good place to start.

A photo posted by St Ben Campus & Youth Ministry (@stbencym) on

Thien Han

Franciscan Outreach takes applications before July every year. The community has a soup kitchen from 5:00 to 6:30 seven days a week, a limited number of beds inside of a shelter for those who don’t have a place to sleep overnight, and laundry service for people need clean clothes for their job or just  to stay clean. Volunteers in here have to treat everyone with respect; everyone is welcome but they have to watch for the people with alcohol to keep the shelter as safe as possible. The people that cannot stand up or who are acting too abnormal will be asked to leave because the community doesn’t have mental care service. (Editor's note: Franciscan Outreach tries to be all-embracing but recognizes that a small percentage of clients may have to severe of mental disabilities or may to severely addicted to peaceably reside at their overnight shelter and are in need of greater help than this particular service can provide.)

The full-time volunteers have to work 40 hours a week, but they have been provided their own bed to stay without any rent fee. They receive $200 per week for groceries, $50 per week as salary, and $25 per month for transit, and this money comes from charity and donations from other good people. When they work in here, they often feel challenged, frustrated, and helpless, but on the other hand, they have more friends, family, and so much other good things in their own lives. As they work in here, they are also learning through working with other people, they can know more kinds of people.

There are two themes of CST are relevant here - Preferential Option for the Poor and Marginalized and Dignity and Value of Human Life. We shouldn't prefer to be poor or treat care for the poor as optional but we must remember there has always been poor people around us no matter where. Jesus calls us to consider the poor in every decision we make, personally, communally, and socially. Although we have not have to become poor ourselves, we must consider the consistent ethic of life that calls us to respect life in all forms at all stages from the beginning to the end. Jesus calls us to view and treat all human life as inherently and valuable in all forms at all stages of life.

First I thought it isn’t fun to have a full-time service commitment, but after talking to them, I have changed my mind, it is fun and also cool when I can make friends with different types of people and become more social, like these volunteers do. I have done some service, but it was only for one day. I know it will feel really good when I help other people and see their smile on their face. Although their outside might not look good, the thing is they often very happy and can be a motivation for me to participate more. We can help these people by donating to the community, ask for help on social media, or just volunteer to these places to give them a hand to help more people without wanting for return. Like Dan (a volunteer at Franciscan Outreach) said, we choose to do because there are massive problems in the society and we must reach our hand out to help.

Note: Minor grammar/style edits have been made to each post not affecting the content or perspective of these students.

A photo posted by St Ben Campus & Youth Ministry (@stbencym) on