The values of compassion, kindness, and family are ingrained into our school, St. Bonaventure’s College. These essential characteristics of our school can be seen through the social justice initiatives such as RIAC, the gardening club, computers with seniors and so much more. Despite the fact that St Bon’s has established itself as a leader of social justice in my community, St. John’s, I believe the school has yet to surpass its potential in the domain of improving the lives of individuals in need. Attending the Pedro Arrupe Summit retreat with my fellow peers introduced a variety of projects, perspectives and ideas that will help us further develop our school motto, being men and women for others. Our five attendees have gained a substantial amount of knowledge surrounding the topic of assisting the victims of poverty, illness and substance abuse. We are ecstatic to implement the ideas of the Pedro Arrupe summit into our school.
One of my most memorable experiences during my time at the retreat was listening to the other school’s plans of action when they return to their local communities. For example, Loyola, a Jesuit school based out of Maryland, discussed the movement “walk in my shoes,” in which included awareness for people that are displaced, and conditions in camps. Also, Fordom Prep presented an idea called “cardboard city” where teachers and student would sleep outside to emulate the extraneous lifestyle of a homeless individual. This inspired our group with the notion of creating a situation where we would sleep at the school overnight for a week, and we would rely on people to provide us with food, water, blankets, soap, the basic necessities. This social experiment would allow us to observe the importance of a socially active community for the homeless. Our Plan for this movement is to spark shock and to encourage people to donate to homeless shelters.
Three words defined our time at the retreat; experience, reflection and value. We underwent different situations that helped broaden our understanding of people with contrasting economic conditions, mental states, and feelings towards life. By witnessing these elements, I feel that I have discovered the emotion of empathy. If we can integrate the powerful emotion of empathy into our communities, you would see an immediate change in the dynamics of the local atmosphere. Finally, a value is what reminds us of the opportunities that we have and how we must use them to give back to the people that weren’t blessed with an equal chance.
Another topic we covered was charity vs social justice. Charity is supplying people with the basic needs that can solve their problems for the day, like a meal or a blanket. Charity is a great way to help people but the retreat mainly focused on ways to solve the root of the problem like teaching people how to create a garden that can lead to a sustainable lifestyle. One way the school could act on social justice is improving our gardening club and possibly teaching people how to garden, and providing materials for them to start up a garden in their own community.
Overall this retreat has opened my eyes to new possibilities, and new ways to demand action at St.Bon’s. And ways to grow the school in a positive direction that acts on Christian ideals that will lead to the school developing new social justice programs. These ideas will not only grow the school but the whole community that surrounds St.Bon’s.