Reflection Archive

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Remembering the Border

El Paso Spring Break Service & Justice Trip at the top of Mt. Cristo Rey.

El Paso Spring Break Service & Justice Trip at the top of Mt. Cristo Rey.

My alarm buzzes, I roll out of bed, stretch as my feet hit the floor and I open the shades. Sunshine and a pang of longing greet me. I flash back to a memory already four weeks old: Waking up in sunny El Paso, TX.

Four weeks after my Spring Break Service & Justice Trip in El Paso for a border immersion, it’s not the personal stories I’d heard from migrants and those who work with migrants, it’s not the three hour hike up and down Mt. Cristo Rey, during which I participated in a Migrant’s Stations of the Cross, and it’s not the desert meditation I had at the border that I think of first.

Instead, what my heart aches for most each morning that I wake up these first weeks back is the simple yet powerful setting in which all these experiences took place.

Each morning in El Paso I’d wake up in a rather barren, chilly bedroom in the Columban Mission Center—the Columbans, a Catholic religious order comprised of both priests and religious sisters, emphasized simplicity in their sparse living conditions as well as sustainability in the limited heating and cooling energy sources they use. I’d rise, say a quick prayer of thanks for a new day and look out the window at the sun rising over the Segundo Barrio, the “Second Neighborhood.”

The Segundo Barrio is a mix of modest houses, industrial buildings, run-down shops, palm trees and desert. The border is within walking distance of the Columban Mission Center. Churches and Mexican grocery stores fill the streets downtown, which always seems cluttered with people and street vendors all rushing in different directions. The International Bridge stretching between El Paso and Juarez, Mexico is perpetually backed-up with eager families trying to reach each other from both sides.

The Segundo Barrio was the setting for a week that profoundly affected me in ways I am just beginning to understand.

A migrant woman cooked my group dinner and shared a harrowing tale of how she had to flee Juarez for her life and the safety of her family.

 A young man pursuing a social work degree at the University of Texas in El Paso shared his passion for, and the pain involved in, working with unaccompanied minors who cross the border.

An older man committed to social justice rallied my group and challenged us as he talked about the work he does with Annunciation House—a migrant shelter across from the Columban Mission Center. This man, Reuben, showed us the ways we unwittingly contribute to a system that oppresses migrants.

On our last day in El Paso, my group met and played with a large number of migrant children from Annunciation House for over an hour. In the melee of beautiful sunshine, shrieks of joy and laughter, and children running in every direction, we realized just how connected we are to each other, that we are all brothers and sisters yearning for love.

Nearly every moment that brought me to tears, filled me with anger, gave me sweet joy and set my heart on fire happened at the Columban Mission Center in the Segundo Barrio—or atop the mountains overlooking it all, overlooking two cities—El Paso and Juarez—that really function as one.

My week on the margin, living nearly up against the fence of the border, revealed stories and experiences of brokenness and courage, inspired me to love bigger and advocate for a more just and humane immigration system that keeps families together and provides safety for the most vulnerable.

Every morning I wake up, I think of El Paso, of the Segundo Barrio and the people I met and the experiences I had there. I feel El Paso on the warm, spring breeze, I see the people I met there in the faces of others here in Omaha, back at Creighton University, and I hear them asking me to remember it all.

Every time I open the shades here in Omaha, I’ll remember waking up and looking out the window at the Segundo Barrio, and I’ll carry the people and their stories in my heart as I pray for, and do as much as I can to contribute to, just immigration reform. The sand may be shaken from my shoes but the migrants’ stories will never be shaken from my heart.

Anna Ferguson
Class of 2015
College of Arts and Sciences
CCSJ Student Coordinator

The CCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Creighton Center for Service and Justice (CCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the CCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.


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Our Call to the Cross

Ian Fallon

A Reflection on the Salvadoran Civil War


On November 16, 1989, in the midst of El Salvador’s brutal civil war, six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter were assassinated by a Salvadoran death squad at the University of Central America (UCA) in San Salvador, El Salvador. The Jesuits had been identified with the rebels in El Salvador, who were fighting for freedom from their oppressive militaristic government, and were gunned down because they opposed this system. The soldiers arrived at the Jesuits’ home in the early morning hours of the 16th. They rounded up the priests and made them lie face down in the garden. Next, the soldiers searched the rest of the house and found their housekeeper and her daughter, whom they then killed as well.

In my later Sunday School years, I was taught that Jesus was killed because he stood up for what he believed in, and that he urged us to love one another. I see this exemplified in this story. The Salvadoran government was blatantly and systematically murdering their own people, and the Jesuits and the people of El Salvador told them that what they were doing was wrong. They were killed for speaking out.

I often ask myself why I had not heard of the story of the Salvadoran martyrs until I got to college, and the answer is troubling. I believe that we do not hear these stories, because we simply do not want to. In our lives, we distance ourselves from struggle, and distance ourselves from these questions because we are afraid of the call. We live in a very broken world, and it is difficult to see our oppressed brothers and sisters struggling to survive every day when our own lifestyles of excess serve as such a stark juxtaposition to the lives they lead. We run from the cross because the cross is uncomfortable.

The discomfort we feel when we are forced to come face to face with the poor a gift. I believe it is a sign that human beings were created to serve one another and do everything within our power to lift our brothers and sisters out of the shadows and into the light of a better life. The discomfort is not something to avoid, rather, it is something to be thankful for, and it is a tool we can use to motivate us to assist the marginalized as they climb down from their crosses.

Do not fear the cross. Embrace it and live it.

Ian Fallon
Class of 2015
College of Arts and Sciences
Student Coordinator

The CCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Creighton Center for Service and Justice (CCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the CCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.

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September 11th – Why I’ll Never Forget

Jeff Blog
Growing up, watching television wasn’t part of my family’s morning routine. By the time I got up, showered, made my lunch, ate breakfast and read the comics, it was time to head out the door to school. So, twelve years ago when my mom turned on the television when she got back from dropping my sister off at school, I immediately migrated to the living room because I knew something had happened.

Before September 11, 2001, I had no idea what the World Trade Center was. Yet that day, as the television showed footage of two smoking buildings in New York City, it didn’t matter. As a sophomore in high school, I wanted answers about these buildings, and as the broadcasters tried to make sense of the situation, it was the one thing they couldn’t provide.

We tried to talk about it at school that day, and while some teachers indulged us, most just encouraged us to go about our business as we did every day. It’s hard to experience a tragedy through television because movies and cable regularly show fictional tragedies of a far greater scale. Eventually the line between real and fake blurs, and people become desensitized to what’s actually happening out in the world.

At least that’s what happened to me. I’m not proud to say that beyond the initial fear for my own safety, I was easily able to forget about what was happening on the other side of the country because I had no frame of reference to comprehend it. I was able to move on, because a few weeks post-tragedy the television cameras moved on and my life was once again normal and safe. Many others didn’t have that luxury.

Ten years later, I had the blessing of doing campus ministry at Saint Peter’s College (now University), and my perspective changed. Saint Peter’s is a small Jesuit Catholic institution in Jersey City, New Jersey – just a stone’s throw away from the Hudson River and Manhattan. My first weekend on the East Coast, my Dad and I took the PATH train to the World Trade Center stop and were able to see the construction happening on the Freedom Tower, the site where the World Trade Center towers used to stand. Suddenly, something that happened ten years previous seemed a lot more real.

What really changed me, though, was listening to the stories of colleagues and students as they vividly recounted their version of the events of September 11, 2001. I heard stories of those in elementary school as they looked out over the New York skyline and saw smoke billowing up from a place it wasn’t the day before; I heard from parents who frantically left work and fought traffic because they knew that the only place their kids would be safe was their arms; I heard from priests who tried their best to stay composed as they comforted the people losing their minds because the safety and normalcy of every day life had been shattered. Everyone was affected because everyone knew someone who died in downtown Manhattan that day.

My high school vantage point on the West Coast did not afford me the intimate look at the grief and loss that millions of people felt that day. The oppressive blanket of patriotism that irritated me as it emerged in the days following, I learned instead was a great city trying to be strong enough to support a country that just needed to grieve and cope with a profound loss. The theme of “Never Forget” became a cliché in my world, but it was far from that for the folks of New York and New Jersey. It was a curse and a prayer: “Dear Lord, I want to put this day out of my mind forever, but the memories just won’t erase. And the pain that numbs as time passes never really leaves completely. As you bore your cross, please help me bear this one.”

I am proud of my Angeleno heritage, and wouldn’t change it for the world. But today, I wish to forsake it so that I might stand more closely with my brothers and sisters of New York and New Jersey. I only spent a year there, so I won’t pretend to understand the entirety or complexity of emotions felt on this anniversary, but I have a better idea now than I did 12 years ago. Though I can’t be there with you, know that in Nebraska there’s a little piece of New Jersey in my heart that because of you will Never Forget.

Jeff Peak
Assistant Director
Creighton Center for Service and Justice

The CCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Creighton Center for Service and Justice (CCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the CCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.

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Forgiveness

Haley Warren

“If we believe terrorists are past redemption, we should just rip up like 1/2 the New Testament because it was written by one.” –Shane Claiborne

A few weeks ago, I heard a talk by Shane Claiborne. For those of you who don’t know, Shane is a peace activist who advocates for non-violence on a personal and societal level. He believes in, and promotes, forgiveness because he truly believes that, “Grace has the power to dull even the sharpest sword.”
Today I did a little experiment. I typed in “Boston Bombings” on Google, and to no surprise, all of the articles I found started by talking about the bombing suspects, and the investigation to find out who we can punish for this act. When an act of terror occurs, the media focuses all of its energy on who did the act and how those people will pay for what they’ve done. It emphasizes the type of justice that involves finding a punishment that will harm the person who did the crime as much as that person harmed others. It’s all about that person getting a fair penalty for their crime. Our justice system does not emphasize forgiveness, but rather emphasizes people paying for their mistakes.

There is a quote on a poster that I’ve seen in many places around campus. It says, “All religions believe in justice.” However, the type of justice this is referring to is not the type that we observe in our criminal justice system in the states. While our system is discriminatory and revolves around profits and punishment, the justice of faith traditions is about love and forgiveness.

Trying to have someone see how they have hurt us or someone else, or trying to control how someone will act in the future, has nothing to do with forgiveness. The World English Dictionary defines “forgive” as to free from the obligation of. Forgiveness grants the person we are forgiving freedom. It grants them the freedom that they were born with a part of their human dignity. Forgiveness is not something that should be based off of what a person will do for us in the future or how they will change. Rather, forgiveness is a gift that should be given to everyone, and that everyone should receive as part of their dignity.

As Shane Claiborne says, “All of us are better than the worst thing we’ve done.” We are all human, and everyone makes mistakes. Some of those mistakes are small, and some of those are much bigger. But at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter; because God forgives everyone, and in our journey to be more like him, we should strive to forgive everyone as well.

By forgiving people for the wrongs they have done, we are not excusing the pain they have caused. I wish that whoever bombed the Boston marathon, had never felt the need to do so. But I also know that people cause others pain and suffering when they are in pain or are suffering. Humans hurt other humans when they don’t feel loved, or when they are craving attention. What if when violent acts occurred, we reached out those who had committed the act? What if we told them that we forgive them, and embraced them unconditionally instead of shunning them and dehumanizing them? What if we loved them regardless of how much they hurt us? How would that person react? Do you think we’d be getting to the root of what caused the problem in the first place-namely that the person didn’t feel loved? I do. We should all strive to forgive those who wrong us. Because we are all human, we all make mistakes, we are all imperfect. And regardless of our faults, God loves us, and in doing so, he calls us to love one another.

So even though forgiveness is one of the hardest things for us to do, I believe we are called to try and forgive everyone regardless of what they have done. Every person deserves to be loved, every human being is inherently good, and everyone has the potential to find redemption. Yes, forgiveness is hard, but, as Shane Claiborne says, “Every time, we can find the courage to love, when we want to hate.”

Haley Warren
Class of 2015
College of Arts and Sciences
Student Coordinator

The CCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Creighton Center for Service and Justice (CCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the CCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.

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Remembering Today

Amal shares her dream with the group.An excerpt from John O’Donohue’s poem “For the Traveler”
“When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home.”

Sometimes it feels as though the only way to be completely present in life is to travel and temporarily break-up from the current life we live. Being in a college environment where we are repeatedly asked questions regarding our plans for the future only adds to the difficulty of experiencing the present as it is given. Having to constantly think of and plan for the future, we sometimes forget to appreciate the present and all that surrounds us. We forget to travel outside our daily routines and do something that truly touches our hearts and connects us to nature and other human beings. Over the Easter weekend, I ventured outside my daily routines and spent some time having intentional conversations with friends and family and acknowledging the natural world that I live in. I had not realized how long it had been since I had paid attention to the ducks quacking or the changing colors of the clouds in the sky. I was reminded that I do not need to travel far to be present in today.

Amal Barre
Class of 2014
College of Arts and Sciences
Student Coordinator

 

 

The CCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Creighton Center for Service and Justice (CCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the CCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.

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The Power of Loving Words

When you ask most individuals who have been to Chicago to describe their experience, many will tell you about the striking big city with Broadway productions, delicious restaurants, and fabulous shopping. However, this extravagant side of Chicago represents a very small portion of the city.

For my Spring Break Service & Justice Trip, I spent a week with the Daughters of Charity in the Marillac Center on the west side of Chicago. Much like Omaha, the significance of geography is extremely relevant. Those who grew up in the west side did not venture out into the south side of Chicago due to its overwhelming unfamiliarity, which could also be extremely dangerous. Throughout my week at the Marillac Center, I was blessed to witness the tight knit community of all the individuals involved in the social center, and I also had the opportunity to form bonds of my own. During this Spring Break Service & Justice trip, my group and I had the chance to experience a variety of projects and activities that the Marillac Center dedicates its time to.

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At the Marillac Center, the children are taught to address their problems with other people by using their words. I remember listening to a story told by a young boy who said to one of the sisters that, “They don’t do it like we do here at Marillac,” in reference to the children at his elementary school. On the playground, another student pushed him down and he responded by saying, “I don’t like it when you do that.” This bully said, “Oh well,” and pushed him down again. This shows how the Marillac center works to bring community together rather than tear it apart and to use words rather than violence. Throughout the week, I was overwhelmed with joy to see the perseverance, happiness, and love that the participants of Marillac have for each other.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”

Meeting these beautiful people, you would never know what hardships they have experienced. Every person I met during my week of service was kind, lighthearted, and always had a smile on their face. Each and every one of the people I met will make me think twice before I make a complaint about small issues in my life. The smiles and kindness of all the people I met will forever be engraved in my heart, and I hope that during my week in Chicago, I was able to touch at least one person’s life as much as all the people of Marillac touched mine.

Chelsea Williams
Class of 2014
Host Site: Marillac Center, Chicago

 

The CCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Creighton Center for Service and Justice (CCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the CCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.

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