by Stephanie Johnson
During the final week of Boston College’s winter break, Campus Ministry sent over one hundred students to communities in Latin America through the Arrupe International Immersion Program. The program is named after Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus, who strongly felt that following the Gospel requires Christians to experience solidarity with a suffering world. Boston College’s immersion program aims to provide participants, student leaders, and mentors the opportunity to learn first-hand about the lives and histories of foreign communities living in poverty.
The program sent nine groups of students to Latin American countries including Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Belize, and Jamaica. Each group includes fourteen to sixteen
Boston College students, two of which are post-undergraduate mentors. Participants aim to build life- and faith-sharing communities in which they can deepen their faith, develop a sense of
responsibility and compassion for those who suffer, and learn about the complex realities of people living in poverty.
Arrupe International is more than just a one-week commitment. It is a year-long experience. Participants are chosen each spring through a process that includes both a written application and an interview. Throughout fall semester leading up to the trip, groups meet on a weekly basis and attend a two-night retreat. Alex Schoening, A&S ’15, one of two student leaders for the Ecuador trip, tells The Torch that these meetings “allow the group to start the community-building process early and educate participants about the unique histories of the countries they will be visiting.”
“This isn’t a typical service trip. We need to prepare them for a solidarity experience,” Maggie Aasen, A&S ’15, leader of the Puebla, Mexico trip adds. Preparation during fall semester also includes a great deal of fundraising.
The groups departed from Boston on January 2 and 3. Each community allowed participants to encounter solidarity through different experiences. Some trips focus more on simply getting to know members of the community and their stories, while others allow students to experience solidarity through active participation in the daily life of a community member. Senior Brittany Burke, LSOE ’15, who traveled to Guatemala, tells The Torch that she found solidarity through “experiencing the joys and challenges of living in an indigenous community alongside the people who shared their hearts with us. I came to understand the true value of community both while working alongside my host brother as we picked coffee and while learning traditional Guatemalan dances among the bright and life-giving children we encountered.”
Arrupe groups will continue to meet on a weekly basis for the remainder of the academic year. Weekly meetings and presentations allow participants to process their experience and discern how they can incorporate it into their everyday life. Schoening explains, “Coming back, we talk about what the purpose of going on the trip was. The theme of Arrupe is falling in love. So now the question is, how do we stay in love?”
Alyssa Stella, A&S ’15, a senior leader of the Chiapas, Mexico trip, tells The Torch, “Arrupe’s mission is so incredibly important because it allows students to step outside of their comfort zone, experience a piece of the reality in which people different from ourselves live every day, and break down the barriers that separate us. Witnessing and being a part of other suffering and joy is transformative—it disturbs you, challenges you, makes you ask important questions, while giving you a new understanding of your place in the world and a passion to create positive change.”