Faith in Action: Ruined for Life

by Alex Schoening


Mary Oliver once said, “I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it break open and never close again to the rest of the world.” Having gone to Ecuador with the Arrupe International Immersion Program my sophomore year, and returning as a student leader this year, I am a firm believer in the power of a broken heart. A graduate student at the STM told me that one of her professors asked her class, “What ruined you?” This may seem strange, but I think this question is beautiful because a person’s answer reveals what has made them who they are. At this point, it is probably pretty apparent that Arrupe has ruined me. We were challenged to allow ourselves to be “ruined for life” the first time I was in Ecuador,  and while a part of me thought they were crazy, I can’t deny that it happened.

This year, driving into Arbolito, an invasion community outside of Guayaquil, I felt that comforting sense of coming home. Every part of me felt more alive. I saw friends I had made two years earlier, I met new people, I heard incredible stories and I walked in shoes that looked different than my own, but quickly felt much the same. People tend to ask what we do on Arrupe, and when I say that we spend time in solidarity with the community there can be a sense of confusion. If the trip is based on being rather than doing, then why do we go so far away when we could accomplish much the same here in Boston? I’ve asked myself the same question time and time again. In the end I think we need to go away because it is by placing ourselves in an entirely different environment than that which we are accustomed to that we experience a discomfort that opens our eyes to the injustices in the world that we often become blind to within our immediate line of vision.

In Ecuador we partner with an organization called Rostro de Cristo, whose mission is to see the face of Christ in all who we encounter. We need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable and that is what trips focused on community and solidarity, such as those in the Arrupe program, provide the space for.  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter so much where you are. What matters is that we choose to be broken, and as Fr. Ken Himes says, “Do service trips for yourself and live your life for others.” The most important message for me has come through the words of Linda Ellis in her poem “The Dash,” which concludes, “So, when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash…would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent YOUR dash?” My experience in Ecuador was beautifully heartbreaking and I know that my life will forever be changed by the stories that have become tattooed on my heart.   

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