Christian Brothers Academy students dive into service immersion experiences
Students in Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, set out on two strikingly different service immersion trips that had the same focus: to assist those who are less fortunate with the hope of creating a better life for them.
One group stayed close to home, traveling to Camden’s Romero Center where for three days, Rory Dunigan, Jack Houston and Owen Rigney and theology teacher Matthew Butler, assisted the organization in its mission of around providing a variety of programs to young people in a poor area.
The immersion for the students and Butler involved visiting different local shelters to serve food. They also took a tour of the poverty-stricken city, listened to a passionate plea by citizens for a safe baseball field for their children, and visited a nursing home for the physically disabled where the men were tasked with doing room visits.
The second immersion experience involved 11 students, along with campus ministry director, Tim Sewnig and Spanish teacher Ciro Saverino making an annual trip to the De La Salle Blackfeet School near Browning, Montana, where they worked with the school’s students who are in grades four through eight and helped with the upkeep of the school.
"We all need reminders to take the time to serve others with our lives," Butler said. "Sometimes, the stranger that you think you are helping is actually helping you. It was a powerful experience for myself and the students."
Butler and the students were struck by the fact that even though the CBA group was rotating through different shelters, they continued to come across the same people. And while those people were trying to get through another day in poverty, many of them were hopeful and thankful for the group’s outreach.
Of the trip to Montana, Sewnig said, “We had an outstanding group of young men who put a lot of work into the week with the kids at DLSBS, but I believe they learned so much from the experience as well.
“Jon Ficaro, the immersion director, and Kelly Lynch, the park ranger, were incredibly welcoming and helpful while we were on the reservation.”
Browning is the capital of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, home to 12,000 Blackfeet. The current community contains chronic unemployment, welfare dependency, poor housing, domestic violence and addiction. The parents of the Little Flower Parish on the reservation asked the Brothers of the Christian Schools to start a school, in hopes of developing their children’s talents while providing hope for the underprivileged community.
While on the reservation, the CBA group worked in the classroom with the students, helped lay a new sidewalk on the campus, took part in Mass at the parish and listened to guest speakers from the area. They were also invited to dinner with the school president one evening.
“I was so impressed with the school model, the principal, Mr. O’Brien, the president Brother Dale and the faculty,” Saverino said. “I highly encourage other students to consider making the trip.”
The CBA men were assigned different grade levels to mentor during the week. Senior and student body president Gerald Sharpe was assigned to a fifth grade class, where he was impressed by the enthusiasm of the students regardless of their situation at home.
“They never failed to come into school smiling and ready to work, which was truly inspiring to me personally,” Sharpe said. “The amount of potential the students have remarkable as well. We are there to tutor the students and serve as assistants to the teachers. But, ultimately, we offer hope to the students that there is a better future ahead.”