A Publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland
Catholic Voice Online Edition
Front Page In this Issue Around the Diocese Forum News in Brief Calendar Commentary
Mission Statement
Contact Us
Publication Dates
Back Issues

Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland

Movie Reviews

Mass Times

Catholic Voice
articles list
placeholder Tribute to
Catholic Women

Women who make
a difference

Three to be ordained
to the priesthood
on May 13

Saint Mary's College students meet youth homelessness face
to face

celebrate 25th,
60th anniversary
jubilees in India

Unsung heroes

Bishop thanks students for
'practicing your faith'


Rev. Raymond T. Gawronski, SJ

Sister M. Angelina Dutra, SHF

Sister Ramona Bascom, OP

Sister M. Jacinta Fiebig, SHF

Year of Mercy Calendar

Sisterhood puts its collective heart into dresses, shorts

placeholder May 9, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 9   •   Oakland, CA

Some Saint Mary's College students spent their Easter vacation in an immersion program with homeless youth in Los Angeles, including preparing and cooking meals at a shelter. That's Emily Redfern, left, in the kitchen.
Courtesy photos
Saint Mary's College students meet
youth homelessness face to face

Students at Saint Mary's College have the opportunity to "connect the dots" between what they learn in the classroom about Catholic social teaching and what happens in the real world through immersion education.

Considering immersion?

Here's some advice from Emily Redfern, a student at Saint Mary's College of California:

• Are you looking to meet other students?

• Are you looking for new places to make a community?

• Be open.

• Be OK without being in control. (Students are not given a schedule.)

• Be present.

• You're not going to find anything else like this on your break.
Three times a year, students leave the Moraga campus and put Catholic social teaching into action in the fields of the Salinas Valley, at an Indian school in Montana, and, this spring, among homeless youth in Los Angeles.

"Los Angeles has a large homeless youth population," said Nick van Santen, assistant director of Justice Education and Immersions in the school's Mission and Ministry Center. "We started connecting the dots. It was epiphany for me: We have our 18 -to 22-year-olds engaging 18 to 22-year-old people living those lives in Los Angeles."

Seven students, representing all undergraduate years, and three adults made the trip to Los Angeles, spending the heart of the week among homeless youths, and meeting representatives of agencies that serve them. They spent their nights on the sixth-floor of a homeless shelter, in which they took their meals as well as served them.

They looked through many lenses, said van Santen, who has a master's degree in divinity from Princeton University and is pursuing a doctoral degree at Saint Mary's.

"What are your options on the street?" was the main question they asked, as they spent time at Covenant House, a shelter that cares for homeless young people; Homeboys Industries, which works with former gang members; and at an LGBT youth center.

"Fifty percent of the homeless youth in Los Angeles," he said, "would check that box (LGBT)."

The benefits last beyond the immersion days.

Emily Redfern, a third-year global studies major who went on her first immersion experience during her first year, serves as a student ambassador.

Redfern, who is from Colorado, looked into the immersion trip in her first year in lieu of making a quick trip home in the fall — she knew she'd be going home for Christmas.

Her first experience was the college's trip to Salinas. Redfern, who had volunteered in her parish with Confirmation preparation and Vacation Bible School, found new ways to share her faith with others. She also had great stories to tell her family at Christmas.

When the students on an immersion experience return to campus, they gather to share what they have learned with each other and the greater campus community.

As student ambassador, Redfern keeps in touch with the participants. A participant in one of the programs now offers a monthly "Solidarity Supper," a free home-cooked meal on campus. Some students use their experience as the basis of a research project. Some have returned to work at the school in Montana after graduation.

For Redfern, the experience has broadened and deepened her faith. To her global studies major, she has added a concentration in social justice. She also has a minor in biology.

"The leadership skills I learned are transferable to wherever I go," she said. "I am excited by the fact I'll be part of something with larger social implications."

That's how van Santen sees it, too. The immersion experiences enhance and enliven what the students have studied in the classroom, he said.

"This experience helps them become more human," he said.

back to topup arrow


Copyright © 2016 The Catholic Voice, All Rights Reserved. Site design by Sarah Kalmon-Bauer.