Eyes opened to human struggles on mission trip Print
Written by Al Minnaert, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018 -- 12:00 AM
EHS Mission Trip

Students and chaperones from Madison's Edgewood High School headed to Chicago for a mission trip. Here, at St. Leonard Ministries, students prepared, served, and shared a meal with residents. (Holly Guenther photo)

MADISON -- The mission trip is a long-standing tradition, made available only to juniors at Edgewood High School. It is a service immersion experience.

Immersion experience

Part of the time students are involved in direct service. Part of the time students are learning about social justice issues such as poverty, homelessness, hunger, incarceration, racism, and immigration.

Part of the time students pray and reflect on their experiences. But, all of the time students are immersed in environments that open their eyes to the realities faced by so many marginalized people in our country.

The variety of service sites that the Edgewood students are able to visit, experience, and serve clients at in a short window of time is really unique. It is a powerful experience and leaves a resounding impact on their lives and perspective.

Junior student Will Sprinkman summarized, "This trip opened my eyes to what is happening in our world and the daily struggles people endure."

This year's mission trip, funded in part by a grant from the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, took place November 29 to December 2. Twenty-eight juniors and three chaperones packed their luggage into vans and drove to Chicago on Thursday.

Visiting Catholic school

On Friday morning, the group went to Visitation Catholic School, under Sinsinawa Dominican leadership, which serves an entirely African-American and Hispanic student population, and where 100 percent of the children receive a free lunch.

It was amazing to see the joy and positive interactions between their young students and the Edgewood juniors. It was heartwarming to experience their appreciation of difference and their love of learning.

Meeting ex-prisoners

Friday afternoon was spent at St. Leonard Ministries, an organization that provides assistance to men and women coming out of prison, helping them to earn GEDs and learn a trade so that they can gain employment.

Listening to the stories of the ex-prisoners was an eye- opening service opportunity. Their desire to advise our students on avoiding their own pitfalls into drug and/or alcohol addiction was inspirational.

A special bonus of the visit was that it was hosted by the St. Leonard Ministry Development Director Alexis Cuozzo, a 2011 Edgewood High School alumnus. What a great witness for students to see a recent graduate living out Edgewood's mission and values!

Catholic Worker house, other stops

Concluding a busy day, on Friday evening, the group went to Su Casa Catholic Worker house, a home for Hispanic families who are homeless and frequently victims of domestic abuse.

They met another school group from Ohio on a service learning class mission trip and heard a presentation on Dorothy Day and her career as social activist and author.

Saturday morning was spent at a nursing home in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood, where the students dove into their service/work and helped the staff as needed -- including leading the singing of carols, playing bingo with the residents, and setting up a "nail salon" to add a special touch to the residents' day.

The Edgewood group then headed to the Boulevard, a transitional housing center for people struggling with medical issues, mental health issues, and in some cases, just bad luck.

The students prepared and shared a meal with the residents, dignifying their lives by listening and sharing stories. Afterwards they all sang carols and played games together.

Learning life lessons

Of the overall trip, student Faye Darga, noted that "I learned many life lessons from the people I met and was so grateful for everyone's honesty and gratitude. We got a first hand look at some serious justice issues."

Her classmate, Elissa Allen, said, "Even though we were there to help others, I believe each of them helped us in many ways!"


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