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Immersion Programs (Domestic and International)

A Holy Cross student interacts with a student on an immersion program.

The Arrupe Immersion Program is a faith-based program with the mission to develop a "well-educated" solidarity for our students in the Jesuit tradition. Solidarity begins with contact with people on the peripheries, which serves as a catalyst for intellectual inquiry, moral reflection, and spiritual growth. 

Whether the travel is local, domestic, or international, our primary focus is deepening relationships with others and with God. Arrupe Immersion experiences are rooted in prayer and reflection, and any hands-on work we do is always done in the spirit of mutual support and cooperation. Our hope is that those who welcome us into their homes or who share their stories with us are not seen primarily as people whom we have come to "help" but rather as companions on the journey.

Two Holy Cross students standing beside a L’arche community member during an immersion program.

The Promotion of Justice

“Students, in the course of their formation, must let the gritty reality of this world into their lives, so they can learn to feel it, think about it critically, respond to its suffering and engage it constructively.” — Very. Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., 29th Superior General of the Society of Jesus 

Domestic

The Spring Break Immersion Program

The Spring Break Immersion Program offers Holy Cross students the opportunity to build relationships across economic, regional, and cultural differences with people throughout the U.S.

Solidarity, spirituality, and mutuality are core values of the program. Though there is an element of direct service involved at most of our Spring Break Immersion sites, the primary focus is on building relationships with the people in our host communities, with one another, and with God.

Rather than setting out to “make a difference,” our students set out — in the words of Rev. Greg Boyle, S.J. — to “wonder how people are doing.” The program aims to emphasize the “with” in the phrase “people for and with others,” and we hope that participants return to campus with a deeper appreciation for accompaniment, mutuality, and shared human experience.

Beginning in 1976 with a van full of students traveling to Kentucky, the program has since grown into one of the largest outreach programs at Holy Cross. Each year, over 200 student participants travel to one of 25 locations throughout the U.S. as part of the Spring Break Immersion Program.

There is no "typical" day on the immersion program. The experience will vary depending on whether you find yourself in Kentucky repairing homes, in Chicago exploring issues of urban poverty, or in a L'Arche community sharing conversation and companionship. Transportation and accommodations vary by site as well, but usually involve simple living and traveling to such places as soup kitchens, community centers, churches, and schools. By tradition, groups are led by a senior Holy Cross student who, in addition to ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for their group, also facilitates daily prayer and reflection throughout the week.

Students taking a lunch break at a construction site as part of an immersion program.

2021-22 Program Information 

Information on the 2021-22 program will be posted soon. 

Sites

Appalachia locations include several communities in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Weeklong experiences in the Appalachian region have been at the heart of SBIP since its inception in 1976. While there is a wide range of locations and hands-on work available at these sites, the focus is always on building relationships with the people we encounter, examining more closely the issues that impact these communities, and offering our time and energy in service wherever possible.

L’Arche community locations include Haverhill, Massachusetts; Jacksonville, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; St. Louis, Missouri; Syracuse, New York; and Washington, D.C.

L’Arche communities in the United States provide homes and workplaces where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together as peers, create inclusive communities of faith and friendship, and transform society through relationships that cross social boundaries. Students will be integrated into these unique communities for the week, sharing meals and celebrations, joining together in prayer, spending time with the members of each community, and engaging in small work projects to improve each home.

Alamosa, Colorado
La Puente Home is an organization in Colorado's San Luis Valley providing emergency shelter, food assistance, transitional housing, self-sufficiency services, homelessness prevention, community outreach services, and job training for community members in crisis, many of whom are migrant workers from Latin America. Groups will prepare meals at the shelter, stock shelves at the food bank, build and paint fences, or harvest vegetables from local fields.

Chicago, Illinois
The Urban Immersion Retreat at the Brother David Darst Center is facilitated by a director from the center and serves as a tool to be introduced to and explore issues of justice and the reality of oppression. Through partnerships with local agencies, participants are able to get to know people, to challenge stereotypes, to confront fears, and to break down barriers that “protect” us from the unknown and the different.

Daily communal prayer, meal preparation, and recreational and educational sessions are designed to assist groups to better reflect upon their work and observations at ministry sites. Program directors have an established relationship with many of the social agencies that will be used for field experiences, including the Chicago Food Depository, Su Casa, The Port, San Miguel Schools, Chicago Youth Centers, and St. Martin DePorres.

Students packing food in Ziploc bags at a food pantry as part of an immersion program.

Camden, New Jersey
The Urban Challenge Program at Romero Center Ministries gives participants the opportunity to build bridges of understanding. Participants will confront issues that divide us — poverty, race, class — in a prayerful and constructive environment. The Urban Challenge experience combines volunteer service in the city with work, study, and prayer.

During the day, participants serve at a variety of work sites. The work sites include housing rehabilitation, work in schools and preschools, work at centers that provide hot meals, the South Jersey Food Bank, and at other social service agencies in Camden and in nearby Philadelphia. In the evenings, there is usually a speaker or an activity to educate participants about local and global issues of injustice. Discussions are also held on urban poverty, social and economic justice, and the concept of a "preferential option for the poor." Participants will also tour the city and listen to people from the community tell their stories about living in Camden.

Students standing in front of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis as part of an immersion program.St. Louis, Missouri
Working with AMEN St. Louis, students have the opportunity to engage with local organizations that serve those in the community experiencing homelessness, crisis, poverty, and food insecurity. Guest speakers and guided discussions on issues such as race, hunger, and immigration help students reflect on the deeper systems underlying these issues. Growing together in knowledge and faith, groups will continue learning how to be meaningful agents of change in our nation and world.

International Programs

The Chaplains' Office typically offers one or two international immersion experiences per academic year. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to put a hold on international immersions for now, but we hope to offer them again in the future.

The cost of an international immersion is usually $1,950 - $2,250. Financial aid is available for those demonstrating need.

Goals of Immersion Program

  • Create community among the participants

    • Through pre-trip meetings and arranged one-on-one meetings (i.e., coffee dates) wherein shared prayer, icebreakers, and country-specific reporting play a significant role.

  • Expose participants to people of faith living on the peripheries and to experience some aspects of their reality. 

    • By creating opportunities for these encounters within the context of the trip itinerary. 

    • By ensuring that staff and student leaders are modeling appropriate engagement for dialogue and relationship building. 

  • Explore structural injustices that shape the reality of the communities.

    • Through devising learning opportunities to better understand the cultural, social, and economic context (for example, the role of government, economic realities, and the roles of unjust social structures).

    • By creating space for questions pertaining to these realities within the context of the trip itinerary and/or reflection. 

  • Witness God's activity in the communities of the people we visit as well as the lives of the participants.

    • Through nightly reflections that encourage students to notice God's activity or what moves them throughout the day. 

  • Encourage students to continue asking questions raised by experience.

    • Through structured follow-up programming, which includes student-planned prayer, reflection, and exploration of trip impact.