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Immersion Programs (Domestic and International)

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. The experiences are rooted in prayer and reflection, and any work performed will be secondary to the time we spend with individuals in their environments. Our hope is to allow for the possibility of a more mutual relationship where 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.

Very. Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J.

“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 



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 many of our spring break immersion sites, the primary focus is on building relationships with the people in our host communities.

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. On average, there are between 22-25 trips that depart each year to a variety of locations across the United States. Approximately 250 participants — or one in 12 students at the College — travel annually to various 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 greatly depending on whether you find yourself in Kentucky repairing homes, in Chicago exploring issues of injustice and 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, schools, etc. 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 during the week.

Practical Information 2019-2020

An informational meeting is held each October with applications and deposits due in late October / early November. The program fees range from $190 to $790, depending on the destination and means of travel. Please understand that because trip arrangements are made well in advance, all payments are non-refundable. Payment is made through the Bursar’s Office and can also easily be made online using the “Immersion Gateway.” Financial aid is available, and students in need of support are encouraged to apply. Below is a list of important dates for the 2019-2020 academic year. Please email with any questions.

  • Wednesday, Oct. 2: Information Session in Rehm Library at 7 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 25: Applications due                   
  • Friday, Nov. 1: Deposit due to the Bursar’s Office and release forms due to Campion
  • Friday, Nov. 1: Financial aid application due
  • Friday, Nov. 22: Financial aid notifications sent
  • Friday, Dec. 13: Payment due in full to the Bursar’s Office
  • Sunday, Jan. 26: The Reveal (find out what site you’re traveling to and meet your group!)
  • Friday, Feb. 28: Kick-off dinner in Kimball
  • Saturday, Feb. 29: Friday, March 6: Spring Break Immersion Trips
  • Saturday, March 7: Welcome Back Bowl-A-Thon
  • March / April TBD: Beyond Spring Break Retreats


Appalachia locations include West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky

Weeklong experiences in the Appalachian region have been at the heart of the Spring Break Immersion Program since its inception in 1976. While there is a wide range of locations and hands-on work available within 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 Mobile, Alabama; Syracuse, New York; St. Louis, Missouri; Jacksonville, Florida; Haverhill, Massachusetts

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.

Location Specific Sites

Alamosa, Colorado

La Puente Home is an organization in Colorado's San Luis Valley providing emergency shelter, food assistance, transitional housing, self-sufficiency services, homeless prevention, community outreach services, and job training for the homeless and other 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 glean 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, immersion participants are able to get to know people, to challenge stereotypes, to confront fears, 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.

Camden, New Jersey

The Urban Challenge Program at Romero Center Ministries gives participants the opportunity to build bridges of understanding. Participants will confront issues which 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 pre-schools, work at centers which 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.

Louisville, Kentucky

This Urban Immersion program, run by Hand in Hand Ministries, invites volunteers to work with local residents on community impact projects, take part in area activities and help bridge the gap of various areas in Louisville. Participants will be working with local families on home repair and community clean-up, while learning about the history and culture of West Louisville.

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.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Fourteen years after Hurricane Katrina, one of its largest remaining impacts is the affordable housing crisis left in its wake. There are still many thousands of empty lots where homes once stood before Katrina, and both home values and rent have risen by well over 50% since 2005. Students will work with SBP, helping to build new homes on abandoned and blighted properties to serve as affordable housing for first-time home buyers and renters.


Fall Break Immersion Program

Each October, two distinct local immersion opportunities are offered to students. These include:

L'Arche - An international network of homes where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together in a community of faith and friendship. Students will have the opportunity to build relationships through work, prayer, and shared celebration. Location is Haverhill, Massachusetts. For more information, visit the L'Arche Boston North website

Worcester Immersion – (first-year students only) Based out of a Lutheran church in the heart of the city, participants gain a broad understanding of Worcester and its people. The experience includes volunteer service, dining at local restaurants, interfaith visits, prayer and worship experiences, and a meeting with the mayor and other elected officials.


International Programs

The Chaplains' Office offers several international immersion trips each year. The trips are faith-based, and we try our best to be in solidarity with the people of each country to gain a sense of their values and their faith, to experience gracious hospitality, and to witness first-hand the poverty that so many in our world live with each day. 

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

Haiti Program

This seven day experience takes place in January and is facilitated by a local organization called Be Like Brit. The group is led by a chaplain and a student leader and involves a variety of experiences to help students explore the reality of Haiti, especially after the devastating earthquake of 2010.

The Haiti Experience
The students will stay in the Be Like Brit Orphanage in the town of Grand Goave, approximately 55 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince. The group will spend mornings building a home for a family in need and afternoons running activities at the orphanage. The group will also take in the natural beauty of the country with visits to surrounding towns.

Practical Information
The cost of the program is $1,950 which includes flights, meals, and accommodations. Financial aid is available for those in need of additional support.

An informational meeting is held in late March or early April with selections completed prior to final spring exams. The group of 11 students will meet regularly throughout the fall semester to prepare.


Colombia Program
This 10-day experience takes place in January and is facilitated by International Partners in Mission. The group is led by a Holy Cross chaplain and student leader and involves a variety of experiences to help students explore the social, economic, and political reality in Colombia. The group will travel to a broad range of cities and towns and learn from a variety of people about life in Colombia.

The Colombia Experience
Our immersion trip travels in partnership with a group known as El Centro de FormaciĆ³n Para La Paz. During most days, students will travel to partner sites around Colombia, including those dedicated to local community organizing, explanding public health, and developing sustainable economic opportunities for women. The group will also take in the natural beauty of the country and several of its historic sites. 

Practical information
The typical cost is approximately $2,300 which includes all flights, meals, and accommodations. Financial aid is available.

An informational meeting is held in late March or early April with selections completed prior to spring final exams. The group of 13-15 students will meet regularly throughout the fall semester to prepare.

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.

  • Exposing 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. 

    • Ensuring that staff and student leaders are modeling appropriate engagement and serving as leaders for engaging in said dialogue and relationship building. 

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

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

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

  • Discover 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 the students to continue asking questions raised by experience.

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