Marymount students are working to challenge, shape, and change the world around them. On Juneteenth, ten Marymount School of New York students and two adult chaperones traveled to the Romero Center Ministries (RCM) in Camden, New Jersey, for an immersive experience of service and transformation. They were joined by three students and one chaperone from Marymount High School Los Angeles. It was an opportunity to learn the differences between justice and charity and reflect on how community service can lead to personal growth and development.
Romero Center Ministries hosts high school and college students from around the country and provides them with unique opportunities to learn about faith, community, and service. Throughout the week, the students experienced different kinds of community service including spending time at a daycare center with adults who have a variety of needs, sorting and packing food donations at the Food Bank of South Jersey, cleaning out and preparing a local church to welcome children for summer camp, volunteering at a nursing home, and preparing meals for the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA) in Philadelphia. Each of these experiences introduced the students to individuals who were willing to share their stories and help them gain a deeper insight into the systemic injustices that residents of Camden regularly face.
Following their service work at various sites, the students returned to the Romero Center to participate in reflection activities with students from other high schools. These activities provided an opportunity to thoughtfully consider their community engagement and the moments that had the greatest impact for them and held the greatest challenges.
They were invited to engage in a daily examen exercise and think about how they could have a significant impact on their own communities back home. Those from RSHM schools had a chance to reflect and pray with one another while discussing their shared mission and history. They discussed the influence of Mother Butler at both schools and noted her impressive legacy of service and commitment to those on the margins.
In addition to serving the community in Camden, students also had the opportunity to learn about different principles of Catholic Social Teaching (CST). The days were organized around CST themes like the Life and Dignity of the Human Person, the Preferential Option for the Poor and Vulnerable, and Rights and Responsibilities. Their service helped them reflect on these themes and think about how they could integrate these principles into their lives in practical and tangible ways. The program at RCM emphasized living in solidarity with the residents of Camden. For example, each person participated in a “food challenge” where everyone bought their food for the day at a local grocery store with only $4 to spend. They then prepared breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the day on this meager budget and learned about the limited options for those who live on government assistance. Everyone also had the opportunity to attend daily Mass alongside members of the parish where RCM is housed, St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral in Camden.
RCM is named in honor of St. Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador who was assassinated in 1980 and canonized in 2018. The spirit of St. Oscar Romero plays a significant role at RCM because Romero, like Mother Butler and Pere Gailhac, was a strong supporter of those on the margins, and he actively spoke out against injustices that were being perpetrated against poor, migrant workers.
Serving in the spirit of St. Oscar Romero, Pere Gailhac, and Mother Butler at RCM provided each participant with a time of true encounter and transformation. They will continue seeking new ways to serve those in their communities and take the lessons they learned at RCM to challenge, shape, and change the world in new and different ways.