Immersion Trips

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Spring Break Domestic Immersion Program

Fairfield University’s Office of Campus Ministry strives to be a home for students of all faith traditions who are interested in exploring and enriching their spiritual lives and commitment to justice. Rooted in the Catholic faith and steeped in the Ignatian tradition, Campus Ministry is committed to the development of the whole person and believes that a healthy spiritual life is an essential key element of the Fairfield University experience. The Spring Break Domestic Immersion Program offers immersion opportunities around the United States for students, faculty, and staff to explore what it means to live a faith that does justice and to deepen their relationships with God through:

  • Sharing in the lives of those living in poverty through short-term service projects and living experiences
  • Reflecting critically on issues of faith and justice
  • Being exposed to the wonderful diversity of God’s creations through an encounter with those living in a culture different from their own
  • Offering their skills, resources, and gifts for the purpose of creating a more just and loving world
  • Building lifelong relationships with their peers and our program partners

Domestic Immersion Program Partners

WorkFest | Appalachia, Kentucky

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WorkFest | Appalachia, Kentucky

Hiking Appalachian Trail Landscape, image by Steve Raubenstine on Pixabay

The Christian Appalachian Project encompasses community, service and spirituality. Surrounded by the Appalachia Mountains, participants serve and learn about the injustices and realities of poverty. “It’s about realizing that the only person who will be changed is you. It is a luxury to be able to serve and to be in the position to give. For it is in giving that we receive.”

For more information, visit the Christian Appalachian Project website.

Via International | San Diego Border Immersion

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Via International | San Diego Border Immersion

This program will explore the impact of living only 15 miles from the U.S./Mexico Border and the challenges faced by families, local farmers, businesses, and the large Chicano community. Participate in community driven initiatives and live the realities by combating the stereotypes immigration has been given right here in one of the most important areas involving this issue. Meet the Amigos Car Club, a grassroots organization that has curbed gang-violence in urban areas, bring water to immigrants crossing the border with the founder of Border Angels, Enrique Morones and travel from Otay to the Pacific Ocean to join the border patrol on a tour between the fence and the wall, highlighting the extreme differences between life on two sides of a wall.

For more information, visit the Via International website.

Aquinas Center | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Aquinas Center | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Stained Glass Window Church,  image by Dorothée QUENNESSON on Pixabay

Aquinas Center was developed as a collaborative effort with the parishioners of St. Thomas Catholic Community, neighbors in South Philadelphia, and many people of good will from partnering organizations and agencies. The former convent was re-purposed to be a welcoming place that offered mutual support to fostered shared understanding across cultural divides.

Over 550 people use the center weekly for activities ranging from community organizing to sacramental preparation to leadership training to English classes. Leadership for parish and center programming is shared by different cultural communities including: Indonesian, Vietnamese, Latin American, African American, Filipino, and Anglo-Europeans.

For more information, visit the Aquinas Center website.

Community Learning Network | Santa Fe, New Mexico

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Community Learning Network | Santa Fe, New Mexico

Cathedral of Basilica Church, image by ArtTower on Pixabay

This inspiring and transformational educational program offers local and visiting student and adult groups the opportunity to experience community-based, real-life learning. Hands-on learning, community dialogue, and volunteer service learning activities are offered in Santa Fe, New Mexico around the issues of Indigenous Spirituality, Catholic community, and ecological justice.

Real-life learning activities are shaped to support specific learning objectives such as: Sustainable Living, Food Security, Environmental Stewardship, Catholic Social Teachings, Architecture, Adobe, Women's Studies, Chicano Studies, Ethnic Studies, Health and Well-Being, and Decolonization.

For more information, visit the Community Learning Network (CLN) website.

St. Oscar Romero International Immersion Program

The Office of Campus Ministry has had a long tradition of offering students the opportunity to spend time in other countries to learn about the realities, hopes, and struggles of those living in situations of economic, political, or social marginalization.

Named for Archbishop Oscar Romero, a patron saint of the Americas martyred for his unwavering pursuit of justice for the poor and marginalized, the International Immersion program aims to deepen students’ relationships with God, themselves, and others through:

  • Sharing in the lives of those living in poverty through short-term service projects and living experiences
  • Reflecting critically on issues of faith and justice
  • Being exposed to the wonderful diversity of God's creations through an encounter with those living in a culture different from their own
  • Offering their skills, resources, and gifts for the purpose of creating a more just and loving world

The application process for participants begins several months prior to each trip's departure date, and the commitment continues for several months after each trip's return. This allows for weekly meetings, retreats, and fundraising events, to make connections through local service work and many awareness-building events.

For more information, contact Campus Ministry at kmolloy@fairfield.edu x3266.

"We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted. Knowing that they hold future promise."

- Archbishop Oscar Romero, El Salvador

Recent St. Oscar Romero International Immersion Partners

Working Boy's Center | Quito, Ecuador

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Working Boy's Center | Quito, Ecuador

While in-country, Fairfield students will partner with the Working Boy's Center, a family-centered total development program, geared towards providing education, vocational training and life-skills development for the working children of Quito and their families.

Founded in 1964 to address the educational needs of boys working on the streets shining shoes, the WBCs objective has been to eliminate poverty among working children and their families. To date, over 6,000 families or around 30,000 people have left poverty forever as a result of the Working Boys' Center program. In 2007, the Working Boys' Center commissioned an external study of the impact of operations on its beneficiaries. The results concluded that the WBC method has successfully inserted 75% of its graduates into society and the labor market, due to the integral education received at the WBC.

While partnering with the work and accompaniment of the WBC, program participants will have the opportunity to engage with a variety of programs and projects, including teaching with year-long volunteers, working in the center's workshop, dispensary, soup kitchen and surrounding mission stations, as well as working to build a house for a local family in a community-sponsored program called a "minga."

Learn more about the Center for Working Families.

Mustard Seed Communities | Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

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Mustard Seed Communities | Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

In 2001 Mustard Seed Communities expanded to Dominican Republic to meet the needs of children with disabilities, many of whom had been abandoned. MSC acquired property in the small town of Cangrejo on the outskirts of Puerto Plata and constructed a home called Hogar Immanuel. Hogar Immanuel is presently home to 35 children and young adults. The residents of Hogar Immanuel are joyful and well loved by the staff who cares for them. The residents receive a number of services including physical therapy, occupational therapy, and special education. In 2007 Mustard Seed Communities Dominican Republic purchased an adjoining piece of property to expand the home to provide care to more children with disabilities who are living in unsafe environments.

Today, the fully developed property includes four cottages, a physiotherapy room, chapel and on-site mission volunteer housing. The expansion has doubled Mustard Seed’s capacity, enabling the organization to serve a greater population of the most vulnerable children in Dominican Republic. When it reaches full capacity, Hogar Immanuel will provide loving care for 48 children and young adults with disabilities.

Learn more about Mustard Seed Communities.

Rostro de Cristo | Guayaquil, Ecuador

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Rostro de Cristo | Guayaquil, Ecuador

Rostro de Cristo exists to inspire a lifelong commitment to a faith that works for justice through transformative, intercultural experiences living the Gospel of Christ in solidarity with marginalized communities.

Groups live in retreat houses designed and built for the program within two neighborhoods on the outskirts of Guayaquil. Emphasis is placed on being with members of the local community rather than doing for them, building relationships and developing a greater understanding of the reality of Ecuadorians, through visits and dialogue.

It is our hope that through these experiences, young people will touch, taste, smell, see and feel how the developing world lives and be forever changed. The retreat program is thus devoted to inspiring life-long commitments to service, faith and social justice.

For more information, visit the Rostro de Cristo website.

Testimonials

“We focus on building relationships, recognizing we have no special insight into the challenges faced by the people we meet. We have nothing more to offer than human relationship. In that, we also recognize that we are offered the grace of human relationship from the people we meet.”

– Kevin Molloy
Campus Minister for Domestic and International Immersion

Pat Cole '20

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Pat Cole '20

"I went to San Diego in March of 2019. The trip was very enlightening as I was able to learn so much about the Chicano community in San Diego. The company “Via International” did an amazing job of educating our group, as well as many college students around the country about issues of gentrification surrounding the Chicano community. We were also informed about very prevalent issues involving border control and ICE. We couldn’t have asked for a more hospitable and welcoming treatment from the staff at Via International and are forever grateful for the experience."

– Pat Cole '20

Mark Korst '21

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Mark Korst '21

“I travelled with a group from campus ministry to a small town in Eastern Kentucky to learn about a different culture and serve others. I participated in this trip two times, and they were both life-changing experiences. We volunteered with an organization called the Christian Appalachian Project and served alongside students from schools from all around the country. We provided home repairs to families in need in the area, and they were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I would definitely recommend this immersion trip for anybody looking to branch out, as it was a pleasant way to expand my world view.”

– Mark Korst ‘21

Peter Toutoulis '22

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Peter Toutoulis '22

"The immersion trip program has been instrumental to my experience at Fairfield. I have met so many amazing people through immersion trips and had the opportunity to learn so much about how everyday actions can lead to change. We were welcomed into a community of people who treated us as people they had known for years. The opportunity to travel to different parts of the country and the world and learn about different cultures and people provide an experience that helps to form you as a person. I am forever grateful for the immersion trips and the experiences they’ve provided."

– Peter Toutoulis '22

Connor Ward '21

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Connor Ward '21

"Immersions are a wonderful experience. They allowed me to immerse myself in a new culture, new experiences, new perspectives and allowed me to meet some amazing people! Immersions are very unique and allowed me to better myself as a person and as a Catholic."

– Connor Ward '21

Joe Diacetis '21

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Joe Diacetis '21

"Going into my Ecuador trip, I was excited to immerse myself in a new culture and help those in need. However, I never expected the trip to have such a powerful impact on my life and my spirituality. I truly left Ecuador as a different man with a different perspective on my life, my beliefs, my values, and my relationship with God. I could not recommend participating in an immersion trip more."

– Joe Diacetis '21

Olivia McEvoy '19

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Olivia McEvoy '19

"Some of my fondest memories from Fairfield have to do with the programs I participated in through the retreats and immersion programs. Not only that, but as I look back on these experiences, I think of how much each one shaped me, helped me to grow, or push me to continue to better myself and my knowledge of the world around me. The friendships I made and the moments I got to experience with new friends and old are things I will always look back on with immense gratitude."

– Olivia McEvoy '19

Katie Mullen '20

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Katie Mullen '20

“During my trip to San Diego, I got to explore the topics of immigration and Chicano culture. I really didn’t know what I didn’t know and this experience allowed me to be a listener to the stories of those around me.”

– Katie Mullen '20

Courtney Krechel '20

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Courtney Krechel '20

"I traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico on a service immersion trip during my senior year spring break. I only knew one person going on the trip with me, but by the end of the week, I felt like I had gained ten new family members. We learned from and worked with Native Americans in the Santa Fe region, helped on a horse farm, and even explored a national park called Bandelier. It was one of the most eye-opening and peaceful weeks of my life, and I feel so blessed to have been able to see New Mexico in the company of some of the most incredible people I have met. I would encourage anyone willing to put themselves out there and learn from people they barely know to go and experience on a service immersion trip!"

– Courtney Krechel '20

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