Social Justice Retreat Opens Students’ Eyes and Hearts

Theresa Marten, Contributor

Photo provided by Adam Setymeyer: Leader Stephanie Daley shares some personal thoughts.

The weekend of Jan. 26-27 marked the fourth annual Catalyst Retreat. It is an inspiring social justice retreat that brings 24 students into the city of Chicago to experience Catholic Social Teaching firsthand. The retreat focuses on changing the perspectives and breaking down stereotypes of the homeless. It is held every January, and is becoming a tradition here at Lewis University.

There were powerful reflections given by the six leaders, as well as two former homeless adults. The retreatants were split up into three groups and each sent to different locations to see and feel the poverty more intensely.

One group went to the Franciscan Outreach Association’s Marquard Center and served food to more than 120 men and women. Students were able to visit and hear different stories from the people around them. A big realization was that these people were not lazy or different, but rather everyday people that just need a little help.

The second group went to St. Leonard’s Ministries, a halfway house for incarcerated men. There, the students were able to sit and have a meal with men who are trying to assimilate into the community. The men shared powerful stories, and were willing to speak about their past and the hope they have for their future.

The third group went to St. Malachy’s on the west side of Chicago and learned about the different programs the church has in bringing the Latino and African-American communities together, as well as keeping kids off the streets in their S.A.F.E. program.

All the retreatants came back raving about the awesome experience and interesting people they met.

The weekend ended with an inspiring take on the Stations of the Cross through the city.

The retreat brings students into the heart of the city and the poverty, enabling students to bring God’s justice to the world around us. The leaders — Angela Cotta, Elizabeth Jilek, Bryan Bolton, Stephanie Daley, Bob Seiberlich and Natalie Asp — worked diligently during the fall semester preparing for the retreat, and truly did a wonderful job.

The retreat was a success and is highly recommended to anyone of any background who wants to make a difference in the community and see Catholic Social Teaching’s positive effects on social justice efforts.

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