Campus Ministry has recently called for their most courageous Stags to take part in their Spring Break Immersion trip, traveling this year to the U.S.-Mexico border and immersing its students in community-driven projects and personal reflection.

The trip will last from March 2 to March 9 and will engage with the large Chicano community in San Diego, CA. While applications are accepted on a rolling basis, Jan. 31 marks the final day that students can apply.

During this once-in-a-lifetime experience, participants will learn through firsthand living and community initiatives the challenges of residing only 15 miles from the U.S.-Mexican border. The program, in partnership with Via International, not only recognizes these challenges but also foregrounds their impacts faced by families, businesses and local farmers. 

“The 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,” explains Kevin Molloy, Associate Director at Campus Minister for Justice and Ignatian Formation. 

Molloy’s responses were curated alongside Kathleen Haimoff, Assistant for Immersions and Justice. Hence, she will be credited alongside him. 

According to Molloy and Haimoff, this extensive exploration is accomplished through the program’s direct living experiences, critical reflection, the construction of long-lasting relationships with peers and program partners and an exposure to the diversity of God’s creations within different cultures. Moreover, by offering skills, resources and gifts, students are encouraged to build a world filled with more love. 

The week-long program is aimed as an opportunity to enrich spirituality and enhance personal growth. Rooted in Ignatian tradition, it asks for the full commitment of its students; this commitment includes their time, dedication to social justice and authentic desire to grow.

“We will hear things and see things that may challenge our preconceived notions, they may surprise us, sadden us, inspire us and challenge us,” revealed Molloy and Haimoff. “Students should be ready to receive the experience, open to the Spirit and be courageous enough to allow themselves to be changed.”

Community activists involved in preserving Chicano culture, as well as pastors and community leaders working on both sides of the border, will meet with immersion students to reinforce the vitality of full-rounded support for all those around us. These trips eradicate the influence of media or politics and demonstrate to students the absolute truth about border living.

Haimoff and Molloy further emphasize the distinction between service trips, in which Campus Ministry cannot sponsor, and “immersion trips.” The latter are places where relationships with God, peers, the self and an abundance of complex realities are directly encountered and experienced. 

“As a Campus Ministry trip, we believe in a God who created all humans to flourish, and so, students will meet the human face of the border, so as to break down stigma, stereotypes and the dehumanization of the ‘immigrant.’”

Fairfield University – as a Jesuit institution – finds endeavors like these extremely important to fulfilling its mission of a Jesuit education, which shapes students into a “well-educated solidarity,” according to Molloy. The Jesuit mission calls its practitioners to become engaged citizens, a particularly necessary action as globalization continues to increase and to demand justice for individuals with greater vulnerability. 

By partaking in Campus Ministry immersion trips, students are given a wider perspective of the world and its diversity. Additionally, they become more capable of taking concrete action to combat social injustices. 

Haimoff and Molloy add that because God encourages his followers to stand with the oppressed, a Jesuit university works to inspire its students to change the world.

Senior Courtney O’Connor has attended two immersion trips with Fairfield University – one to San Diego in 2023 and one to Ecuador earlier this year. During her time in San Diego, O’Connor participated as a student leader. 

“There is something so special about a community of strangers embracing you with open arms in the short time you are there, and educating you on their way of life and the inequalities that their community faces,” she commented. For her, this immersion experience uncovered the effects of gentrification in a Barrio Logan neighborhood, among other things.

Over winter break, Campus Ministry led an immersion trip to Quito, Ecuador. Four students, two student leaders and two Campus Ministry staff members attended the trip from Jan. 3 to Jan.11. Student participants led meticulous work at the Center for Working Families, meeting with classroom teachers, staff, families and K-12 youth in Quito and nearby rural communities.

“They are inspiring people and changing the lives of so many families,” stated Kitty Vernon ’26 about the Center. “Being a part of this beautiful family for just seven days, we were taught the lesson and benefits of living simple lives which I am currently trying to implement into my life.”

A vast part of Campus Ministry’s excursion to Ecuador involved a deeper learning of the living complexities in the country, namely in regard to economics and social and political systems and their perpetuation of ongoing poverty. This knowledge was assisted by the interaction of culture and customs and the integration of food, nature, and the central city of Quito.

O’Connor attests that these families often earned an income less than minimum wage. She was able to observe their living conditions, listen to their personal stories, and discern the overarching purpose of the Center.

Vernon credits the Ecuadorian trip as her first-ever immersion experience and Fairfield University trip. “I’m so happy I got to experience this opportunity, and am grateful I got to go with my fellow students and Campus Ministry advisors,” she added.

Molloy reiterates that the goal of immersion trips is to establish critical analysis around cultural, social, political and economic systems and to figure out through faith how a more just world can be reached.

When he is not on a trip himself, Molloy assists in planning its logistics and working with student leaders to ensure that the deepest questions are posed and challenges are faced with lasting, out-of-the-box solutions.

“The diversity of life experience makes for deeper reflection and a more transformative experience,” he stated. “The focus on building community in the U.S.-Mexico Border Immersion in particular could be beneficial to any student who might not feel they have a strong community yet at Fairfield.”

For the upcoming Spring Break Immersion Trip, a $50 deposit is due with each application; if a student is not placed on this specific trip, their money is refunded. Individual fundraising is also available. According to the application on Life@Fairfield, trip costs consist of airfare, transportation at the site, partnering organization fees, food and housing, 

Apart from the initial deposit, a student’s total cost, $1,500, is split into two payments.

Upon being accepted for the trip, students will meet with their leader and staff advisor for weekly sessions during the month leading up to departure. These meetings will provide a more comprehensive view of the purpose of the trip and their host partners, fostering the groups’ bond and familiarity with group reflection.

As for upcoming events, a spring weekend immersion trip will take place in April. Molloy states that more details will be disclosed soon. Furthermore, the opportunity to attend an LGTBQ+ conference for IgnatianQ will arise at St. Louis University from April 18-21. 

Campus Ministry is seeking five LGBTQ+ students to attend the St. Louis conference. The application for those identifying students can be found on Campus Ministry’s Life@Fairfield page. 

Expressed with sincerity, Campus Ministry Immersion Trips are meant to expand the mind of a Jesuit student. Molloy and Haimoff note that, “people on the ground, those encountering challenges have the best solutions to those challenges. So those living along the border, those living on both sides can teach us something that textbooks might not. The immersions offered by Campus Ministry are integral experiences to the mission of Fairfield as a Jesuit university.” 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.