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Stanners Travel to El Paso for The Encuentro Project

In April, students from Archbishop Molloy High School and Mount Saint Michael Academy spent their Easter Break participating in The Encuentro Project in El Paso, Texas. According to their website, The Encuentro Project "offers participants a faith-based, multi-faceted immersion program in the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border region to experience a deeper understanding of the complex migration reality and of the community." Molloy students also participated in this program back in early 2020, but this is the first time they were joined by a fellow Marist school. The students were chaperoned by Ms. Lori Wilson, Director of Campus Ministry & Marist Mission, Dr. Alice Prince, Molloy's Diversity & Inclusion Consultant, and Br. Todd Patenaude, FMS.

Each day of the five-day experience offered new and varying perspectives on immigration or the local community. One day, the group met with an immigration lawyer who explained the challenges of gaining US citizenship. "We learned the complications that come with the process and why it takes some people 7 years and others 30," said Ms. Wilson. On another day, students heard from two speakers about the aid given to migrants by a charity organization and the Catholic Church. "We were taught by a social worker about the hardships that migrants find, and were taught by a Jesuit priest about the history of the El Paso diocese and Catholic Social Teaching," explained Ms. Wilson. The group also encountered the reality of the migrant experience by working in a local shelter. This was said to be eye-opening, as coming face-to-face with those who are struggling, and hearing their stories directly from them, is much different than hearing a potentially different version elsewhere. "I feel that we will take the lessons we learned from this experience back to our own communities in pursuit of spreading awareness of the common human dignity we all share. We must think about what we can do to acknowledge that dignity," said Ms. Wilson.

Day four featured many activities, including a presentation by border patrol officers, a spiritual hike up Mt. Christo Rey, a conversation with a psychologist, Maria, who spoke of immigrants she has worked with who are working through their trauma, and a visit to a pop-up art exhibit that included interviews with immigrants. The immigrants spoke of their concerns for themselves, their families, and their futures.
 
Service opportunities such as the immersion experience in El Paso reflect St. Marcellin Champagnat's call to all Marists, that we must serve the least favored in our society. Upon reflection, Stephanie, a Molloy junior, shared, "There’s so much change that needs to be done in our world and the people [in El Paso] are willing to do it. I want to help. There’s so much more everyone can do. Spending this week under the guidance of Ms. Wilson and Dr. Prince has taught me so much. This week has been humbling and a blessing from God."
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