Story of the Resurrection - A Spiritual Reflection

This week is Easter – the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ. He died so that all men and women would be “redeemed” from sin and have the opportunity for eternal life in heaven after having shared in the same death as Christ experienced.

But what does redemption and resurrection look like in our life? Earlier this month I wrote about what our middle school and high school parishioners are doing to help “redeem” the world by making casseroles to feed the homeless at St. John’s Hospice. In addition, we featured Elisa Torres a 2016 graduate from Conestoga and currently studying Art Education at Temple University. She spent her “Spring Break” on a mission trip with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) in Yucatan, Mexico from March 10 – 19 this year in order to share the love of Jesus internationally.

Elizabeth Lawton is another St. Monica parishioner who is involved in bring a redemptive” spirit to others. She is currently a freshman at Boston College majoring in Philosophy on a pre-med track. She graduated from Conestoga High School in 2016 and is the daughter of Dr. Greg and Dr. Angela Lawton. She plays club volleyball at Boston College and volunteers weekly at a women’s homeless shelter. Her passion for service began with mission trips to Nueva Durango, Mexico the past two summers and working with the homeless throughout high school. She recounts that experience in her witness story this week:

April 4 - April 11 found myself and 13 others in “The Real Hollywood” - Hollywood, SC, population approximately 5,000 and median household income approximately $55,000. It is a predominantly rural town with 53% African American and 47% white.

Our 6 days in Hollywood (minus the 21-hour bus ride each way) were devoted to doing various tasks that Beth, our wonderful facilitator, felt were necessary for the community. We laid the foundation for a vegetable garden that the senior center can continue as a sustainability project, cleaned the yards of house bound and ill residents, and cleaned parks and green spaces, many of which used to be plantations.

While our work was certainly meaningful and fulfilling, our reflections each night helped us understand that we cannot effectively end the cycle of poverty that many of the townspeople find themselves in. We cannot give them a job, a new home or air-conditioning system, a better school system or a degree. We can however encounter them at a personal, human level and look past the reductive “rural” “hick” “trailer park” labels that have unfairly been attributed to towns such as these. We can uplift their spirits for a few short days, make meaningful friendships with gracious and welcoming people, and refuse to leave our experiences and observations at our work sites and on our resumes.

Many takeaways from the trip were tangibly smaller than manual labor or long lasting impact on the community. They consisted of recognizing that the mansions next to dilapidated houses and migrant worker camps eerily resembled the dichotomous Roxbury - Chestnut Hill relationship, or even the Main Line - Norristown relationship. They included listening to the Fire Chief all but beg for money for state mandated equipment upgrades at the school board meeting that we attended, bringing my mind to the TESD school board meetings that discussed extraneous fencing projects. They included the stop at a town in North Carolina where a thrift store owner urged us to pay it forward by getting our degrees and moving to her impoverished town or towns like it.

I am convinced that I was served and helped more than the town of Hollywood was. We cannot fix their problems and we should not presume to do so, but we have to consistently question the social, economic and political circumstances that generate communities such as these and render them unable to escape their situations. We have to use Beth and the other community members who showed us immense love and hospitality as embodiments of the Jesuit mission. My spring break was indeed a break; a break from the privileged, opportunity-filled, and sheltered community that I spend 90% of my year in. It was one that continues to challenge me to be a woman for others, and in true Jesuit Spirit, reflect on why I am doing so.

I must admit that, having graduated from St. Joseph Prep, this entire “Live the Magis - Be a Man/Woman For Others” thing does resonate. Lent was a time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. As Elizabeth, Elisa and our Edge and LifeTeen parishioners show us, these reflections of the Risen Christ Lord should continue even after Easter Sunday arrives.

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