East L.A. Day 4 –Devyn
Well you could say we made it to day four with great adventures, tiredness, and scattered sickness throughout the group. On Tuesday, we started our day off with Mass at St. Mary’s. This was the third Mass I have ever been to and it was almost entirely in Spanish until the priest told our group what he was saying in English during the homily. This experience was incredible, and was one I will never forget. After Mass, we decided to walk to Skid Row with the sandwiches and apples that half of the group made in the morning prior to Mass. As we were walking and almost there we noticed some of the tents that were just on the border of the 15 block radius of the government sanctioned homelessness. As we continued walking, we were just about to enter the perimeter of Skid Row when Dan saw a man named Kaleb Havens. Dan talked about Kaleb beforehand as a man who was protesting the government and its lack of affection for the poor and homeless. As we ventured toward Kaleb we noticed that he was lounging in a sun chair with pants and no shirt on, and also had a chain around his waist that was linked around the buildings gate for his protest. Once we stopped in front of him, we introduced ourselves and he welcomed us to stay and chat. We asked him why he had a chain around his waist and he responded with saying that he had it around him as to prevent himself from being moved or moving. He also mentioned that he was fasting the 46 days of lent by eating nothing and only drinking pedialyte and water. To me this was so interesting by the way that he was so willing to give up food and his health for a cause that he believes in more than anything while following the teachings of God, but not being certain if he believed in the existence of God. This really made me think about my own faith and how I apply it to my life and how I live the gospel. Am I striving for God and his greatness or I am I serving the flesh?
East L.A. Day 4-Bret
Last night at dinner our group was sitting at King Taco and when Dan brought up our options for today. We could either go observe the DACA protests, or head to Skid Row and pass out sandwiches. As a Spanish major at Carroll, I have had to take a lot of classes on, not only the Latino language, but its culture as well, and for this reason, I really sympathized with those protesting Trump’s fade out of DACA and wanted to attend the protests. There were a few others in our group who wanted to go as well, but the majority voted for Skid Row, which made me sad. I was excited to serve however I could, and if that meant walking the streets of Skid Row and meeting the people experiencing homelessness in L.A., then I was all for it. Immediately when arriving, we encountered a man named Kaleb Havens who was a Catholic Social Service worker on hunger strike to protest the land banking occurring in the area. He was chained to an empty building that was on Skid Row and not being used for anything except storage when it could be being used as shelter for hundreds living on the street. Many of the realities Kaleb brought to my attention were startling and even angering. One of which was that there is only three working bathrooms or 6 toilets in this 15 block strip designated for the homeless. Six toilets for 3000 to 5000 people on any given day. Talking to Kaleb really set the mood for our time on Skid Row. God revealed himself to me continuously today. I saw him working through our freshman walking down Skid Row, shaking hands with homeless men and women and hearing their stories while handing out sandwiches and apple slices, and Erin nearly buying a convenience store out of pads and tampons to hand out to the women on the streets. I was blown away by the generosity of our group, and the joy the people experiencing homelessness brought to us.
East LA Day 3
March 5, 2018
As we walked into Homeboy Industries yesterday the radiating compassion, forgiveness, and kinship was undeniable. One Homeboy, Gary Powers, walked our group through the building. One story in particular really struck us; he talked about his involvement in gangs and his many years in jail. After coming to Homeboy he encountered a man that had been in a gang that rivaled his own. The man had killed several of his family members and friends… and that day he asked Gary for a ride home. Without hesitation, Gary agreed. He paused and was amazed by what he had done. He said, “For fifty years we have been killing each other, and now we bake bread together”.
Another line in particular struck me. Gary quoted 1 John 4:18 saying, “There is no fear in love.” Gary stood as living proof of this verse. True love knows no boundaries. True love does not see a difference in gang affiliation, neighborhood, or family. True love embraces everyone. Father Greg Boyle often tells the homies, “There is no us and them. Only us.” Personally, I saw this as a challenge to live more freely in love, and to be less afraid of the consequences of vulnerability.
The overall sense of community at Homeboy Industries was remarkable considering the undeniable differences the homies share. I was awestruck by the work of God in each individual that made up the community. Each homie has chosen to accept their enemy to work toward the better. Here I thought we were coming to help them, and yet they are teaching us things that will shape our lives forever. The exposure to pain and suffering bring us closer to God, and help us to understand the basic and beautiful human dignity of his greatest creation, the human being.
During this trip, we have seen the grace of God in a variety of ways, each of which has impacted us is different ways. From our host families’ endless generosity to the unity the various community under God at Homeboy Industries, the enormity of compassion has overwhelmed us. Our next journey we will visit Skid Row to continue our adventure anchored in Christ. We can’t wait to see what else God has in store for us.
- Bailey and Lacey
East L.A. Day 2
WE FINALLY MADE IT! Our leg muscles were starting to atrophy when we saw the wonderful exit to the Dolores mission. We took a brisk walk to a taco shack that was absolutely scrumptious! After eating tacos and small donkeys we voted to go to the beach and get a nice bronze tan/pray and reflect on the mission ahead of us. The second the car was parked we jumped out and sprinted into the water before Dan had a chance to make us put sunscreen on! The sun was just starting to slide off into the water and the salty breeze and vast ocean made for a great reflection on what we were about to experience. Baily shared with me a quote from an unknown saint that really pulled on my heart strings and got me thinking. Here goes, “All of our sins over the course of our whole lives are just a drop of water in the ocean of God’s mercy.” WOW! A drop! We’re talking SINGULAR! Watching the sun set over the vast ocean served as a great visual and just blew my mind. This applies to our L.A. Headlights trip so perfectly! One way it clearly applies is within homeboy industries. The men and women who work there according to the book “Tattoos On My Heart” are so full of love and hard work and care yet, they were previously gang bangers who might’ve even killed their own friends! How can they just have a single drop also? The answer is easy; God’s love. Just think about how Jesus forgave us, the very people who put him up on the cross in the first place! We’re on a mission, a mission from God, as the Blues Brothers would say. That mission is in each of our hearts from the day we are born until we die, and also, to serve the poor and vulnerable. Acts of service are drops of God’s mercy that water our souls so that we bloom in love for each other and God. We reflected on these things at the beach until we were all sufficiently soaked and breaded in saltwater and sand. We whipped the sand off of ourselves piled back into the vans and bounced to a grocery store. There we saw some of the BIGGEST oranges I’ve ever seen and gathered the ingredients for a yummy breakfast that we would be making for the homeless men who spend the night at Dolores Mission. After that we met our awesome host families and Anna, one of the host moms, made us a second dinner of taquitos which I ate too much of but thoroughly enjoyed followed by a very aggressive game of “Aggression” with her son, Diego. My host mom, Maria, prayed over me, Baily, Cheyenne, and Lacey before bed. It was a pretty laid back day that gave us time to prepare our hearts for the beauty and hardship of the service ahead of us.
East L.A. Day 1
Our first day began bright and early at 6:00am. We prayed as a group and piled into our two minivans, riding in style on our way to L.A. The morning consisted of the average interrogation while we asked each other lots of weird and interesting questions as we made our way through the fog and snow. The car was filled with deep conversations about all of the important topics, like french fries, leashes and Napolean Dynamite references. After a quick stop for lunch at Chick-fil-A, a first for some, we continued on our way and watched as the temperature rose the farther we got from Helena. Our day ended with mass at a beautiful church where three students were able to bring up the gifts, and finally arriving in Washington, Utah, where we’ll stay for the night.
Today I saw God in the twelve people who filled those two minivans. He was present in the many wonderful moments throughout the day. In the continuous joy and laughter on the road as we sang classic Disney hits and 2000’s throwbacks, in Rose’s reenactment of the Napolean Dynamite dance, and in the conversation as we ate the dinner we made together. This group is composed of incredible people who got up before the sunrise to serve the people we will meet in L.A. and I am I excited to continue to get to know them and serve alongside them this week.
Wednesday March 8, 2017
Happy International Women’s day!
Wednesday morning we woke up refreshed and ready to go. We piled in the car heading toward the one and only Homeboy industries. If you are unfamiliar with Homeboy industries, it’s an organization started by Father Greg Boyle. They hire specifically those who have had a criminal record and are emerced in the gang culture. When we arrived, we had some time before our tour so we sat and enjoyed some delicious coffee and pastries at Homeboy bakery. Soon after, it was time for the thought of the day. Father Greg Boyle made some announcements and then handed the microphone off to Brittany to talk about international women’s day. Some of the women at Homeboy shared a story of a women in their life who they look up to. From there, Carlos and Sam gave us a short testimony of their life prior to Homeboy industries and how grateful they are to be working for such a great company. Carlos explained how he was involved in a gang and sold drugs and now he works for Homeboy with ex-gang members from rival gangs and on his way to getting a college degree. As they shared we continued on their tour around the facility explaining everything that they offer to the Homeboy’s and Homegirl’s. We visited the office where they remove tattoo’s.
For lunch we walked over to the Homegirl Café where you are served a delicious brunch with a side of sass. We enjoyed a delicious meal ranging from chillataquila to pancakes.
When we got back from the screen printing company, it was nap/reflection time in the courtyard.
Mikayla and Rachel
Better late than ever we have arrived! East L.A. we love your culture and community, but we can do without the California traffic! We started our journey with authentic Mexican food at Yeya’s (can only be said with a sassy Ya-Ya!). Right off the bat we immersed ourselves immediately into the culture and joined our host families for the very first night! Each family took in 2-4 of us Carroll kids and provided shelter, food, and a loving Latino environment. Some of us were welcomed into the household with Arroz Con Leche, which is a rice milk hot drink/pudding, some went shopping, others watched movies, but one thing in common between each household was that there was conversation. The language barrier was very real. However; it forced us to realize that being communion with others does not necessarily require in depth conversation. There was a realization of appreciation for one’s physical presence and efforts to laugh and translate. Despite having a language barrier, the emotions of excitement, willingness, and genuine kindness were very apparent between us and our host families.
Our first full day in L.A. was spent at Delores Mission School. The children began their day in prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, reflections of the weekend, and a schedule for the week. Each of us were joined a classroom, and we spent half of the day learning with students and assisting the teachers. Papers were graded, math problems were solved, reading took place, and of course there was recess (still our favorite subject). Most of us echoed the excitement and strange reality to time travel back to elementary school and junior high. Also, a great talk with Vice President Melissa brought to our attention some of the struggles that she sees throughout the school and community. The education of these children is effected by home environment, gang violence, and the uncertainty of their futures. Melissa displayed compassion and brought wisdom to our conversation. Her goal to educate and create strong community members is lived through the teachers at the school. Melissa helped shed light on the challenges the children face and explained how strongly Delores Mission is involved in these children’s lives. For example, the teachers will walk the children home if a parent is unable to or if it unsafe for the child to walk alone.
After school we served with Impacto, which is an afterschool program offered for the children at Delores Mission. We joined in snack time, helped the kids finish homework, played games outside until the sun went down. Many of us appreciated being kids again and found that a lot of relationships can be built around good, clean fun!
After a full day with the kiddos, we broke off and went to our host families. Each family had prepared a meal for each of us. Tostadas, taquitos, enchiladas, and pupusa have been engraved into our daily diets and there is no complaining here! Each family displayed such generosity, excitement, and joy to share a meal with us and matched our level of appreciation. It is a rare occasion that we are welcomed into a strangers home with such hospitality and grace. It is a blessing that these four families said yes to expanding their family time and we are so very grateful for their actions.
Molly-Kate and Katie
Saturday Morning. An early wake up. So early, that many members were disoriented. Without the sun being up, the phone tree wasn’t able to grow and metaphorically photosynthesize. At 5:30 however, other headlighteers picked up the slack and began making calls of their own with varying levels of joy ranging from songs to confusion to apologies. All in all, everyone was excited and raring to go. The gang clambered into the cars. Six in one and six in the other. Sleep crept back in on some members almost immediately, and sickness overtook others, but as we breathed in the Idaho air, the whole crew was ready. In both “mom rockets” a game of questions was held. Everyone was asked their favorite superpower, who their confirmation sponsor would be if it could only be a member of the current Carroll student body, the best conversation they’d had this week and why, what their dream job would be, what would they do if money wasn’t an issue, how they’d met each person in the car, and many more. For many of these questions, there was a silence that filled the car. Each person had to think and was forced to examine just what these individual questions meant to them as we broached these subjects of personal faith and hopes and dreams. How God is active in our lives and what does he want from us. Are we being called down the right path and with the right people and how would we know. As the questions and answers flowed back and forth, the conversation heated up, and the bonding tightened. The jams were cranked and “Polaroid” by Imagine Dragons emerged as the unofficial theme song of the trip. Breakfast consisted largely of the numerous snacks in the cars and lunch was Jimmy Johns in Ogden, Utah. We enjoyed the fabulous food and people of Ogden before hitting the road and shuffling the cars once again. We met up with a beautiful family of two brothers and their kids and wives. They had so much love within them. Even the little ones who couldn’t speak. They touched us to a point that for many of us later that night, they were the high point of our long car ride. We really felt blessed to be around them and share our meal with them.
We hit the grand state of Utah late in the day. Known for its Mormons, beehives, and Jazz. We showed up to mass five minutes before starting. The perfect amount of time for every vanmate to relieve themselves in the Parish bathrooms. The mass and sunset upon conclusion were both absolutely gorgeous. If there was a moment for many of us where we saw God that day, it was in that moment. The mass was done flawlessly with the priest bringing up a killer Lenten homily, and the parishioners being so nice to us and offering us books to take with us from their tiny tow. When we left the church is when we saw it. A gorgeous array of reds and oranges splayed across the sky and each cloud sprayed with bright pink hues. The peace and feeling of wonder at the grandeur of God’s goodness that many of us felt in that moment was one many of us wouldn’t forget. We made our way to the local shopping mart and happened upon some chicken and pasta with some salad fixings for our dinner in Bryan Head. Bryan Head was a beautiful ski resort tucked into the side of a mountain with a spacious condo with too many TVs. The meal was incredible with very touching centerpieces and very lively “happys and crappys”. These happys and their following crappys really touched on the day for us and the moments we shared. It allowed us to live in solidarity with each other. Learning what each of the people on the trip valued in their day. Where they found joy, and where they moments of desolation. Those who did not cook the dishes, washed them, and those who did cook the dishes, lounged in the living room after dinner. We had our daily recap of where we saw Jesus and readied our bodies for the night and the day ahead. After all, we had gotten lost on our way to our room. Who knew what misadventures tomorrow might hold? And what did today really mean for us? For most, it was an excellent beginning to our trip, an affirmation that we’d made the right choice in coming, and a hint at what God had in store for us in the future.
Departure from East LA, Slot Canyon at Snow Canyon State Park
An interesting bit about the church of Dolores Mission is that it houses the homeless during the nights. When this practice was first starting there were some people of the community who’s noses weren’t too pleased. For the church was originally covered in carpet and after many nights of homeless men sleeping there with their various ailments and such, you can imagine the smell that began to arise within the church. The community then gathered to decide the fate of this practice and if the homeless should be moved. The very first person to grab the mic began inhaling deeply while standing in the smelly church and in front of everyone said, “To me and my mother, it smells like roses.” That was the end of the conversation, from then on the church became a shelter for the homeless and the community of Dolores Mission fully surrendered to the will of God. It has been a blessing to be a part of this community and to see great things happen just by allowing the Spirit to move freely.
This morning we had to say goodbye to our host families and start on our journey to Helena. After eating delicious pancakes made by our wonderful host mother, we set off into the sunrise for the vans parked at Dolores Mission. As we were walking, Cory had noticed that all around this community it smelled of roses. He had a great reflection tying it all together with the story mentioned above. This community does smell like roses and it is beautiful with a goodness that is difficult to describe. God is with this community in a very real, authentic way.
Before leaving LA, we got to pray one more time with Fr. Ted as he led us in a reflection over our journey through Dolores Mission. It was here that for many of us we were able to see God and start to prepare our hearts for our own mission. I ask that all of you reading take time to reflect with us and look to your own life and your own journey and ask God to prepare you for the mission. He asked us to journey back through our lives and our time in East LA looking for God’s call to live the Gospel in our own lives back home. It was during this time that I realized this week had not just opened my heart but ripped it open. The people of this community had tilled the soil of my heart.
As the mini vans headed for Snow Canyon State Park, Fr. Ted’s reflection remained planted in our hearts. While at the slot canyon we were able to soak in God’s creation and let that seed start to grow into something concrete and real. And it was something else! We all got to take some time to look and really see, touch and really feel. Through God’s creation we were able to open up our senses to be more attentive to His voice. This then prompted a discussion on our car ride home that really bore some amazing fruit. One reflection in particular was that of the Gospel where the widow gave to the treasury not from her excess but from her poverty (Mark 12: 41-44). We realized that we met this woman of the Gospel while at Dolores Mission. We encountered people and had host families that gave their all. They were in extreme poverty and yet they still gave. How many times do we give from our excess and think that we’ve “done enough” or that we’ve made our weekly sacrifice? These people gave all that they had and even if they seemingly didn’t have anything they would look harder and find something. They are the women from the Gospel, they are all living the Gospel completely and therefore living fully. Once again, I’d like to go back to Fr. Ted’s last conversation with us where he was frank and said that Dolores Mission is not there because of the wealth of the rich but because of the love of the poor. We are all called to don the spirit of the poor. This means that we are called to give not from our excess but from our poverty. It is here that we begin to experience the love of the poor in our own hearts. This love is one that is deeper than I, and most of us, have been able to encounter. We’ve been moved to compassion, to suffer with, and carry these people with us. We’ve been called to a new depth of love.
I hope that our story has begun to till the soil of your own heart and opened it to new growth ignited by the Holy Spirit. Become the face of the faceless in the Gospel and don the spirit of the poor.
Dolores Mission School, Father Ted’s talk, and the screening of American Crime
God has already blessed this week in more ways than I can count. Whether this was through providing us the opportunity to serve the homeless at the Saint Francis Center on Hope street, or allowing us to see the generosity of those who are serving the homeless on skid row in the Cardinal Manning center, God is good.
Today, God was no less generous. Our main task of the day was to work in the Dolores Mission School in a designated classroom. Being an education major myself, this was right up my alley. For my placement, the Dolores Mission School had me help out with the 1st grade class. Coming into the school, I expected the children to reflect the difficulties that they faced during their home lives, and to have many issues in the classroom. However, when I entered the classroom, all of the students were filled with joy and compassion, and were so willing to learn. One thing that really stuck with me from this time spent in the school was a conversation I had with one of the teachers, Mr. S. In this conversation, Mr. S. explained how his placement at Dolores Mission could not be described as a job, but rather a vocation. Our careers that we decide upon shouldn’t be based on our wants, but rather on what God is calling us too, and what He needs most from us. Mr. S. was the perfect example of someone doing their job in order to serve the Lord, and it was apparent through his enthusiasm and passion for what he was doing.
After the school, we had the privilege of listening to Father Ted give a talk about the community of Dolores Mission and some of the struggles that they face. I honestly don’t think that I have ever met a man more passionate about what he was doing that Father Ted. In my eyes, I would consider Father Ted a walking saint. In this talk, Father Ted really gave us a deeper understanding of the flaws in our immigration laws and regulations. On this trip, many of the people that we met would be considered undocumented. With this, many people say that we need to deport all of the undocumented immigrants. However, these people have never actually taken the time to get to know and understand the situations that these people are facing. Many of the people that we met fled Mexico in fear of their lives, and the lives of their families. Personally, as a Christian, I don’t understand how we can morally say that we should send these people back to an area in which they are in constant fear for their lives.
One thing that really stuck with me in Father Ted’s talk was his explanation of one of the pieces of art in the Dolores Mission Chapel. In this piece of art, Mary is portrayed as carrying Jesus on a journey from a small Mexican village to the city of Los Angeles. Mary has one arm extended as if welcoming us to join her in the journey, and to explain to those who have immigrated that they were not alone on their migration. Father Ted then went on to explain that Mary and Joseph, as well as Jesus could be considered undocumented immigrants, as they fled from King Harrod into a new country, Egypt. This picture really summed up the journey that the immigrants have made with faith in hope to find a better life in which they can serve the Lord as well as promote the well being of their families. I don’t want anyone who reads this blog to think that I am telling you to change your opinion on the subject, however I do think that anyone who reads this needs to take a moment to consider what the people who immigrate to our amazing country are facing, as well as the moral and ethical implications of our actions in forcing these immigrants to return to their home countries where the idea of tomorrow is a hope rather than an opportunity.
I really give no justice to the talk that Father Ted gave, as it truly moved mountains in all of our hearts and really changed the opinion of not only myself, but many others. The last part of our day was spent at a screening premier of episodes one and two of the new drama on ABC, American Crime. This show is about the realities that many of the homies of Los Angeles face in their lives and many things that they have gone through. What was amazing about this experience was not the show itself, but rather being able to see the men and women who are going through Homeboy Industries in a more natural setting. These men and women are incredible people who were caught in unfortunate circumstances throughout their lives but are seeking to give up their old ways and to be integrated into our society. Being able to hear them talk outside of Homeboy was really powerful because it really showed the hope and joy that they had towards the pursuit of a better life. It is hard to look past what people have done in their past, however it is essential in the process of loving everyone as Jesus loves us.
To end the night, we got to go back to our host families and spend the night with them. When I got back to my host family, we all sat around the table and asked each other questions and those who spoke English answered in Spanish and those who spoke Spanish answered in English. The language barrier was definitely one of the struggles that I have had on this trip, however this experience was extremely powerful because we got to work through that and assist each other in that struggle. Overall, I think the theme of the day was; that we need to learn to love people based upon who they are rather than what they are. These people have gone through situations that I can’t even imagine, and to see the compassion and joy that they live with is still beyond my comprehension. These people have ignited a passion inside of me that I hope I can share with you, and I hope that as I mentioned before, you take the time to think about the situations that these people have faced, as well as who these people are before you jump to conclusions.
Today we went to mass at the Cathedral at 7 and then we went to the Santa Monica beach and reflected. It was our second time at the Cathedral, and we learned a bit more about its history from a tour guide. It was built only 12 years ago. It was easier to appreciate it the second time because we weren’t as caught up in looking at the archietecture or art, but more the religious aspect that is there. We did some team building activities at the beach and got to know our group better. We also took some quiet time to reflect on everything we saw and heard this week. (Side note-we saw seals and dolphins at the beach!) We came back and had a picnic with all of our host families at the park. One host mom said it was the first time a group had come and stayed, and had dinner with everyone and played at the park with the kids. We thought that was pretty special and were glad to be a part of it. We also learned very quickly that we should not take the power of God and his ability to control the universe and all of its planets for granted, because the sun was definetly sent our way and we all had sunburns. Overall, our experience in LA has been very eye opening. It’s clear that God is at work through the community and people at Dolores Mission. We could not have felt more welcome in such a restless place. They are a very clear testimony of faith. Once more the sun has risen, and another day begins, but we are enjoying the LA weather and nature on this beautiful morning! Roger. Over and out. Steve and Veronica.