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Celebration of Service and Ministry

May 5, 2015

On Sunday, April 26 a community of people gathered in the Parmer Atrium to honor and celebrate all the many people and projects that have played a part in service or Ministry this past year. Here, we have a few of our students’ words that were shared that night. They offered insight into all that the Ministry and service teams achieve along with sharing their own personal experiences. We again would like to thank everyone who has reached out to us this past year, and look forward to sharing new experiences together next Fall.

Stephanie Zavala shares her introduction to the Celebration of Service and Ministry event. Stephanie is a senior, works for University Ministry, and is involved in Community Based Learning.

Good afternoon everyone! My name is Stephanie Zavala and on behalf of University Ministry and Community Based Learning I want to welcome you to this year’s celebration of service and ministry. We are here today to celebrate YOU and all of the ways you have offered your time, energy, and talents to create a community that encourages the pursuit of justice, knowledge, compassion, and truth. You are all truly the embodiment of Caritas et Veritas.

This past Spring Break, I traveled to Selma, Alabama with John DeCostanza and 9 other students who are here today to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. We visited Civil Rights museums, Dr. Martin Luther King’s house, the churches in which he served, and various other historic landmarks. We also marched across the bridge… alongside 90,000 other people!   2015-03-08 14.37.11-3

The streets were completely crowded with strollers, signs, people, and banners. Of course we were also carrying our own long Dominican banner in this enormous crowd and it was incredibly difficult to get through as people were shoving and there was little to no personal space. Because of the huge crowd, it took our group several hours to cross the bridge, even though in other circumstances it would have only taken about 5 minutes.  Yet, despite the difficult trek, all 11 of us managed to stick together… we held hands, pulled on each other’s shirts or book bags, and if some of us were getting left behind we patiently waited for each other. We were determined not to lose each other.

It is moments like these that reveal the real value and worth of being in a community like Dominican University – one that loves, supports, and encourages one another, especially when we all know that despite the chaos or struggle, we are all walking together through life in the name of solidarity, love, and truth. This is what each and every one of you have done this year in your own way – while walking the halls of this campus or walking out into different corners of the city, the country, or our world.  Whether you were leading retreats that allow us to grow in our faith, farming together in Iowa, building relationships with children with disabilities in Haiti, or in numerous other acts of service and ministry, we have all made Caritas and Veritas more present for others and have contributed to building a more just and humane world.  Congratulations.  We truly have so much to celebrate today!

As we begin our time together, I invite Christina Dziekonski to lead us in our opening prayer.


Rosie Hernandez is a freshman and involved in Liturgical Choir, SLAM, and Ministry en lo Cotidiano.

There are approximately 7.308 billion people in the world. There are 1,589,361 discovered species of living organisms in the world, 5,416 of which are mammals. We are one among many species. There are 7.308 billion of us.  In one minute, we encounter more living organisms than we can count on our fingers.

Interactions shape the world we live in. This year I was blessed with the opportunity of learning to make more meaningful interactions on a daily basis.

Being a member of SLAM, the Liturgical Choir, and Ministry en lo Cotidiano, has lead me to develop a better understanding of the interactions between my communities, my identity, and my spirituality. I have been given a greater sense of what it is to live the mission of Caritas and Veritas en lo Cotidiano, in everyday life.

My interaction with the Dominican community during my first year on campus has been directly shaped by my involvements with ministry and service. I have been encouraged to find God and prayer in everyday life. This has led to new understandings of truths, Veritas, that surround me. I have developed a new understanding of prayer. Prayer is peace. It is guided by a growth of self that can be attained by reaching a deeper understanding of our stories, of ourselves. Prayer is a peace that can be found when embracing Veritas, and recognizing our truth.

I have come to find that I can pray and find peace at any time, in any place. Prayer comes in all forms. It can be done silently or in unison. It can be sung or chanted. It can be structured or spontaneously inspired. It can be you. I have found peace in the quiet, I have found peace amongst chaos. I have found peace in singing during mass, ironing fabric in the sacristy, eating my lunch on my way to class, riding the bus on my way to my internship at Catholic Charities, and marching amongst thousands of people in the heart of the city advocating workers’ rights.

The most beautiful way in which I have encountered prayer is in conversation. I have been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of events that have broadened my appreciation of Caritas. Compassionate service isn’t only contained in the small bags we hand out during Service in the Streets. It comes from our smiles, our words, our interactions.

Ministry en lo Cotidiano is a program dedicated to training students as leaders who will help strengthen Latino communities. Being part of this ministry gave me the opportunity to build relationships with families of different stories and distinct identities, but similar cultures. In the Latino community at which I worked, I encountered a number of Latinos and Latinas who opened themselves up to love me. Their open-hearted vulnerability was radical for me. It was I who was there to make a difference, but I will argue, they made more difference in me.IMG_0778

Listening to their stories helped me come to a better understanding of my own story. I discovered a new truth.  I found that by the act of accompaniment, we learn to love others as equals and are, in turn, loved by them. Accompaniment is actively joining together to march towards new hope. It is to listen, encourage, and move forward with another person. In this march we all are one, we all are in community for a common cause. We all are carrying our baggage, our daily struggles, our feet are aching, but together, we continue marching on towards a better quality of life, towards a greater social justice. In community, more is possible.

The community I built through Ministry en lo Cotidiano strengthened my sense of identity, which directly strengthened the community and relationships I have at home. I have noticed the crossroads. The paths that connect my school, my internship, and my home all make up who I am. I have bridged a path between all three so that I can learn from them and they can learn from me.

This year, I have had many conversations that have made me re-evaluate my philosophy on life. That have challenged what I had known as truths and redefied them.  But that’s what college is supposed to do. It’s supposed to change a person, shape them to be a better version of themselves. That’s what I learned prayer is. Prayer is letting yourself recognize the chaos and learn how to find peace within it, how to shine a light through it.

As strong as I am and independent as I feel, I know I would not have developed my understanding of these truths or survived my freshman year without the support system from my communities.

We are living in a mutualistic relationship with the world around us, where organisms living together benefit from each other’s existence. As an interdependent species, it is in these frequent interactions that we find meaning to our life. That we find the peace and happiness to live fully.


Kayla Jackson is a senior, and this year’s St. Catherine medal recipient. She’s been involved in countless projects in both Ministry and service throughout her time here at Dominican, including being a member of SLAM.

Good evening everyone, President Carroll, distinguished guests, Mommy & Dada

I’m so very honored to be this year’s St. Catherine Medal recipient. To be recognized for my service and leadership within and outside our Dominican community is both exciting and a bit frightening. I hadn’t realized anyone was watching. Although I stand before you alone on this stage, I would like to invite you all to close your eyes and imagine a big group of smiling faces standing here beside me. Each of those smiling faces represent all the family, friends, professors and mentors, past and present, who have helped me grow into an individual capable of even being considered as a candidate for this wonderful award. In reality, this stage could not possibly hold even a portion of all these magnificent people. They have invested in me, working with me each and every day. They have blessed me with their time, presence, and most importantly, their patience.

Long before I knew how to name them, Caritas and Veritas (love and truth) were present in my life.  Caritas manifested itself in the greatest gift God could have ever blessed me with: My family. When we’ve experienced rough periods or faced times where we did not have much I always knew one thing for sure, that if everything else ran out, our love would be forever abundant. My family has always supported me, and it is because they showed me such love and compassion that I can give it myself. Because of them, I want to give it. Because of them, I feel I need to give it. You have them to thank for what many of my friends refer to as the, “Kayla hug.”

Caritas has also revealed itself to me through my second family, my Dominican family! The community I’ve found in SLAM and the liturgical choir is filled with so much love. Father Samuel Mazzuchelli said to “make school as much like home as possible”. It is because of the love my Dominican friends, professors and mentors have shown me that Dominican University has become a second home to me.DonnaCar-Kayla2

Veritas, first expressed itself to me through my favorite high school teacher, Mr. Sheridan, and his gracious invitation for me to seek truth. It was in his 8th period theology class that I first began to educate myself on social justice issues such as hunger and homelessness, issues I feel so strongly about today. Kindled by the supportive community I have found here at Dominican and in University Ministry, my love for service which sparked in high school, has grown into the passionate flame it is today. I’ve been blessed with so many opportunities to serve and seek truth, whether it be serving our homeless brothers and sisters in Chicago on a Service in the Streets or learning in class about the systems which create homeless individuals. On an Alternative Break Immersion Trip to Nazareth Farm, I learned about our country’s coal mining boom while serving communities still living with the repercussions of it in West Virginia. The most powerful experiences, however, are those where I can invite others to seek truth and serve. Whether it be raising awareness about hunger and homelessness at our annual Hunger Banquet, leading ABIs, or educating others about low wage worker’s rights tabling in the Alcove, I know leadership calls me to engage others in working together to fight injustice. Dominican has taught me the value of our four pillars, specifically community and the amazing possibilities that lie ahead of us when we act together. We are all so different, and it is beautiful when people of all different backgrounds and beliefs share a common thread: a love for justice. We are many parts, and although we are all different, it is love and truth (Caritas and Veritas) which makes us one.

It is because of Mr. Sheridan and many individuals like him who have invited me to seek truth that I seek it endlessly. Because of them, I view the world with a critical lens, and wish so much to participate in the formation of a more just and humane one through my service.

You see, I would not be here if it were not for the endless love and support given to me, the amazing opportunities allotted to me and the transformative experiences that I’ve gained from them. As I accept this award today, I have this all in mind; all those smiling faces, they receive this award as well. As the old African proverb goes, “I am because we are.”

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Misson to the Mound

March 31, 2015


Two Students share their experiences over Spring Break on the Mission to the Mound retreat in Sinsinawa, Wisconsin.

Going to the Mound during my Spring Break was a great decision. As a future Dominican Volunteer, I thought it would be a great experience to learn more about the history of Dominican as well as getting to know the Sisters who have become a great part of that history. Every time I told a Sister that I got accepted to become a Dominican Volunteer their faces lit up with joy for me. I think I have about four Sisters praying for me on my behalf. I felt like a rock star there.IMG_0184

Being so far away from everything, I got to enjoy the beauty of the Mound. I was also able to get some really nice pictures. During my free time I went on a hike to explore the Mound with my friend and once we reached the top we saw an actual Bald Eagle! The word Sinsinawa means, “Home of the young eagle,” so this was a neat moment to experience. It was a great bonding moment for us to share and talk about.  I learned a lot about the history of Dominican during our three days but I also learned more about myself. I have a better outlook for the future.  I encourage others to go to the Mound before they leave Dominican because it truly is a wonderful place. There is also the bonus of Mound bread!

Brian Manjarrez is a senior majoring in Psychology. Next year, he will serve with Dominican Volunteers in either Racine, Wisconsin or New York.

At the beginning of Spring Break I had the opportunity to attend the Mission to the Mound retreat. It was a great way to unwind from a very stressful midterm’s week, and to just experience something new. We traveled to Sinsinawa, Wisconsin, where Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli founded the Dominican Sisters and where many Sisters still reside today. The area of the Mound is on top of huge hills with a beautiful view of the countryside of Wisconsin. It is amazing to see how much natural beauty can help you forget about your individual stress and provide relaxation.IMG_0153

The Mound had a beautiful chapel, a lower level mini history museum, an auditorium, a gift shop, and of course, housing for the Sisters. We visited the former home of Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli in Benton, Wisconsin and also the cemetery where he is buried. The more I learned about him, the more appreciation I had for my lovely Dominican school! This amazing University would not have existed if this brave man did not come from his native home in Italy, not knowing any English, and became missionary at a very young age! He was a man who respected women, and truly believed that all women should have an education. In his day, it was very rare for women to receive a world class education, but he, along with other Sisters, completely changed that reality. They started out with Saint Clara College there in Sinsinawa and eventually relocated Rosary College to right here in River Forest, and then renamed it Dominican University.

The Sisters we met in Sinsinawa are all absolutely incredible. They definitely redefined the role of “Sister” for me! Many were teachers, activists, pilots, in the military, or were feminists before feminism was an actual thing! I was lucky to engage in a conversation about diversity with them, and the most incredible thing about it is that they wanted to learn from us. I was so surprised at how much thinking we had in common. They are truly beautiful, kind, generous women who welcome you with open arms, and they want you to return anytime you get the chance. They made Sinsinawa another home for me!

Alejandra Reyes is a Junior and is passionate about science, equality, and helping others.



Make Time to Take Time to PAUSE

February 20, 2015


Kathleen Burns, Marketing Assistant for University Ministry, shares her reflection on the beginning of Lent and the upcoming PAUSE week.

The timing of PAUSE week is no coincidence. Even during the very first days of Lent, we start to feel our schedules, responsibilities, and those things that stress out us the most, seeping back into our lives and slowly fading our focus on the commitments we’ve made. This pattern is all too familiar and not exclusive to Lenten promises. We make goals or renew our focus to an important priority until our hectic lives take over so much that we eventually find it very stressful to keep up with the goal, or maybe even eventually forget about it altogether. I think we all can recall a time we gave up candy and television, promised ourselves to stick to a diet, or decided to change our attitude, and found that goal withered away in less than a month or so.

Now is the time to do it right. Now is the time to stick to the promise, keep that focus, and balance the busy schedule to do so. While committing and following through on a goal is no simple task, there are ways to make it easier. One of the most successful ways I’ve found to keep striving toward a goal despite the chaos of my daily life is to make time to take time to pause. As we jump from one thing to another, it’s so easy to forget what priorities matter the most. Whether it’s an hour, or a few minutes, taking time to ease our minds and re-focus our aim to what we want will help us reach the many ambitious goals in our hearts.

PAUSE week is just an introduction. It’s a taste of the many different tools we can use to pause in our everyday lives. From Aikido and meditation, to painting and praying, this week of pausing is meant to remind and inspire everyone to take time in their own lives to reflect, relax, and unwind. Participating in this week’s events is a great way to get into the habit of doing so. So join us! Come to as many events as you can, and let them strengthen you to keep going and reach whatever goals you have your sight on today. Remember, PAUSE week is just the beginning opportunity to make time to take time to re-focus yourself on those things most important to you.

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A New View

December 2, 2014

Kathleen Burns, Marketing Assistant in University Ministry, shares her reflection on service and this year’s Hunger Banquet.

The immediate mental picture that accompanies homelessness is often that of a physically unkempt man on a busy street corner with a cardboard sign. Simply doing a Google Image search of the term ‘homeless’ confirms that generalized image: a man, a corner, and a sign. I too held this stereotype of what homelessness looked like and always figured that there was some foreign reason I didn’t understand, that caused a person to end up without a home and hungry. However, this year my vision and understanding of homelessness and hunger has significantly changed through my experiences in both Service in the Streets and in attending the recent Hunger Banquet.

Where Service in the Streets allowed me to have the amazing experience of connecting with the homeless in Chicago and hearing their stories, the Hunger Banquet confirmed what I had learned from those I had met in Chicago: that the homeless service in the streets logo 2and hungry are not unlike me or anyone else at all. I learned about the many complex and difficult decisions that those who are hungry and on the brink of homelessness deal with every single day. At the banquet, each table was given a laptop to access an online simulator that recreated what it was like to be in that situation. There were choices such as, going to a loved one’s funeral or missing it to save money, or attending your child’s school play or skipping it to not miss a day’s pay at work, or even leaving a note after you bumped into someone’s car or performing a hit-and-run because you can’t afford to pay the insurance. Each decision was more difficult than the last. It helped me realize that hunger banquet logo newpeople in these situations don’t really have a choice out. They are put into a box that forces them to choose between two extremely hard decisions.

Another lesson that struck me was brought up by the discussion leader at my table. During the banquet, each table was assigned a discussion leader from Dominican’s Graduate School of Social Work. My leader made the point that the obvious symptoms of homelessness and hunger are physical, such as not being able to buy medicine or being cold and hungry. However, those are not the only pressures that weigh on someone in that position. Being on the verge of homelessness disrupts the family dynamic and puts enormous emotional stress on everyone involved. Children in these homes can feel resentful or hurt that their parent isn’t around for them as much because they are at work all the time. The parent in turn, feels guilty for not being able to be there, but can’t because the family needs the money to survive. Over-working and hunger combined takes a huge toll on them as well. I never fully realized all the small but extremely impactful issues that families on the verge of losing their home face every day.

While I ate soup and salad, along with the bread brought by other banquet attendees, I reflected on everything I had learned and how grateful I was for never having to worry about where my next meal is coming from. As we now transition into the holiday season, I aim to show my gratitude by helping those in need. Through Service in the Streets and the Hunger Banquet, I see that every effort towards providing food, conversation, and warmth to the hungry and the homeless makes a huge impact. Volunteering at soup kitchens, homeless shelters, Service in the Streets, or even just smiling and donating to anyone you see in need on the street are all great ways to help during this holiday season. As I push myself, I also urge everyone to spread love, joy, and help as much as possible this year.

A special thanks to all those involved in putting on this year’s Hunger Banquet: Office of Community Based Learning, Amnesty International, Office of Student Involvement, Graduate School of Social Work, and Eco Club.

Why Sheep?

December 1, 2014


Miguel Ortiz’s preaching from the mass on Sunday of Christ the King.

Welcome all to this Sunday of Christ the King. My name is Miguel Ortiz and I am a senior here with a major in computer science. Not only do I attend classes here, but I also tutor computer science and CIS students, I am the Liturgical Coordinator for Lectors, and I am part of the Student Leadership and Ministry program, also called SLAM. When I was invited to preach for this Mass, I was delighted because I would get to do what every Dominican is called to do—preach! As you may already know, today is Christ the King, so I will focus on our LORD King, Jesus Christ.

As you just heard in the readings, Jesus refers to sheep as the righteous people, but why sheep? What do we know about sheep and what do we know of their shepherds. Well, we know that sheep can be kind of dumb, not really doing anything but eating, and that may be so with some of us here. But Jesus refers to us as sheep because sheep have always been so important to society because of their agricultural benefits. Also, sheep can recognize their shepherd by their face and voice. This is the main reason why Jesus refers to us as sheep, because we are called to follow our shepherd, Jesus Christ.

Then, if Jesus is our shepherd, what can we expect from him as a leader? We know through the stories of the Gospel readings that Jesus is not simply our leader, but our king. Now, many might have a skewed view of what a king might look like or what a king might do. But a just king does right for his subjects. Aright king acts like a shepherd. Our king, Jesus Christ, serves us and cares for us the way a shepherd looks over his flock. No matter where his sheep might go wrong, he always goes to correct it. If we are hurt, the shepherd heals. If we are lost, the152 shepherd finds. And if we feel unloved and alone, Jesus gives us love and company. In our second reading we hear: Christ the King “will put all his enemies under his feet” including death. Our king is a great a powerful king, but a king that loves us to the point of death on a cross. Our shepherd died for our sins because of his love for us, and so we should strive to be righteous sheep.

I heard a story once that I have modified to fit our lives, and it goes like this: There was a college student who was praying one night and heard from Jesus. Jesus told him that he would come visit him the next day. The student, excited for the news, woke up the next morning and began to prepare for the visit. While the student was doing his bed, his RA knocked on the door to invite him to an event where he would go and spend time with his peers. But he said, “No thank you. I’m too busy preparing for something more important.” The day continued and as the student dusted and finished up his chores, his little sister called asking for help on a big research paper she had to do. But he said, “No I can’t help you. I’m really busy preparing for something really important.” Finally, the student had finished all his chores and was waiting for Jesus to walk through the door, and he heard a knock on the door. It was his best friend who had just broken up with his girlfriend, and the student felt really bad but he said, “Sorry I can’t talk to you now. I have something important to do in a little bit.” The night arrived and the student was mad and prayed, asking Jesus why he never came to visit him. And Jesus replied, saying, “I tried to visit, but you were always doing something more important”.

Today we celebrate our king—Christ the King, and we do that by bending our knee to him and acknowledging that he is our one king. We need to remember the great love he has for us. We refer to him as our shepherd because he leads us to eternal happiness. If we want Jesus to be our shepherd though, we need to remember to be righteous sheep. The Gospel says this: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me.” And “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me”. The kind of sheep we are called to be are sheep that follow their shepherd, and sheep that serve our brothers and sisters. Are you going to be a good sheep, or are you doing something more important?Miguel Ortiz

Recess: Play and Pray

November 10, 2014

Rosie Fiasche, a freshman at Dominican and first-year student leader in the Student Leadership and Ministry (SLAM) program, shares her experiences on the Fall retreat to the Sinsinawa Mound.

Over the long weekend in October, I went on my first retreat to the Sinsinawa Mound. It was not only my first time at the Mound but it was also my first time leading a retreat. It was an amazing experience. The theme this year was “Recess: A Mid-Semester Break to Play and Pray.” During this retreat we explored our inner child and how to find peace and joy as college students. We had a few sessions that explored different aspects of our theme.

Session 1 was Letting Go, where we reflected on what stresses and frustrations we experience, and we spent time focusing on how to let go. Session 2 was Peace and Joy – the fun session. We recreated the best parts of our childhood: singing, playing 1960811_10154788645480341_3764751873190113363_ooutside, making a craft, and we also had time to meditate and think about how to cope with stress. It was a time to let go and be a kid again. During my nature walk I started climbing and jumping off the rock walls around the grounds. It was fun because it reminded me of what I use to do as a child. I used to climb everything!

Session 3 was about Trust. A child often gives trust easily, but when we get older it is harder to trust because we might have had challenges that stop us. The session was special because we had time to talk to some Sinsinawa Sisters. They told us many stories of their time in ministry, which were so heartfelt and emotional. The stories I heard surprised me. Sister Nora Ryan told us of her work as a Chaplain in a hospital during the AIDS epidemic. I know there is suffering in the world, but to get a first hand account of it was moving. The Sisters talked about trusting God and how trusting God is a slow work, and it takes time. I thought back to a poem called The Slow Work of God by Teilhard de Chardin, SJ.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through

some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.


And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.


Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

     Humans are such impatient beings; we want things right here, right now. We cannot wait for our future to come, for our lives to begin. But the thing is, time isn’t going to go faster just because we want it to. One of the lines of the poem I found especially true was, “and it may take a very long time.”

As a leader, I saw great changes happening within our small group. It was inspiring to hear their stories. They weren’t afraid to let go, trust not only themselves but other people, and they were willing to find peace and experience joy. Above all, we had fun and that’s what we wanted to do. By the end of the weekend my face and stomach hurt from laughing and smiling all day. We created a community.10633485_10154788646435341_2893833582033804853_o

Do you think you can let go and move forward with a new destination in mind? Are you able to trust freely? Will you let yourself find peace and joy? Most of all, what can you do to receive this and pass it on to others?

New Hope

November 3, 2014


Elizabeth Dworzecki shares her experience at the “Just Food” Alternative Break Immersion trip.

For our long weekend at Dominican, many students stay at home, study, do homework, or relax. My long weekend was exactly the opposite. Last weekend, with 8 other Dominican students and 2 staff members, I went on an Alternative Break Immersion through University Ministry called “Just Food”. One of the main purposes of this service trip was to use our voice to address issues of social justice surrounding food. This includes concerns about access to food and corruption in the food industry.

On Friday we all met at school at 8am, had a breakfast and started our trip right here in the city of Chicago. Our first stop was at a very green, efficient restaurant called West Town Bakery and Diner. From their website I went back to find out the exact details of how “green” they really were. West Town always uses local, organic, and sustainable ingredients. They  strive to use as many local and all-natural ingredients as possible, down to the flour, butter, eggs, nuts, chocolate, milk, fruits, vegetables, oils—everything. Their products come in environmentally friendly packaging. They even make deliveries in hybrid vehicles and use green-approved lighting in the bakeries. And when they are done for the day, they compost, recycle, and use eco-friendly products to clean up. It was truly inspiring to know that there is a restaurant that cares this much and shows that it is possible. I learned how much every other restaurant truly wastes and harms the environment.

Later on we went to Logan Square and had a lunch challenge among the group. We went to a food desert, where there are no grocery stores for a couple miles, and many people depend on public transportation to get around. Some went to a “liquor store/gas station” and some to a food co-op called the Dill Pickle with only $25 to purchase a lunch meal for each other. This activity was a lot harder than it looked. It truly was an experience to see how difficult it would be to live in a food desert area and support a family as well.

We then arrived in Iowa at the New Hope Catholic Worker Farm. It was a lot different than I had expected, but, then, I really didn’t know what to expect at the time! I imagined a big red barn and horses, but it was nothing like that. It was more of a little community of 4 houses clustered together. There were about 15 individuals including children that live on this farm. They focus on joy, team work, forgiveness, and most importantly simple living. Many of us could not even imagine how simple and possible it is for people to live and survive this way in today’s world.

There were many differences between the New Hope Farm in Iowa and just River Forest itself. They found ways to live without running water, barely any meat in their diet, minimal energy by using solar panels, and using animals on the farm for the direct food that they will be eating that day. They had a cow, many chickens, sheep, and a dog on this farm, and from those animals (besides the dog!) they had received what they were going to use for food or fabric. It was quite the culture shock for me, but I have learned more than I could have ever imagined.

This Alternative Break Immersion, “Just Food” has taught me how it is truly possible to live without all the fancy, expensive, planet-harming things that we live with. It has taught me to be more earth-connected and to use what the earth has to give us in the most beneficial way. We are taught to always “think big” in school, but this weekend I have learned the exact opposite, to “think little.” Many of us want to make more money, or own more, but how about thinking of simply spending less money – to minimize waste, water, and energy usage and to help the environment since we know it may not last forever? We need to disconnect with this busy, fast-paced world, and connect more with the earth and Mother Nature herself. It’s not easy for all of us to jump into this simple-living life; we need to make baby steps, baby steps to a more simple and earth-efficient life.