Spring Hill College Campus Ministers, Colleen Lee and Billy Kavula, and 12 students participated in the College’s first Jesuitorientated domestic service immersion trip the week of May 16. Seeking to serve others, as well as understand the work of Jesuit social ministries, they traveled to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to work with Fr. Rick Abert S.J., pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows in Kyle, South Dakota and two neighboring parishes. Fr. Rick has served the reservation for ten years and follows the mission laid out by those before him: To develop and grow as a vibrant church, through an education of the mind and spirit that promotes Lakota and Catholic values.
Inspired by the Spring Hill College promise statement “forming leaders engaged in learning, faith, justice and service for life,” the goal of this trip was to give the students an experience of Jesuit ministries different than the ministry of higher education and to offer them the opportunity to, if only briefly, serve in solidarity with those whom Jesuits work and serve, discover why Jesuits and their lay companions feel so strongly called to serve at Pine Ridge, and to reflect upon how their own future vocations might lead them to serve in a similar fashion. In the same way our students serve others and witness social justice advocates at work during our international trips to Belize, Nicaragua, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and other countries each year, this trip was designed to bring an awareness of social justice issues that are faced by many in our own country.
This experience, which engaged students in both service and immersion, included meeting the elders, participating in Lakota rituals, traveling to Wounded Knee to learn of the massacre that took place there, assisting in various projects on individual family ranches and serving in Our Lady of the Sioux elementary school, Red Cloud High school, and Our Lady of Sorrows parish. One of the major projects they undertook was helping to build a community garden and serenity prayer space behind Our Lady of Sorrows Church, complete with fire pits, benches and a picnic area. Staying at the church rectory, the group cooked for themselves and invited Lakota families to join them for meals and the sharing of stories with one another each evening.