Concept of the Service Immersion
The 8th Grade Service Immersion is a capstone experience for all Christ the King 8th graders. If the goal of Christian education is to form young people in the image of Jesus Christ, the Service Immersion is designed to show them how to put their faith into practice. Therefore, it’s about more than doing service; it’s about recognizing how service is an obligation of their baptismal call, something they will need to throughout their lives in order to express their love for the God they cannot see by loving the brothers and sisters they can see. Although this is something they prepare for all year long, the experience culminates in the 3-day, 2-night immersion experience in Indianapolis at the end of the school year.
Of course, the Service Immersion is a fun experience and a time to make lasting memories with their classmates, but in order to make sure that the experience goes even deeper than that, the following elements are an integral part of the immersion:
- Hands-on service work each day
- Direct contact with the people they are serving, including the working poor, homeless veterans, and at-risk children.
- Daily Mass
- Time for group prayer and guided theological reflection to help the students process their experiences in the light of faith. (The Youth Minister is an active participant and leader on this immersion for this reason.)
- Setting concrete goals prior to the immersion, and being given the opportunity to reflect on these goals afterwards.
How the Students Prepare
Preparing for the Service Immersion is a year-long process. Throughout the year, they are introduced to the concept of Catholic Social Teaching from a variety of academic perspectives, studying it in each of their core classrooms. Each segment included class discussions and written homework. Here is a summary of the topics studied by students in preparation for the 2017 Immersion:
- Religion: Students studied how Catholic Social Teaching embodies the Church’s vision of how Christians are supposed to practice their faith in society in concrete ways, with a special focus on sharing Christ’s love with the poor and the needy.
- Social Studies: Students learned about special issues facing veterans, including why they are over-represented among the poor and homeless. (This was included specifically because one of our service sites was with homeless vets.)
- Math: Students looked at the working poor from a mathematical perspective, constructing family budgets for families living on minimum wage and learning how even working people can become trapped in the cycle of poverty. They were also shown mathematically how the type of service work that they were going to do in Indy could help ease the financial burdens of the working poor.
- Science: Students looked at the moral ramifications of scientific research, seeing how a properly-formed conscience can help scientists to make advances that promote human dignity and all other pillars of Catholic Social Teaching.
- Literature: Students looked at issues of poverty and social justice by studying To Kill a Mockingbird through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching.
- Language Arts: The students wrote about their experiences by learning how to set concrete, measurable goals beforehand, and by writing a theological reflection on their experience afterwards.
Students also raised funds to pay for the entire cost of the Service Immersion. The idea is that the trip costs parents absolutely nothing, and that students don’t need any spending money so that all students have the same experience regardless of their family’s income level. They were also given a detailed breakdown of the cost of the Immersion so that they knew exactly how much was being raised and how much was being spent. The students used all the funds they generated in the Economic Mall to cover the cost of the Service Immersion.