Hello Marianists far and wide from the Tri-Wizard tournament Marianist breakout style. (I hope at least some of you appreciate the Harry Potter reference: three schools of magic in the book, and the three Marianist Universities in the United States I hope the parallel is clear). My name is Rob Sander and I have never blogged before and I find is the story with many of my fellow "wizards" here. I am merely a twenty one year old from Cincinnati and Senior at the University of Dayton studying religious studies and secondary education. Faith is an important part of my life, and I seek to put that faith into action and become more socially aware as the example of Jesus, Mary, and our Marianist founders call us to be. Recently I have been called to become a lay Marianist and I was formed in that in April of 2012 in the Stellae Dei community. I also did a unique service program over the summer called the University of Dayton summer Appalachia Program or UDSAP; I am a member of UDSAP '12. It is a long standing tradition of U.D. serving the people of Appalachia; if you wish to find out more search "UDSAP" on the University webpage. This is what has really made me want to find even more ways to be more socially active and aware in our world.

I am honored to be here in Los Angeles representing U.D. along with Maureen O'Rourke, Theresa Spanel, Amy Fox, and Michael Ising. These people are amazing and have been my community since 5:00 a.m. last Saturday. I have done many service trips in many places. I have never seen quite like I have experienced here in Los Angeles. For one, I love the solidarity and how fast friends I have become with the other students from Chaminade University and St. Mary's University. We come from very different places yet we are all bound the same mission, charisms, and spirit. I have had a lot of fun getting to meet each and every one of them. This is a really fun group to be around and hope we continue to develop our friendships after this ends. It is so nice to grow in my vocation as a Lay Marianist which most of the reason I applied to come to L.A. I have a mission statement but I wanted to put some flesh to what I truly meant went I wrote it. That is spreading the Marianist Spirit by being life giving, working for justice, and leading in community and through service. Well the first day my fellow U.D. participants and I went sightseeing at Santa Monica pier since we arrived before everyone else on Friday. L.A. traffic is heavier than anything that I know, and it takes some getting used to as I am sure Mo (Maureen) our driver will attest. We then got to meet our friends from the other Marianist Institutions. We got to know one another that day through some fun games, and activities that we came up with. Sunday was our first full day together we went to Spanish Mass, which was a wonderful cultural experience. We then browsed the Mexican market and finally ate lunch at the El Paseo Inn in downtown. After this we got to meet the L.A. Marianists for dinner, and saw Chaminade high school (I loved the blue turf). They were so welcoming with their home, and food (especially the nachos!) without even knowing us. For me, this was an affirmation and sort of renewal of excitement about being Marianist. I had wonderful conversations with many of the brothers out here including Father Jim, Brother Jim, and Brother Tom. Brother Jim told me a great story that I will let him retell; just ask him about the cannibals (Your eating too fast!).

The following day we started out in Chinatown and looked around. Next we ate at Phao 87. It is a Vietnamese restaurant which employs immigrants from Vietnam and helps them find opportunity in Los Angeles. Mr. Dinh the owner is so welcoming like the Marianists on an even deeper level. He had very little to welcome us but took care of us and waited on us hand and foot. He did not even accept payment, and there are fifteen of us! We also met Marianist priest Fr. Ted Ley. Whose stories about his work here in L.A. are truly inspiring. After meeting Phan a Vietnamese immigrant who told us the harrowing story of how he made it out of South Vietnam to America, and others were not as fortunate. He also discussed the opportunity he had here in America to get an education and a Master's degree in Engineering. He also told us about how with faith and the Eucharist propel him to do great things like volunteer at the youth group that helps children grow up with the love, respect and friendship they need. After that we went to the Midnight Mission on Skid row and experienced the homelessness problems of Los Angeles. It is a homeless shelter, and a recovery house for homeless men addicted to substances, and who need help with a fresh start on life.  We were given a tour and told a personal story from one of the executives of the Midnight mission, and another from our tour guide; who both went through the program, and have recovered from a difficult time in their lives. We then served dinner with some other volunteers (the shelter serves three meals a day to as many homeless people as possible). I was responsible for cleaning off the trays and sorting the cups and silverware after they had finished their meals. It was good to see the glimmer of hope that some of my "thank you's" and God bless you's" sparked. It was also difficult to see those that seemed to ignore or sarcastically remark back at us. Overall we met some wonderful people at the midnight mission and had some wonderful experiences with the workers (many of whom are in the program to recover) and the homeless we saw. The midnight mission is all privately funded and really works the right way to truly make a difference in people's lives. Well it is getting late and we have another full day tomorrow. I thank God for this wonderful opportunity to grow in my capacities to Learn, Lead, and Serve. I will continue to relay my experience to all of you at a later time. God bless all of you. May the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit be glorified in all places through the immaculate Virgin Mary.
-Amen

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