Day 2: Testing the Waters!

Hey guys! My name is Roberta Schoenmakers and I'm from St. Mary's University in San Antonio, TX.

We began our day at Dolores Mission; Brother Brandon, the students and I barely took two steps out of the car before we were greeted by someone parking their car next to us. He immediately recognized us as people new to the parish and introduced himself as a parishioner named Pete who was heavily involved with Dolores Mission and the services it offers. It really made me feel welcomed because he took interest in each of us and asked our names as well as what we wanted to do after graduating.

We then went to the Lady of Angels Cathedral that had beautiful tapestries that lined the walls with over a hundred different saints of all kinds of backgrounds but all facing towards the front of the church and towards the altar. We each got a saint and handed envelopes to learn about our individual saints. I got Lucia Khambang, a Thai nurse who continued to run a congregation after the killing of the congregation's priest.

We then had lunch with Claudia Larson who made a documentary on Dorothy Day. She was incredibly sweet and humble and told us the many obstacles she faced while filming the documentary and how 15 years later she finally finished the movie. After lunch, we met with the West Hill Marianist Brothers and talked about their vocation stories and toured the Chaminade College Prepatory High School. What was amazing to witness was how the brothers knew people from St. Mary's and their connections with other brothers all over the world.

We ended the day with a reflection at the top of the Hollywood sign; Brother Mark asked us to talk about what light meant to us. To some it serves as guidance, for others hope and for others the light represents what we are searching for in life; at some points in our lives we can all feel like we are in the dark with no sign of light.

Tomorrow is an early day that begins at Homeboy Industries!!


Hey everyone, it's Ana-Sofia Valdes from St. Mary's University. It's been a great second day here in Los Angeles, after a great night's rest (almost 12 hours of sleep) we were all energized to begin our immersion in LA. Our day included Spanish Mass at Dolores Mission, a visit to the Cathedral, small talk with the Brothers and a tour of Chaminade High School. We ended the night with a visit to Griffith Park Observatory. With so may great events, there's so much to share and not nearly enough time, but I'll invite you to read about the distinct experiences that impacted me the most for today.

First, a little bit about me, partially because that will get my writing wheels turning and mostly because I love to share. I'm a Senior, Engineering Science major and originally from Saltillo, Coahuilla, Mexico. I was raised in Corpus Christi, Texas since I was four years old and have three older siblings. Throughout my life I was blessed to have encountered many social issues through experience and relationship. From these moments, I gained the passion for education and helping those that face poverty. Within my college career this passion has grown and has led me to include many Marianist teachings in my work with non profit organizations. I came on this LA Immersion trip to connect with a different community and push myself to see new issues through the eyes of others.

Thus far this trip has reminded me more of home than I expected. As we visited Dolores Mission today I saw the familiar sights of grown men playing on a soccer field, Mexican candies being sold on a cart, and Hispanic women followed by loyal husbands into the church. The simplicity and vibrancy of the building reflected a Hispanic culture that thrives of obtaining bare necessities and flourishes of the different colorful personalities that its people has.

As we sat waiting for Mass to begin I found myself teleported to an environment that was way too familiar to be located two time zones away from my hometown. The women of the church were greeting parishioners as if each one was the prodigal son that had returned. Filled with such love for everyone that flowed out with a simple hello. The three kings were prepared for the procession, which reminded me of the days I filled shoe boxes with grass waiting for the wise men to pass by my house. Then the music began and all I could think about was how much my mother would appreciate my presence in this parish and the fact that I was actually singing along.

Though I was trying my best to focus on the presence of Christ throughout Mass I was pulled by my longing to have had this cultural experience surrounded by my family. As the youngest child of immigrant parents and an immigrant myself, I spent my life separating a distant past in effort to be successful in a completely different world. This morning was the first time in my life that I looked at people who shared my cultural roots and envied them. I asked myself, "Why had I fought off such an amazing feeling of culture my entire life? How had I lived around so many Hispanics in South Texas and not connected more with my people?

Then the Homily began and God seemed to answer these questions with more than I had bargained for. The priest retold the story of the three wise men and broke down the scene by characters and artifacts. He focused mainly on the brightness of the star and its importance in our lives and had us reflect on those who were the stars in our life. He then focused on Herod and his role, he asked us then to focus on the Herods in our lives. He said one line particular that caught my attention the most. "[Estas personas] son el medio a dios pero tambien son el medio del camino. Lo mas importante es como viven estudes con la luz y los Herods de sus vidas." He essentially had us reflect on people and events in our lives both good and bad. He pushed us to realize hat we can find God through many things but none of these are God and though we may be blessed or burdened life is a means through which we are all called to be Saints regardless of what trials we do or don't face.

This stuck with me as I pondered the rest of the day on my cultural indifference. I realize God had blessed me in many ways, giving me opportunities that others facing my challenges may not have gotten. However, through experiences like this Immersion trip and the experiences I'll have when I return home, God is also calling me to connect with people that share my roots and to not be afraid to be vulnerable with them. Today, a community that I had read about in the book Tattoos on the Heart by Greg Boyle came to life in a way that pulled me very close. Today, I felt a tie to a culture I never knew I could love. But most importantly, today, I saw the power of people so devoted to God's love that no lack of anything could dull out the light they let shine with their ordinary actions.

Today was a great day!


Ana Sofia Valdes
St. Mary's University
Class of 2015


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