"If you want peace, work for justice" - John 6 - Madi Perales

Hello blog readers,

My name is Madison Perales, and I am a rising junior at St. Mary's University is San Antonio, Texas.  I am majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in Visual Communication Design.  

Our day consisted of three main components: The hike, Our Lady of Talpa, and the cultural dinner.  Each was beautiful and unique with a bittersweet taste because in our minds we knew this was our last full day together.

The hike started early, and we headed out to Monrose at 7:30 am and rolled up just as the park was opening.  Unlike Texas, the hike was cool and shaded by the large Oak-like canopy trees.  Precious silence hung over the first half of the group and the second half was buzzing with light chatter.  We made our way up the sloped trail and were greeted by squirrels, various birds, and random sounds nature offered up. 

Side note:  There are no squirrels in Hawaii.

We made our way to the top and came into an area with a small, but beautiful, waterfall.  Breaking off into small groups we were all able to enjoy the hour, or so we had to bask in nature's beauty.  About thirty minutes in, rocks started falling from the top of the mountain, and one hit Austin in the back (what a trooper) and grazed Giselle and Brian (also troopers).  To top that off, on our way back an older woman in her 60’s was hit by a small boulder rolling down the hill and she took it like a champion.  So, if you’re reading this offer up a prayer for this champ of a woman.  After heading out of the park and back home we had some downtime and enjoyed each other’s company through food, card games, and playing outside.  
Around 11:45 am we headed out to Our Lady of Talpa school, a Catholic middle school located in Boyle Heights (a low-income, predominantly Hispanic area).  Recently, the middle school-aged students have had bullying issues (cyber and physical) so their teacher, Emily, called on us to go and speak with them.
The game plan:
            -Icebreakers led by Shelbie and myself.  (Name game, simple stuff)
            -Skits and light discussion led by Jacob and Val. (One depicted Cyberbullying and the other physical)
           -Small groups.  (Austin, myself, and four students discussed what the classroom would be like without bullying)
            -Skits part two…this time the kids fixed the negative examples of bullying in the skits to depict how to handle the situation correctly.
            -Questions about college life.

In Austin and I's small group, we had two boys and two girls.  They were all great kids and gave good answers.  One girl, Mabelle, stood out to me.  Quiet and reserved at first, she was not keen on answering our questions.  Although, once she broke out of her shell her answers were so beautifully thought out.  She gave deeper answers about the consequences of bullying and how it can affect people.  She explained to us feelings of loneliness, depression, self-consciousness and in extreme cases, suicide as the outcomes of bullying.  She was our scribe and even spoke in front of the class on behalf of our group.  Later, I found out she was going to be the Student body president for the upcoming school year; I am not surprised. 

We split up into our universities so we could shop and cook for the cultural dinner to be had later in the evening.  Our last community dinner was bittersweet but still filled with laughter and easy going conversation.  We celebrated the different cultures represented on the trip, and all had a chance to explain what the dishes we made were.  This brought the full trip circle, throughout the week we all laughed at cultural similarities and learned about and explored the differences.  Each person shared tidbits of languages, customs, and little facts about their home life.  To give you a sense of how diverse this trip was we had multiple cultures represented:
            -American (Midwestern and Southern)
So, beautifully and gradually I think we all could take a little piece of each culture home and carry it with us in our hearts. 

Going into the environments, we served in is no light feat.  We served in places that were uncomfortable for many of us, and I think had all of us thinking "What happens when we go home…?”.  There is some personal tension, for me, because I feel as Catholics we are called to serve wherever we are.  And I know most of us, including myself, do not serve near as often as we should.  So, a personal goal of mine will be to find an organization and complete long-term service.

After coming back home and digesting the emotions and feelings felt on this trip I can say I feel thankful we had the opportunity to go and serve, if only for a week, at these locations.  I feel grateful because I have the means to come back and live a good life.  I feel uncomfortable because I have seen what true poverty looks like and realize my shortcomings in helping.  And finally, I feel called to take these uncomfortable feelings and transform them into a drive to serve, teach, and do something about it. 

Thanks to all those who took the time to read the blogs and pray for us on this immersion trip, Y'all rock. 

Madison Perales
St. Mary’s University

“If you want peace, work for justice” –John 6


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