College Students Living and Serving in Camden This Summer

The final line from Sunday’s Good Samaritan Gospel passage is clear in its challenge: “Go and do likewise.”

Seventeen Catholic college students have been striving to answer that call in Camden this summer, living in the city and serving with various community organizations.

The eight students pictured below are spending their entire summer in the city, and nine other students have spent portions of  the summer in Camden interning through DeSales Service Works.
photo (18)

Back row, L to R:

Rob T.; Smithtown, NY; Molloy College. Serving with Romero Center Ministries‘ Urban Challenge Leadership Program.

Annie M.; Harrisburg, Penn.; St. Joseph’s University. Serving with Romero Center Ministries.

Colleen R.; Yorktown, NY; University of Notre Dame. Serving with St. Anthony of Padua Parish.

Colleen M.; Lakewood, Ohio; University of Notre Dame. Serving with St. Anthony of Padua Parish.

Vinh L.; Harvey, La.; University of Notre Dame. Serving with Romero Center Ministries.

Front row, L to R:

Emily M.; Wellesley, Mass.; Villanova University. Serving with Romero Center Ministries.

Karin M.; Memphis, Tenn.; University of Notre Dame. Serving with St. Anthony of Padua Parish.

Christine C.; Cherry Hill, NJ; University of Dayton. Serving with Romero Center Ministries.

Students serving with Romero Center Ministries’ Urban Challenge Leadership Program (UCLP) help to lead high school-aged participants through the Urban Challenge Program — week-long sessions of service, social justice education, prayer, and reflection.

Students at St. Anthony of Padua Parish, here through Notre Dame’s Summer Service Learning Program, serve in a wide range of ministries at one of Camden’s urban parishes.

The Ampersand caught up with Annie M. and asked her about the summer so far.

Ampersand: So what has your group in the UCLP been up to this summer?

Annie: The work that we are doing at the Romero Center has allowed us to be more involved in the Urban Challenge program than I would have imagined. We are given the amazing opportunity to facilitate nightly reflections that allow the students to see and vocalize what their experiences in Camden have been in a different and beyond-the-surface way. We also play a main role in organizing weekly barbecues that bring the L.U.C.Y. youth (low-income youth aged 12-19 who gather for diverse programming in the Romero Center basement) and the Urban Challenge participants together. Additionally, we play a number of smaller roles such as cooking meals, managing the Facebook page, and organizing a game night for the Urban Challenge students. Additionally, we have been intentionally growing community with each other throughout the summer.

What is one thing you’ve grown to love about Camden this summer?

I’ve always loved the multicultural aspect of Camden; you can easily find a “tienda” and a Vietnamese restaurant on the same street. Throughout the day, the streets are bumped by the tunes of reggaeton, and Spanglish conversations reach my ears daily. I love living in the simultaneous diversity and togetherness of this community.

What is one thing you’ve learned that will stick with you into the future?

I’ve learned the power of a relationship. A relationship involves two people who view each other equal in their human dignity; one is not there to “save” the other, and one is not there to be “saved.” Wanting only for presence and company, both are there because they are totally for and with the other person.

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