Christian Service Immersion (CSI)
On Friday, December 21st, 2013, a few hours after first semester finals, twenty SF students volunteered to spend the first weekend of their Christmas vacation participating in our annual CSI (Christian Service Immersion) experience. Before departing campus, our chaplains, Fr. John De La Riva, who also served as group chaperones for the trip, celebrated Mass for our group in the school chapel. “We felt that it was important to keep Christ at the center of the trip, and to be reminded of why we serve, all throughout the trip, before, during and after.”
Our first stop was Homegirl café, where we stopped for a quick snack. From there we walked to Our Lady Queen of Angels Church— also known simply and affectionately to many as La Placita, or "The Little Plaza," in English near Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles. Members of this small parish’s social action committee prepare a warm meal almost every Friday evening for those in need; among them are unemployed, homeless families and recent immigrants to the United States. Our own group was blessed with the opportunity to serve these guests and thankful to also have beeen treated to homemade “posole” after the event. Shortly after, our group continued on to the Cardinal Manning Center located right in the heart of the area known as skid Row where we spent the night. For more than fifty years the Cardinal Manning Center, which is run by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, has been a constant, reliable presence for homeless people in the Skid Row Area of Downtown Los Angeles. Manuel Sanchez, the organization’s Youth & Young Adult Services Coordinator, provided the group with a few presentations on the effects of poverty, and “our moral obligation to help the less fortunate”, followed by a short reflection and evening prayer.
Early the next morning, our group packed up and began the day with a walk through Skid Row to catch a glimpse of the reality that some people live through each day. Part of the goal of CSI is to provide students an opportunity to be immersed in a diverse context that aims to ignite a desire to life-long service and social action.
Reality hit once again when our group was near the end of the walk on Main street where a mere three blocks separated people living on the sidewalk to a boutique store which sold designer clothing and jewelry for pets.
After the walk through Skid Row, we made our way to Imperial Courts in Watts where we delivered baby diapers and some clothing to families. Our last leg of our journey lead us to St. Lawrence of Brindisi, our sister parish in Watts where we dropped off the over 300 hundred unwrapped gifts our school had collected during the 1 day Toy Drive we had earlier that week. The group finished off the trip with a simple meal, a prayer and a reflection which gave the students an opportunity to articulate their experience.