Students visit DC to learn about accompaniment in Jesuit spaces

07 July 2023|Chloe Gunther

Students from St. Joseph's Preparatory School visit the JRS/USA office
This eye-opening experience had left us really thinking, contemplating what we should do
Student from St. Joseph's Preparatory School

On Monday, June 26th a group of students from St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia traveled to Washington D.C. to learn how their school could more robustly work to accompany people experiencing displacement.

The students spent the week meeting with representatives from Holy Trinity Parish and staff members of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA to see what accompaniment looks like in different Jesuit spaces.

At their first stop, Holy Trinity, students were acquainted with the logistical process of serving migrant families at a Jesuit, parish level. Holy Trinity’s Migrant Familia is their accompaniment team that has worked with recently resettled families since 201, when they first formed a relationship with a family from Syria.

Six years later, the parish now accompanies 23 families from 11 different countries. With the expansion of their program, parishioners now have the chance to visit the Kino Border Initiative to learn more about the journey of traveling through South and Central America to the United States.

“The dedication that everyone had at Holy Trinity was a perfect start to the week by seeing ones committed to doing justice and following the Ignatian way,” a student said, reflecting on their experience visiting the parish.

At the parish, the St. Joseph’s students met two of the parishioner leads who explained how the Migrant Familia was established and sustained to this day. The students had the chance to hear from Julian, one of the individuals the parish accompanies. They were astonished by Julian’s positivity and kindness despite the significant challenges Julian has faced.

Julian is “on his path to greatness,” one of the students said after hearing his story.

Holy Trinity is also a part of the JRS Migrant Accompaniment Network which connects recently arriving individuals with support systems in the cities they are arriving to.

From Holy Trinity, the students went to JRS/USA’s office on K Street. “As we walked into the JRS building we were met with immediate kindness and generosity.”

The students attended a presentation by JRS/USA Outreach Officer, Clara Sayans. She described the various education, livelihoods, and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services that JRS provided to over 1.5 million people around the globe in 2022.

Sayans encouraged them to think about how they could implement some of the action items they learned on their campus.

“This eye-opening experience had left us really thinking, contemplating what we should do,” a student said.

“After visiting JRS and Holy Trinity we were better able to understand the impact the Jesuit community has on the world,” another student said.

Inspired by their trip and the presentations they attended; the St. Joseph’s group decided to start a JRS Action Team upon their return to campus in Philadelphia.

“This club will have everything from information sessions, zoom meetings with organizations or refugees, and real-world hands-on work,” a student explained.

“This was such an awesome experience, and we believe that Prep and everyone should see what they could do to help their community and people around the world who are suffering.”