One of the most rewarding aspects of working for a high school is witnessing the transformation of timid freshmen into confident, purpose-driven upperclassmen. Woven into the fabric of Marquette's culture is community service, an outlet for students to connect with individuals outside the classroom who are often in need. It can ignite a sense of humility, empathy, and compassion.
This past Tuesday and Wednesday, Marquette theology teacher Kathleen Beeler accompanied 14 students to Chicago to serve those in need within the community.
I love opening up the eyes of the students to show them how they can make a difference in our world. Being able to get our students into a big city and show them the reality of homelessness has been life-changing for some of our students. They want to make a difference, they want to help, and we are showing them just how to do that," Beeler said.
For senior Samer Halabi, this was his third service retreat.
"I love it. I go because it gives me a good feeling. Each time I attend, there's something new to learn or experience," he reflected.
This time around, the service retreat visited Pope Francis Center, a facility that offers a wide array of services to the homeless. While there, the students absorbed the words of a guest speaker on homelessness and engaged in discussion.
Theory converged with practice later in the day when the group spent three hours at Saint Thomas of Canterbury Soup Kitchen on North Kenmore. Senior Sydni Thomas, who was taking part in her seventh service retreat, fills a special role at the kitchen.
"I try to volunteer to hand out sugar and salt. Everybody needs it, and it gives me the chance to listen to people. The homeless aren't always treated with respect, so I love just listening to them. They need it," Thomas said.
The group's corporal works of mercy weren't confined to just Saint Thomas of Canterbury. On Wednesday, they traveled beneath the viaducts at Belmont and Kedzie and into Tent City, a homeless dwelling that has been granted clemency by Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Beeler and the students provided care packages, water, and information on where to receive help when ready. Halabi and Thomas both remarked that it was one of the more memorable experiences on the retreat.
From Tent City, they returned to Michigan City with a wider perspective than when they left it. The lessons learned outside the classroom this past week were just as fulfilling as the ones inside it.