Nine Marian University students and several staff members spent their fall break on a 36-hour poverty exploration around Indianapolis. Known as the Urban Plunge, the group began the journey on campus where they shared their intentions for the experience and grounded their minds in the Corporal Works of Mercy, Catholic social teaching, United Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Two Feet of Social Change, and scripture (Micah 6:8). The students also explored the misperceptions about people who live in poverty and committed to an experience of opening eyes to the truth of poverty in their city.
Their off-campus journey began at Crossroads Café, on Boulevard Place where manager Richard Garschina facilitates a mentoring program, Aftercare for Indiana, with young adults who are at risk of imprisonment, recidivism, drug and alcohol abuse. There, Archdiocesan Director of CCHA and Catholic Charities, Theresa Chamblee, joined the group to talk about her work with the poor and about the Indiana Bishops’ recent letter, “Poverty at the Crossroads, The Church’s Response to Poverty in Indiana.”
The crew then moved on to St. John’s Garden Ministry on Georgia Street where soup and hot cider were provided by students who offered lunch and hospitality to those who come daily to the courtyard outside of St. John’s Catholic Church.
“St. John’s was the most meaningful direct service opportunity just because I actually had time to talk with people and have a conversation,” said Charlie Wessel, sophomore and Bishop Simon Bruté seminarian. “That is the most difficult for me because I can be very fearful of encountering the poor, but I believe that those are the most charitable and most loving actions because we are actually face to face with the people we are serving.”
The students went on to visit Outreach, Inc., Englewood Community Development Corps, Tear Down the Walls Ministries, The Unleavened Bread Café, St. Vincent de Paul, and downtown landmarks like Monument Circle. From exploring ministry to women on the streets, to camping out in a community home, to speaking to individuals who have dedicated their lives to improving the lives of Indianapolis’ poorest, the group truly immersed themselves in the truth of poverty in Indianapolis.
“Many of the places we visited showed me the importance of providing hope to the entire community and how gardens, recreation centers, and just community development are so important for a poor community,” said Liam Hosty, freshman and Bishop Simon Bruté seminarian . “Our visits around Indianapolis showed me that it’s actually possible to make a large impact on poverty in Indianapolis.”
At the end of day two, the group went back to where they had started, campus, to pray and reflect on their experiences.