Anselmian B.R.E.A.K. Give Students A Chance To Put Faith Into Action

February 8, 2022

By Anna Brennan-Curry

students stand in a restaurant holding bags of food
Students in the Seeking Stability experience deliver food to refugees in temporary housing in Manchester, NH.

During the last week of winter break, 20 students set off to Center Point, W.V. and Manchester, N.H. for the service portion of the Anselmian B.R.E.A.K experience.

Anselmian B.R.E.A.K., formerly known as Service & Solidarity, sponsored by the Office of Campus Ministry, engages Saint Anselm students in social justice education, relationship building, and advocacy through the lens of our Benedictine identity. The mission of Anselmian B.R.E.A.K. is to educate students to become more keenly aware of each person’s innate dignity and our shared common humanity.

Over the course of the multi-month program, students are educated in catholic social justice teachings, learn in-depth about specific social injustices and marginalized populations, immerse themselves in the community, and collaborate with their peers to continue to advocate and address the issues they encounter after their time in the community.

“The educational meetings the groups attended prior to their week of immersion impacted the way they approached the service as well as influenced their reflection,” explained Riley Casey, campus minister. “Throughout [their experience] week they were able to have conversations connecting what they were experiencing with the topics covered during the meetings.”

In the 2021 – 2022 academic year, Anselmian BREAK has partnered with Andre House (Phoenix, Ariz.), Bethlehem Farm (West Virginia), International Institute (Manchester, N.H.), Nazareth Farm (West Virginia), and Re-Member (South Dakota) to focus on issues facing refugees and immigrants, indigenous people, people without homes, and rural and urban poverty.

Students in the Seeking Stability group stayed in Manchester, learning about diversity and the immigrant and refugee experience in the city by working with groups such as the International Institute of New England and the Webster School. For about two months prior to the trip, the group began educating themselves about the issues and experiences facing immigrants. This ramped up during winter break, where they participated in educational and interactive activities, such as a simulation of a refugee leaving their home country and what the journey may entail, a Martin Luther King Jr. Day reflection, and exploring restaurants throughout the city that reflect its full diversity.

During winter break, the students spent a week working on projects around Manchester. They lived at a local high school, and then worked in a number of different settings around the city. Erin White ’22, one of the co-leaders, explained that one of her favorite experiences involved spending time in a 4th grad classroom at Webster Elementary School where they supported teachers by providing one-on-one assistance to students.

Another highlight was the group’s work delivering meals to refugees in temporary housing. Ellen Duane ’22, the other co-leader, described her time delivering the food alongside one of the young children living there who served as a guide to each of the families and spent the time practicing her English.

Both leaders discussed the value, not only of the new program, but also the ability to spend a week immersed in Manchester community. They also talked about how much everyone in the group grew, not just from the learning and work, but the ability to take a break from their everyday lives, and learn to be present in the moment.

“All of this was under our nose, and we would never have known about it,” explained Ellen Duane.

Students in the Community and Simplicity group travelled to Nazareth Farm in West Virginia. There they spent the week living the cornerstones of the Nazareth Farm community – prayer, simplicity, community, and service – and doing home repair work alongside homeowners in the area. Staff members at Nazareth Farm tied their work back to the catholic social teaching students learned about prior to their arrival.

The two groups are now working on the advocacy piece of the program. The Seeking Stability group is looking at ways to advocate for better resources for the immigrant and refugee communities, potentially through writing letters to elected officials. There are also group members who are continuing to deliver meals to the refugees.

“The point of the BREAK program is that it doesn’t just stay during the week,” shared Ellen Duane.

Anselmian B.R.E.A.K experiences are also planned for spring break and after the end of classes in May 2022.

Related Links