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Final Thoughts: Alan Novaes

Posted by H. Mark Smith on January 4, 2016 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The mission trip my YLA group and I had to the border of the state of Arizona really impacted the way I see the world and the less fortunate. Fact of the matter is, a lot of people are getting hurt and even dying by the hundreds and maybe even thousands trying to cross illegally into the United States from Mexico. There are many reasons people are crossing illegally, and it's a far range of reasons from being with family, being in danger back home, smuggling illegal substances, or most often just simply trying to find a better life and not being able to afford legal passage. The border also makes other problems like dividing communities, indigenous tribes, and families. What I was most happy about was not seeing the story from just one side but from multiple perspectives. We talked with people leaving humanitarian aid and activists wanting to break down the wall to border agents and city officials. Personally the fact of the matter is still very tricky for me to understand but what I do know is that the system for how all of this works is kind of messed up and it's hard for people to get into the United States legally. Now I'm not for illegal immigration but I realize that more often than not, it's not their fault I'm also not for the difficult process it takes to get in either. Simply, what I've learned is that there needs to be a better and easier way for people to immigrate into this country legally and not have the problems of mass illegal immigration.  I alsolearned how lucky I am to be an American. But bottom line is it's up to us the future generations of America to make our country better and better and still maintain our way of life and either make it so people don't have to leave their home countries or make an easier process so people can get their documents to be in America and live the dream. We are all the children of God and those capable need to be the Lord's instruments to make life better for everyone and live in love, peace, and justice. I am very happy to have had this eye opening experience and very grateful to gain the knowledge I have now.

Final Thoughts: Cameron Abel

Posted by H. Mark Smith on January 1, 2016 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (0)

I don’t know what I was expecting to find on a mission trip. I wasn’t going to El Salvador, and really, I didn’t even have my bag fully packed until a day before I left. I knew I was unprepared, especially mentally. I’m a goofy person, and I don’t often get very serious or extremely focused on anything. Also, sometimes I plant myself around people I’m comfortable around. If I find someone that really understands me, I’ll stay with them, and inside jokes and similar passions will drive us away from everyone else. Even though I was with YLA a bunch of weekends, I know for a fact that I planted myself. I didn’t talk much to anyone except for specific people. This week changed that. The people here changed my life. They made me more confident and I thank them for that.

 

  • David, I thank you for the times we playfully fought, and even though I never got my rightful bed, and even though you scared me in the middle of the night with your sleepwalking, I thank you for all the fun times and memories we had.
  • Will, I thank you for being my friend since forever, and asking questions I never would have thought of, but am interested in the answer.
  • Nora, thank you for laughing at my jokes, being so open to everyone’s opinion, and always smiling.
  • Liv, thank you for taking so many pictures and just being a calming voice to the whole group.
  • Alan, thank you for telling me your opinions, and giving me the chance to change mine around them. Also, I love your inspirational quotes.
  • Sydney, thanks for the time we spent together. You were quiet at the beginning of the week, but at the end, we could talk all the time, and I thank you for opening up and being yourself.
  • Meredith, thank you for being calming and welcoming to anyone. I live near you, yet have never really had a long conversation with you before this. Now, I wish we had. You are smart, and bring really interesting views to every discussion.
  • Katie, I’m sitting in the plane right now and you’re diagonally behind me, and fully covered head to toe in a blanket. Thank you for the fun times, and being my buddy on the long car ride.
  • Sarah, thanks for your sass this week, as it made it 100 times better. Plus, sassing you was some of the most fun I had.
  • Beth, thank you for calming me down when I was too loud, and having the best Star Wars shirt EVER.
  • Mark, thank you for doing ALL of the planning for this trip. It was the best trip ever, and, side note, your singing voice and dancing on the bus is the best.
  • Erika, thanks for sitting next to me on the plane ride to Arizona. It was really quiet, and I didn’t mind getting up so much. You set the tone for the fantastic week.
  • And Christian. Thank you for everything. We were always together. Thanks for understanding my Lord of the Rings quotes, finding camouflage cars, meeting watermelon shark with me, and just being a great friend.

 

I just want to thank you all so much for the fantastic memories.


The mission trip is one of the best things to happen to me. It showed me what I never knew. It showed me how things on the news are not just words, going across a high definition screen, annoyances to be ignored, but problems, things that are happening, things that matter. And as I type and you read, we all try to shut them out of our minds. Every moment is another moment lost, dropping through the hands of time like fine sand! It won’t stop, as much as I want it to, and what I learned is that this needs to change. Not by stopping time, but by starting now rather than later. Because later never comes. We live in the present, so make the present. Be in the present. Change the present. Don’t just think about a better future, because the later we start the more we lose, and we’ve already lost too much. There are so many problems with this world. It’s our job to change that. All in all, I feel I’ve changed by learning about the things that mean so much to the world, with people that really care. Thank you so much for supporting me, as this was one of the best experiences of my life.

 

Final Thoughts: Will Talbot

Posted by H. Mark Smith on January 1, 2016 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)

On the YLA mission trip to Arizona and Mexico, I learned a lot about the situations of people who are marginalized by the rest of society. The situations of these people, including refugees, Native Americans, and migrants/undocumented immigrants, are very tough because of hatred that has built up over varying lengths of time in the United States. The news that most Americans watch either paints a negative view of these marginalized groups or simply presents information that differs from what is really happening. By talking to people with different perspectives, I was able to figure out what is really happening in the region we visited. I saw firsthand, for example, that a wall already exists between much of Arizona and Mexico, which is contrary to what many people have heard. I have come to learn through this trip that people need to be educated with varying perspectives before they have stances on issues. I think schools should go on trips to these areas and should gather information from first-hand sources, so people can think about current events with better sources. Adding a current events class would be nice. Also, on this trip I was able to get to know the YLA group a lot better, and I had lots of good and long conversations. I will take what I have gained socially on this trip to continue building friendships with people in DYC and to become more outgoing at home.

Final Thoughts: Sydney Robinson

Posted by H. Mark Smith on January 1, 2016 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Driving to the airport at 2:00pm Christmas day, I was very nervous but also excited to travel to Arizona and Mexico with my YLA group. I had no idea what to expect leaving MA but now I can say that this mission trip was, hands down, the most eye-opening experience I have ever had. Playing with children refugees, speaking to a border patrol agent, hearing Rosa’s story, learning about visas, meeting the mayor of Douglas, crossing into Mexico TWICE (my first time out of the country!!), and sampling foods from different cultures all impacted me in a very powerful way. Despite some language barriers, hearing others’ stories about their experiences with refugees and migrants and how they help, taught me that there are many people attempting to cross the border of the U.S.A. and Mexico. There are undocumented immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, India, and many other places traveling through the desert and mountains fighting a battle between life and death, with their only motivation being hope for a better life in the future. Children, teens, adults, elders and even entire families die from the lack of clean water, food and shelter on their journeys. These things: water, food, family, shelter, are all things I believed would always be provided whenever necessary. Now I realize that this idea is not reality and these necessities should not be taken for granted.


In Massachusetts we usually only hear one side of a story on the news or in the paper but with this new information, I have learned that it is extremely important to hear both sides in order to fully understand each situation. Back in MA, my new mission is to spread the word of what I experienced on this trip, teaching others about the giant wall bordering our country and Mexico, giving insight on what we can do to help those without shelter, those without enough water or food, and those without a family. This was an amazing life-altering experience for me, and I will definitely be keeping those migrants and refugees in my prayers.

 

Final Thoughts: David St. Hilaire III

Posted by H. Mark Smith on January 1, 2016 at 6:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The week in Arizona was very interesting as well as helpful, to understand what is actually happening at the Border of Mexico and the United States. We being from the Boston area only hear the bad things that are happening at the Border. I will many things away from this week but I think the biggest thing I’m going to take away from this week is that being born into the United States is a gift, and we should appreciate what we have, while we have it. What I mean by this: just because one thing in your daily life is going bad, don’t think you have the worst life, and you should be happy that you don’t have to run from violence, or have to run and make life or death decisions running through desserts in a such a hot, complex terrain for many days simply to try and find a better life.

Final Thoughts: Sarah Tringali

Posted by H. Mark Smith on January 1, 2016 at 6:25 PM Comments comments (0)

While preparing for this trip, I had a vague idea about what was in store for us. But what I didn’t know was how empowering and enriching this trip would turn out to be. One of the many things that spoke to me while on this trip was when we went to Phoenician Palms, a refugee settlement. During our time there, I discovered that no matter how little they have or how bad the refugee’s situation can be, they are still extremely caring, loving, passionate, and always willing to help. What also spoke to me was that every person we met was always passionate about what they did. Whether it was a border patrol agent or immigration activists, they always spoke from their heart and their beliefs. Although the whole week was packed with extremely moving and powerful events and activities, the event that moved me the most was the prayer vigil for all the migrants who have died. I don’t think I’ve ever felt God’s presence more than during this extremely moving vigil. It wasn’t one specific time during it when you could feel the presence of God. It was from the very first name yelled to they very last prayer. Last night during our final worship and reflection, we were asked on what we want to bring back home and what we took away from the trip. I want to bring back the amount of passion and love all the people we met on our travels have. I want to bring back how invested they are in their work. I want to help spread what I have learned throughout this week. I hope to never forget what I have learned on this trip. I hope to never forget how powerful this experience has been for me.

 

Final Thoughts: Nora Monahan

Posted by H. Mark Smith on January 1, 2016 at 6:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Throughout this week, I witnessed and experienced a vast variety of intensities. 

Initially, with the refugee children, there was intense and unexpected camaraderie. The friendships I made with these girls, some of whom with names I couldn’t even pronounce, will not be forgotten.


The next day at St. Matthew’s when we learned about the Samaritans, I learned of the intensity of the hardships of the lives migrants between Mexico and America face every day. It hadn’t really been clear until we saw the museum of items found on the migrant trail, including items such as over worn children’s shoes, and faded photos of smiling families, just how difficult this trek was. Later in the week, when we visited the wall on the border, the reality of the situation was cemented even further. Seeing the 10-foot rusted metal fence in between two endless deserts, and talking to the border patrol agent and learning about the level of security they have pretty much made the journey migrants attempt seem impossible. Yet people do it every day. When we went into Mexico and saw the wall from the other side, separating intense poverty and violence and the tiny cinderblock “homes” from America, the place I have always called home and face not a single one of the problems these people see daily, was tragic. There was paint all along the fence in Naco, Mexico. Most of the art on it had to do with peace, there were John Lennon quotes and paintings of the American and Mexican flag side by side, separated by an open road and smiling sun. This was particularly striking because despite the blatant oppression and poverty and hopelessness, there was hope and love and art.


It was fascinating, the juxtaposition of entering Mexico then entering the US. The first time into Mexico, I didn’t need to show a passport, ID, my bag or go through a detector; there was literally not a single security measure. The line entering America was much longer because they scanned every passport for authentication and asked everyone questions and checked all our bags.

 

The intensity of the vigil for the killed migrants on Tuesday is difficult to put into words. We called out every name of people killed in that county within the past 14 years and laid their cross on the street leading up to the border. A moment in particular that had me overwhelmed in emotion was when we were standing in a circle honoring specially three of the hundreds of names. We spoke their names followed by the chant “Presente”, which signified the presence of their spirit with us. The prayer that Jake, the leader of the vigil, said for those three migrant was very moving and affected me a great deal. Then we went around the circle and said our names and the group said “Presente”, to signify all of our presence in the moment and the presence of God in all of us.


Finally, I felt intense love among the people I traveled here with. I am really unbelievably lucky to have met each and every one them and over this week have made connections I hadn’t made yet, even though we were meeting every few months since two summers ago. It was really special to have this final week of YLA to get to know everyone all over again and even deeper than before. This week I learned that every YLA-er is incredibly intelligent in every different way you can think of. The perspective I gained from discussing such politically charged topics such as those we learned this week with them was so beneficial to my personal growth and ability to express my opinion and understand those that I don’t agree with -- which is an endlessly valuable skill. I am so lucky to have been given the opportunity to experience such life changing things with these unbelievably kind and intelligent people.

 

Final Thoughts: Meredith Enright

Posted by H. Mark Smith on January 1, 2016 at 6:20 PM Comments comments (0)

I find comfort and security in my opinions and beliefs-- they provide me both with a strong sense of self and give me an identity. Going into this trip, my opinions on border control were completely formed (or so I thought). It was almost immediately apparent that this issue was incredibly complex, hundreds of factors, people, and events mixed to make border control what it is. Let me tell you, it’s not pretty. With the upcoming presidential election talk of building a “wall” is discussed. However, this wall is already there and it is very real. I was taken aback by how symbolic it was, there could not be a clearer divide between the two cultures. Talking to the mayor of Douglas, AZ, we realized it had not always been like this. To me, this is one of the issues in which our country has gone backwards. Politics aside, the struggles that migrants have to endure to find safety or be with their families is terrible and unjust. I am not sure who is was but someone asked us the question “how far would you walk to feed your family”? I know for me, my parents would do almost anything to keep to safe and healthy, even if it meant walking for miles or breaking the law. Can we, in good faith, tell those searching for something so basic, to “do it the legal way” and wait years and years for the possibility of entering the country? To me, the answer is no. Through this week, I have learned how much “grey area” comes with every issue. The complexity is overwhelming and to think that all issues are like this, completely changes the way I approach situations. Everyday, we met with people so full of passion, and drive (even the border patrol agent). It was empowering to be surrounded by people who care so much about what they are doing. I looked at them and thought about how jealous I was, they are making such a difference to so many people, that’s what I want to do too. Its safe to say this trip was life changing. It has given me perspective I didn’t think I could have, and I will never forgot just how lucky I am to be a US citizen.

 

Final Thoughts: Katie Toland

Posted by H. Mark Smith on January 1, 2016 at 6:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Going into this trip I knew I was not mentally prepared. December was a crazy month for me with Nutcracker performances, school, and Christmas. There was no time to prepare myself for what was ahead. While I was packing there were many times where I thought to myself, “Is this trip really worth it? Won’t it be better if I just stay home and rest and take a breather?” However, I woke up Christmas morning ready to go to church and then head to the airport. That was probably the best decision I have ever made. Sure there were times throughout this trip when I would get back to the hostel or hotel or wherever we were staying that night and I was extremely exhausted and overwhelmed. That didn’t outweigh how amazing this trip was though. I learned so much and my mind was opened to so many things. Hearing different perspectives and stories about the issue of border control was such a great learning experience. This week has really inspired me to go out and inform others of the reality of the border lands. Way too many people think that building a wall is the greatest idea ever. However, what they don’t know is that there already is a pretty secure wall and that wall is breaking apart communities and families. When I’m back home I’m really going to make a point of sharing this information I’ve learned. There is no other way I would want to have spent this week.

 

12/31/2015 Photo of the Day

Posted by H. Mark Smith on January 1, 2016 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Our last day was devoted to traveling home.  Here we are at the Phoenix airport before heading to ticketing and security.  We had a good flight, wrote final reflection essays, and ended up landing nearly an hour EARLY.  Great end to a great trip.  Thanks again to all who made it possible--our donors, our parishes, our mentors, our parents,the Diocese of Massachusetts, the Diocese of Arizona, the Church Home Society, and our partners in mission in Arizona and Mexico.