Every year, the Companions of Francis Xavier (CFX) program sends students and members of the faculty and staff to people and places in need. This spring marked Xavier’s return to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and the Dominican Republic.
“Planning the CFX service and immersion trips during the different phases of the pandemic has been a challenge with many moving parts,” reflected Director of Ignatian Service Programs Greg Stelzer ’11. “Even though we were hopeful about running these trips last year, there were still too many restrictions and risks to make them happen. After multiple postponements, it was so meaningful to have these trips go out and be such a success for our students.”
The Dominican Republic trip marked Xavier’s first international trip since 2019.
“I found joy in the Dominican Republic not only because the land itself was amazing, but because of the people,” said Jadyn Trujillo ’22. “The hospitality for people they didn’t know one bit was truly a sight to see. I think most Latin countries have this hospitality, but it was on full display on this trip. One idea that I really loved from the trip was that we weren’t ‘saviors’ in the Dominican Republic—we just gave our services and, with the help of the locals, did something good.”
“CFX Dominican Republic was a life-changing experience,” said Dean of Faculty Brian McCabe P’23. “The beauty of the landscape was matched by the warm hospitality of the people of the camp. We went there to be of service, but ended up receiving more care and love than we could have imagined. The community welcomed us in like family.”
The group helped build an aqueduct system that will ultimately bring fresh, clean water to the people of the camp.
“Water scarcity is a basic quality of life issue that puts stress on so many aspects of daily life,” McCabe added. “We couldn't solve the problem in total, but we were proud to do something to create conditions where people could live easier and know that they do not stand alone.”
This year’s CFX Dominican Republic program has given the Xavier community hope as it continues to empower students to love and serve others in the name of God.
“The work was very challenging, but extremely rewarding,” said Matthew Rogers ’22. “I made new friendships and learned great skills. When we weren't working, we spent time with the community building relationships and learning about the culture. This is where I created some of my favorite memories from the trip. We were warmly welcomed into the community, and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to spend time with the locals. CFX has been essential in my development as a man for others, and I hope to continue my service throughout college and beyond.”
“CFX Dominican Republic was a unique opportunity to witness first-hand our students’ ability to live in solidarity with those on the margins, while also experiencing first-hand how such engagement transforms them into men committed to service and justice—men ready to assume active roles in transforming the world and working for the greater glory of God,” said religion Teacher Michael Aprea ’06.
Back in the states, another group spent a week out in South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
The volunteer group was one of the first to be hosted by Remember, the organization in Pine Ridge, since the beginning of the pandemic.
Before beginning their service, the group spent time hiking the Badlands and visiting Wounded Knee—the site where hundreds of Lakota were massacred by the U.S. army.
The group built outhouses and wheelchair ramps for people’s homes on the Reservation and built relationships with the Lakota people.
They also had time for some reflection, games, local food, and exploring the beauty and gifts of Mother Earth.
“I am most grateful to our faculty and staff leaders for making these experiences special for our students—many of whom had not had many opportunities to go on CFX as underclassmen because of the pandemic,” said Stelzer. “I am also so proud of our seniors for making this commitment to service and social justice, and for maintaining the relationship between Xavier and our partner organizations in South Dakota and the Dominican Republic. Their willingness to work hard, build relationships with new people, and learn about different cultures represents the spirit of the CFX program and our Xavier mission.”