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Last month, Saint Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, NJ, hosted our 21st anual Arrupe Lecture Series. Better known as Arrupe Week, this five-day summit allows us to examine a social justice issue through the lens of Catholic teaching.

Arrupe Week 2018 focused on the global refugee crisis, and how people of faith could morally and compassionately respond. Arrupe Week is an enormous undertaking, and only happens thanks to the involvement of a dedicated committee of faculty and students. Because we were so proud of the work they did this year, and because this topic is relevant to Jesuit educational apostolates around the world, we wanted to share some details of the week with you!

The week began on Monday, March 12, with a keynote address from Fr. Daniel Corrou, S.J., to our entire school community. Fr. Corrou spoke about his time working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon with the Jesuit Refugee Service, and the importance of leaning into “awkward” experiences in order to create a true culture of encounter with people from different walks of life. 

Fr. Dan Corrou, S.J., delivering our Arrupe 2018 keynote address

Throughout the week, students engaged with the topic through classroom activities, music played over the loudspeaker, and posters and physical displays around campus. Our centerpiece display was a raft containing images of refugees from across history, organized by one of our History teachers, Anthony Keating. This art installation highlighted the important role refugees have played in American history, and their common humanity regardless of country of origin.

Our art installation, “The Raft,” featuring images of different refugee groups from across history

Along with activities for students, we hosted an evening event for parents featuring speaker and writer Kevin Tuerff, who spoke about how his experience of being stranded in Newfoundland on 9/11 made him aware of the importance of compassion and “welcoming the stranger.”

Arrupe Week 2018 culminated with an all-school liturgy on the morning of March 14, celebrated by Fr. Leo O’Donovan, S.J., director of mission for the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. Fr. O’Donovan connected the Gospel to the plight of refugees around the world, and told us: “Neighbors are worldwide, and in Christ there are no borders.” Following mass, the entire school took part in a morning of breakout sessions about our theme topic. We were joined by 30 incredible presenters, including representatives from Jesuit Refugee Services, Catholic Relief Services, the International Rescue Committee, America Magazine: The Jesuit Review, and even a Skype call with colleagues from Canisius Kolleg in Berlin. The day ended with a reflection in homeroom groups, which allowed students to process what they had heard and discuss ways that they could be advocates for refugees.

Fr. Leo O’Donovan, S.J., celebrating our all-school Arrupe Liturgy

Arrupe Week 2018 was a powerful experience for our entire community. As one student said:

It is important for us as a community to come together to talk about the refugee crisis because this crisis will not go away by itself. We all have to work together to make change in the world. There will always be dark in the world but the light will always shine. It is important for most of us Christians to know that we are the light. We have to be the change, we have to be leaders.”

Following Arrupe Week, we are providing opportunities for students to further engage with the topic of refugees through several on-campus advocacy opportunities (including a letter writing campaign) and a summer enrichment course. Although Arrupe Week 2018 may be over, our conversation about how to “welcome the stranger” has just begun!

Attachments: 1) Fr. Leo O’Donovan, S.J., celebrating our all-school Arrupe Liturgy 2) Fr. Dan Corrou, S.J., delivering our Arrupe 2018 keynote address 3) Our art installation, “The Raft,” featuring images of different refugee groups from across history.