December 2016 eNewsletter: Community Building Workshop

unity-frosh-retreat-11-16

Finding Unity and Strength in Our CSJ Mission

By Samantha League, Communications Coordinator

While OLP maintains its neutral position in politics, we are aware that this election has been stressful and divisive for our country and within our own student body. In effort to address these divisions, we hosted a Community Building workshop on Nov. 16 with our very own CSJ charism as the theme: “that all may be one.”

That same day, the entire Class of 2020 gathered at Our Mother of Confidence Catholic Church for their Frosh Retreat (pictured above). The theme of the daylong retreat was “Unity” and the freshmen focused on building friendships and deepening their sisterhood. It has been such a privilege and blessing to deepen our students’ understanding of our charism while helping them navigate through a rough patch in their personal lives and sisterhood.

As the CSJ-LA Institute wrote on their Facebook page following the election, “… we strive to foster a unity that is not uniformity and a diversity that is not division.” At the workshop, Mrs. Donna Allen echoed this theme when she reminded us that “as Catholics, we are ‘and, with’ – not ‘either, or.’” It is our duty to promote respect and reconciliation, even in situations of disagreement because, as Mr. Aaron Gonzalez reminds us, “Christ didn’t tell us to tolerate each other – he asked us to love each other.”

OLP is a particularly special place because it is a community of faith, first and foremost, and sisterhood unites us in our different beliefs. At the workshop, girls reviewed caring communication tools and participated in an exercise where everyone was asked to step forward if a statement applied to them. All students and faculty stepped forward during statements such as, “I have flown in a plane” and “I have been treated differently for my beliefs,” demonstrating that many experiences are shared among everyone.

At the end of the workshop, students and faculty met in small groups to reflect on the post-election climate. A representative from each group stood up to share what they talked about. Take a moment to read through each group’s thoughtful, wise and compassionate reflection:

Respect and understanding is important. Everyone is different with their own points of view. It’s better to be the bigger person when someone is putting you down.

Political beliefs are normally deeply-rooted within ourselves. I’ve found that if you’re going to talk about politics, talk about it maturely. Talk about the policies; don’t step over the line by calling people names because it’s not going to get you anywhere. Also, keep in mind that it’s nice to hear the other side of politics.

We started by talking about how frustrated we were, getting mixed and biased messages from the media. We were also frustrated with the whole election process. We also discussed polarization within our country and how this dichotomy has been extended to our own OLP community. We need to be tolerant. I may not agree with what my friends with different opinions are saying, but it’s their right to say it. It’s not a time to radiate hate; it’s a time to radiate positivity and acceptance.

We need to be really careful about what we put on social media. In the days after the election, some people felt like they were being betrayed by their friends. Put yourself in their shoes. Be empathetic and try to understand that person’s point of view before writing something that could be hurtful.

We discussed the importance of tolerance and just making sure we don’t overstep (our boundaries). You need to keep other people’s dignity and their lives in mind when you’re making decisions that shape your character. Think about how (your words) affect someone else.

We should be models of tolerance and acceptance for everyone else to encourage tolerance and peace (within our community).

I feel judged when I walk around campus because of my ethnicity. It doesn’t feel good – it feels shameful. But last week, my friends and I judged someone else’s ethnicity and I realized I was doing the same thing that I hate. So now I’m going to stand up for minorities and treat others how I’d like to be treated.

We definitely need to foster more unity and remind girls of the sisterhood we have at OLP. We’re so lucky to have a religion that unifies us. The Winter Arts Festival came up in our group – it’s things like that that make us who we are. We need to foster sisterhood to ease everybody.

Respect each other’s opinions politically and in all senses. We all come from different backgrounds and at the end of the day, we’re trying to make communities safer and better.

Our workshop ended with everyone in a circle, laughing and dancing to the song in the video below! We are always happy to help our students navigate through rough patches and grow into women of faith, heart, courage and excellence.