Magis Immersion Program Sets Sail for Jamaica!

FullSizeRender (1) (new window)Standing outside the Montego Bay airport amidst cab drivers and tourists scuttling to their destinations, I took in the sights alongside Amanda Munroe, the Social Justice Curriculum and Pedagogy Coordinator from the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service. For the next five days, this was our home. Our mission was simple: explore this beautiful country, immerse ourselves in its rich culture, and build relationships between our Georgetown community and those who will become our community partners in Jamaica (new window).

As I listened to the upbeat sound of reggae music wafting through the air, I saw a van pull up in front of us, and a smiling face said, “Wha ‘gwan mon!?” (Patois, meaning: What’s up?!). Hopping into the van, we met our host, Melvin “Taxa” Thompson, and members of FullSizeRender (3) (new window)the University of San Diego Graduate School, who were in Jamaica participating in a mission trip of their own and had graciously offered to introduce us to their local community partners in Duncans, Jamaica. On our ride from the airport, we passed the beautiful sandy beaches and impressive resorts. Then the resorts started to disappear, the roads turned into unpaved roads, and we saw goats grazing on the side of the road alongside farmers selling their crops. This is the real Jamaica.

After we settled into our hosts’ home, Taxa asked me, “So what kind of trip are you trying to put together?” I explained to Taxa that this was a co-sponsored trip between Campus Ministry and the Center for Social Justice. The trip is named Magis because it is an Ignatian term that means “the more.” This “more” means not just doing more – but becoming “more,” going deeper, living a life for the greater Glory of God (“Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam”). Ergo, we want our students to seek the Magis in Jamaica.

Over the course of our time in Jamaica, I reflected on the address given to the United Nations in May of this past year by Pope Francis: “Today, in concrete terms, an awareness of the dignity of each of our brothers and sisters whose life is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death must lead us to share with complete freedom the goods which God’s providence has placed in our hands, material goods but also intellectual and spiritual ones, and to give back generously and lavishly whatever we may have earlier unjustly refused to others.”  

With those words of inspiration, combined with the people we met, stories shared and experiences had, the focus of this trip became clear. During Spring Break, we will journey to Jamaica with fifteen Hoyas and explore the growing wealth gap between the rich and poor as a global phenomenon, made visible in Jamaica’s current economic climate. We will witness the stark contrast between a booming tourist industry of luxury and consumerism and the persistent obstacles of violence, poverty, and national debt. In conversation with our hosts and with one another, we will explore the legacy of Western colonization and the Atlantic slave trade in Jamaica and consider the meaning of community engagement and economic justice rooted in a conviction of universal human dignity.FullSizeRender (2) (new window)

Our students will immerse themselves by living with and learning from residents, clergy, and volunteers in Kingston and Duncans, Jamaica. The gift of experiencing life alongside our local hosts will allow our students to reflect together on the meaning of life in these communities—the communities we meet, our campus community, and the global community.

The students who are setting out on this pilgrimage are fundraising to cover the costs of their immersion experience and service projects we hope to assist in while in Jamaica. Donations to Magis Jamaica (new window) can be made by going here and directing funds to “Magis Jamaica.” Check back in late March to read about our students experience on Magis Jamaica (new window)!

Jennie Reis, Director, Catholic Retreats and Immersion Programs