16 January 2020

A collaborative immigration project

West Roxbury, Mass.— A month after returning from the U.S.-Mexico border, students from Catholic Memorial School’s Blessed Edmund Rice Solidarity Initiative met with students from Bishop Hendricken on CM’s campus to conduct a research project on the history of American immigration.

Together, the students presented their findings to faculty leaders Ms. Missy Andrews of Bishop Hendricken and Mr. Michael Kotsopoulos of CM and submitted a formal presentation to Br. Stephen Casey, the coordinator of the Christian Brothers service-immersion program.

“It was great just having the chance to see the students from Bishop Hendricken again,” said junior Jacob Ryan, one of the CM students on the trip.

“Reflecting on the trip helped me understand the project in a whole new light. It’s not every day that you get to show students from another Blessed Edmund Rice school around CM.”

In November, students from CM and fellow Christian Brothers schools Bishop Hendricken in Rhode Island, Iona Prep in New York, and Brother Rice in Michigan spent a week together working at respite centers, shelters, and schools in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Before their trip, trip coordinator Br. Casey required that each student research the immigration story of their ancestors.

He wanted the students to explain how their ancestors arrived in America on the first night of their trip. According to Br. Casey, the assignment gave students the empathetic mindset needed to best serve the asylum seekers who they would encounter on the trip.

When the service-immersion trip ended, Br. Casey assigned each school the collaborative project with the intention of strengthening ties among the four Christian Brothers schools and evoking thoughtful reflection from their week-long trip.

The project required the four schools to break into pairs and research the immigration of an ethnic group across different eras of history. Bishop Hendricken, the closest of the three other Christian Brothers schools to Boston, made the most sense for CM to partner with.

When the students from the two schools met in December, they began their project by researching the reasons why different ethnic groups left their home country and the reasons why they chose their new host country. They settled on the Irish and Eastern European ethnic groups during the time of the Irish Potato Famine and the Holocaust respectively.

By the end of the project, students found comparisons between those ethnic groups and the asylum seekers they met in Texas. Those asylum seekers, the majority of which called Honduras and Nicaragua home, left their countries in fear of oppression from their government and violence from cartels. The students said that, just like the ethnic groups researched, the asylum seekers had no choice but to leave their country for a better life.

Working together on the project gave the students an appreciation for the mission-driven culture shared by CM and Bishop Hendricken.

“Just being able to see some of the similarities to Hendricken helped me to realize the commitments Blessed Edmund Rice schools have on certain values and styles,” said Brian Harrington, a senior at Bishop Hendricken.

“Even with [Blessed Edmund Rice schools] spread across the country, they all share the same Catholic identity.”

Catholic Memorial, School. (2020, January). CM Collaborates With Bishop Hendricken on Immigration Project. Retrieved from www.catholicmemorial.org 

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