Twenty-one Delbarton students were in Camden, NJ from January 24 to 27 to take part in The Urban Challenge at the Romero Center. The group of five sophomores, ten juniors, and six seniors was accompanied by five faculty chaperones on the trip as well: DAP moderators Tony Negrin and Jenna Gomez, with Tom Bennett, Neil Murphy and Zach Tabor.
The Urban Challenge Program is an urban, service-learning, immersion retreat rooted in Catholic tradition that offers a point of access to and an opportunity to assist the people of Camden, NJ and surrounding communities.
The Center where the retreat takes place is named for Saint Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez (15 August 1917 – 24 March 1980) who served as prelate of the Catholic Church in El Salvador and was the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador. He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture. In 1980, Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass. This past fall, on October 14, 2018, he was canonized as a saint by Pope Francis who stated, "His ministry was distinguished by his particular attention to the most poor and marginalized." Today, Latin American church groups often view Romero as an unofficial patron saint of the Americas and El Salvador.
Back in Camden, from 9am to 5pm Friday and Saturday, our boys donated their time and hard work to various service opportunities.
On Friday, they helped at Abigail House, Urban Promise Campus, Neighborhood Center, Hopeworks 'N Camden, STARS Adult Medical Day Care Center, and Catherdral Kitchen. Saturday's lineup of service opportunities took them to Inglis House, Urban Promise Thrift Store, and the home of Eddie and Norma Santiago (longtime parishoners of St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral). Negrin says, "Truly, the Urban Challenge provides our students with not only a spiritual experience, but also places them in a physically demanding structure with the citizens of Camden. Our boys learned the true definition of 'service-immersion', as they were placed in very difficult emotional and physical situations for the duration of the retreat."
Students began their days of service with prayer and reflection at the Romero Center, and always concluded their evening with prayer, reflection on their experience, and watched documentaries about Camden and Oscar Romero, for whom the Center is named.
The conversation and days of service reflect a specific Catholic social teaching tenant: to respect and protect the life and dignity of the human person, to offer care and support for the poor and vulnerable, and to acknowledge the rights of others and our responsibilities to them.
Negrin says, "I am very proud of all of the students on this retreat, as each member truly embraced the people of Camden, the city of Camden, and the three fundamental components the Urban Challenge program promotes: Faith, Service, and Community."