Catholic School Awaken Greatness

Catholic School Mission Aligns to Help the Homeless in Omaha and Other Cities

March 29, 2017


In an effort to understand and help the homeless, Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, NE has partnered with the Ignatian Spirituality Project – an organization that sparks hope and transformation for people who are homeless and in need of recovery through Ignatian retreats.

This Lent, the Creighton Prep student body fundraised $2,000 to help sponsor Ignatian Spirituality Project retreats in Omaha.  Wrist band sales for free casual days and a beard growing contest inspired students to do more fundraising for ISP and other Jesuit missions in need. 

Through the leadership of Father Nathan Wendt, SJ, Assistant to the President, and Mr. Dave Lawler, Director of the Campus Ministry Department, Creighton Prep hosted two past retreatant speakers from the Ignatian Spirituality Project.  Retreatants shared their stories with students, described homelessness, how it occurs, the impact of an Ignatian Spirituality Project retreat and how it has helped them achieve long term recovery from addictions to end homelessness. 

Before introducing the retreatants, Father Wendt spoke with students, “The Ignatian Spirituality Project retreats are based upon the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius says you don’t have to do the spiritual exercises in just one way.  What matters most is the person being changed and formed by God.  The exercises are a help towards that goal; to praise, reverence and serve God.”

Students were asked what they believe Ignatian Spirituality has to offer in their own lives. Their responses and class discussion included many inspiring thoughts amongst these; discernment, reflection, contemplation with scripture, putting ourselves in the place of difficult characters, meeting and talking with Jesus and with God, listening and finally making decisions.

Father Wendt continued, “These decisions could include: What does God want me to do?  What do I want to do for God? And, taking a step in God’s Grace.”

Father Wendt went on to share with students that their interpretation of Ignatian Spirituality and the exercises has been adapted into the Ignatian Spirituality Project. He described how it combines Ignatian Spirituality with twelve step spirituality to help people who struggle with addictions live with them in sobriety and overcome them to freedom.  He taught students these experiences were foundational and life changing for the homeless person attending the retreat. 

An Ignatian Spirituality Project video was played for students and depicted that homelessness was lacking a roof, but also a connection to a community, to oneself and to a sense of something bigger.

“All of this work sparked an interest in the students,” shared Mr. Jeff Dorr, SJ, Assistant Dean of Students for Student Activities. “I noticed this when the student council quickly found a way to align with the mission.  They played the video for the community and charged a $2 fee for the talent show. It built awareness and raised an additional $232 for the project.”

The Ignatian Spirituality Project was started in Chicago by Fr. Bill Creed, SJ in 1998 and has since spread to Omaha and 28 other cities in the United States and Canada.  Omaha’s Ignatian Spirituality Project team supports residents of three Omaha shelters working a recovery program including; Sienna Francis House, Stephen Center and Restored Hope.

Mr. Dave Lawler together with the Ignatian Spirituality Project team is reaching out to other Catholic schools and Jesuit schools across the country to share in this ministry, align missions and expand Catholic School student programs for formational growth while serving the needs of the poor.

Mr. Lawler shared, “All of our programs are intended to challenge our students through a vital stage of their personal development. We refer to this growth in the Prep Graduate and Graduation blueprint profile. It states that each young man that enters Prep will leave as a man that is open to growth, intellectually competent, religious, loving and committed to doing justice. We want to prepare students for higher education and life.  This is one way we can help more students reach this formational growth.”

Creighton Prep is one of 70 schools in the Archdiocese of Omaha committed to Awakening Greatness in its students.   

This blog was submitted by the CSO.

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