26.8% of Erie’s population live below the poverty line, according to 2017 US Census Bureau data. Being that Mercyhurst’s campus is secluded and removed from Erie’s downtown, students do not always get to experience this part of the city.
10 students participating in the 4th Vow Retreat were able to come face to face with some of Erie’s most vulnerable people March 23-24.
The retreat began early Saturday morning when students were taken to the Kids Cafe in downtown Erie. This building, which serves as an after-school program for kids during the week, was home base for the students and staff throughout the retreat.
The majority of Saturday was dedicated to a service scavenger hunt. Without transportation or a provided meal and with limited funds, the tasks were created to allow students to immerse themselves into a life that impoverished people in Erie live everyday.
Five different locations were visited throughout the scavenger hunt. The Oasis Market, Emmaus Soup Kitchen, Erie City Mission, The Upper Room and the House of Prayer offered the students the opportunity to visit with homeless and impoverished individuals, share a meal with them and support local businesses working to help those in need.
“I was impressed by the friendliness and welcoming atmosphere at the Emmaus Soup Kitchen and Erie City Mission,” Christian Copper, senior Intelligence and Religious Studies double major, said. “I would encourage students, if they have the time, to find a way to contribute to these great organizations.”
When asked about his favorite location on the scavenger hunt, retreat participant Mitchell Marsh chose to reflect upon the place that impacted him the most.
“The Upper Room truly opened my eyes and allowed me to understand and feel the necessity of
service,” Marsh, junior Hospitality Management and Marketing double major, said. “I experienced the humility and impact it truly has on those in the Erie community.”
Students and staff were able to channel their feelings and thoughts of the day through a reflection and processing exercise Saturday night.
The retreat wrapped up on Sunday with a church service at the Quality of Life Learning Center.
The service was attended and run by refugees, many of whom came to America from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Spoken in Swahili and translated for their Mercyhurst guests, the service was an immersive, multicultural experience.
It served as a perfect ending for the retreat.
Anyone interested in retreats and service opportunities with Mercyhurst should contact Michelle Scully in Campus Ministry or Bethany Brun in Service Learning.