Create the oneness that moves us across boundaries
Call 5, IBVM 2014
The word immersion evokes a great sense of embracing that which is outside of the ordinary and the everyday. It is, by its very nature, an action that propels those who embark on a journey towards self-discovery and potential life-changing experiences. It requires a sense of adventure, a willingness to step outside one’s comfort zone and a surrender of expectations. This is where the potential for growth and understanding lies.
An immersion experience is not limited to the realm of Catholic schools and Christian organisations and it came as no surprise when earlier this year, Google transformed its summer internship program by including the language of ‘immersion’. The BOLD Immersion program, which stands for ‘Building Opportunities for Leadership and Development’, promotes the benefits of immersing “in a culture where great minds, cutting-edge technology and smart business intersect to make a difference.” While created as a pathway to future employment, the program highlights the many benefits of immersing oneself, which include the opportunity to make an impact, to build capacity in yourself and others, to develop connections with a community other than your own, and to have the opportunity to learn from others.
Immersions necessarily involve a cultural component. Outside the business focus of Google’s program, immersions often seek to develop a social, religious and cultural understanding among participants on both sides. This notion of developing cultural awareness in young people is highly significant in the modern world which is arguably smaller than ever thanks to the influence of ever-changing technologies and social media. For us in Australia, Indigenous Immersions are a significant way of engaging with and learning from Australia’s First Nations people as a means of encouraging a deeper awareness of Indigenous cultures and spirituality in a very different way than can ever be taught in a traditional classroom setting. It is encompassing and experiential. The immersion process of ‘crossing cultures’ allows the sharing of stories and a development of an informed cultural sensitivity that students can then share in their own day-to-day lives.
Our Ignatian tradition calls us to enter into fellowship with ‘the other’ in order to put a face and name to a particular social justice issue, whether that be Indigenous reconciliation or the challenges of rural Australia in the grip of drought. As such, Immersions at Loreto Normanhurst directly draw on the aims and objectives of the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan. That is, all immersion experiences are centred around:
- the Ignatian faith practice of ‘finding God in all things’;
- a building of relationships and solidarity between peoples; and,
- the care and stewardship of the environment.
Such aims manifest in the development of key Immersion experiences including the Year 9 Far North Queensland Experience, the Year 10 and 11 Yarrabah Service Immersions and the Year 10 Loreto Rural Partnership. Across these experiences, students and staff are encouraged to learn from others in situations different to their own, recognising the dignity of each person they meet. As the case at Google, students are challenged to develop their capacity and develop connections in a way that propels them to transform the world in which they live.
Mr Phillip Merchant