The Five Pillars of ABE

Social Justice

 It is not enough to simply do good works.  For example, if someone is hungry, we need to feed him/her.  We also need to ask why the person is hungry and seek to change the social systems that create such situations in the first place.  We are called to create social conditions that enable all women and men to achieve their full potential.  We explore justice by looking at the issues that affect the people in the host community, helping us to understand the interconnection between personal and societal responsibility.  With this comes the realization that social justice isn't just something we practice on our ABE trips - it becomes a manner in which we live our lives.


"Social justice: I witnessed injustice every single day, either it was the lack of food someone was getting in a day or the lack of education a child was recieving. I am so much more appreciative of eveything I have. I want to do something to change those injustices, now." - 2015 Participant


Rooted in the Benedictine tradition, community reinforces the concept of solidarity.  In an increasingly interconnected world, we are all part of one human family despite national, racial, religious, economic and ideological differences.  Community respects the value of the individual while affirming the common good.  There are many communities involved in ABE trips: the group of participants, the host community, the CSB/SJU community, the Benedictines and beyond.  Participants are not simply individuals who experience ABE trips on their own, but rather they are a community that is there to support and challenge each other throughout the experience.  By participating in ABE, the group and host community mutually benefit from the presence of each other. 


"I definitely will see communities of people in a different way. Poverty brings people together in the best ways in the worst of times." - 2013 Peru Participant



"Listen with the ear of your heart" is one of our core Benedictine values at CSB/SJU.  We strive to listen in a reflective manner in order to hear the voices of all creation with compassion and reverence.  We listen in order to more acutely participate in our ABE experiences.  It is through reflection that we make meaning out of these experiences, and we find reflection is as important as the mutual service itself.  Through reflection, we hope participants can integrate their immersion experiences with the rest of their lives.  Each evening, the group comes together and reflects on the day's experiences. Many participants find this to be the most rewarding and insightful part of the week.

Faithful Fools 2013

"Reflection is huge for me and I plan to use them every day by sitting in silence more and remembering the purpose of all that I do."

               - Ghost Ranch Participant 2013  


Intellectual growth is not confined to the classroom.  Through experiential learning, our young men and women are endowed with a wisdom that increases their awareness of the "invisible realities" faced by others in our national and global community.  In addition, we are made aware that many nations that are poorer in material goods are richer in wisdom: a wisdom that surpasses the world of "mere things."  This experiential learning enhances the classroom experience as participants connect the "real world" with the "academic world."

"The service I accomplished was strongly impactful, however I believe the knowledge I gained from the service I did was even stronger." - 2015 Guatemala Participant

Intentional Living

 Through our experiences, we find that we can't always change the situations we see, but we can change ourselves and live our lives in a way that carries out our experience.  Every decision we make and ever dollar we spend is a vote for the kind of world in which we would like to live.  As we reflect on our experience, we ask, "How do my decisions directly or indirectly affect the people we encounter during our ABE trip?"  In thinking about this, we are more deliberate in making daily life choices, which continues the trip far beyond the short week.  In this way, we incorporate our experiences into a lifestyle of change.

 "After going to Guatemala and seeing how intentional they are, I plan to live more simply, and to try to only to buy things I need and to be conscious of the water I use, etc. I need to live one day at a time, and not worry about what is ahead but focus instead on the present."