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Steinbruck Center Intern Reflections: Cesar

The University of Notre Dame’s Cross-Cultural Leadership Program provides students in the Latino Studies program with summer service learning and immersion opportunities in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. In DC, students intern at The Library of Congress — Hispanic Division, National Council of La Raza, and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops: Hispanic Ministry and Anti-Trafficking Program. Additionally, each student spends one day a week with Luther Place Memorial Church. The Steinbruck Center offers a neighborhood and community based immersion to complement their traditional internships.

By: Cesar Hernandez Estrada, Summer Intern

I have been working at the Steinbruck Center for almost a month now, and it has truly been a humbling experience. Taking part in the Luther Place family has really opened my eyes to the good works this congregation does with the surrounding community, and it has really opened my heart to witnessing how God’s love is working through this community.

My first encounter with this congregation was attending a Sunday service the week before I officially started working at the Center. This visit allowed me to see the congregation in action: the congregation was extremely warm and welcoming, Pastor Karen was eccentric in delivering the Word of God that weekend, and the overall feel of the congregation was one of inclusivity and love. This first impression was not betraying of the truth that I would soon begin to witness.

Luther Place is truly a church that cares for the community. Their work with N Street Village, their congregation based work with the local homeless population, their work in helping out the local community in their struggle against gentrification – among many different projects and initiatives – have been truly heartwarming by showing the obvious care and love they are expressing for their local community. Being able to witness their work in the community has really warmed my heart, but it has also inspired me to get involved in my local community (as a college student, I never stay long in one place, but the first opportunity there is I will be sure to take!).

So far, I have played an ancillary administrative role these last few weeks as we begin preparing for the summer camp that begins this week. This role has allowed me to see the aforementioned community projects and initiatives from the role of the administrator, seeing how these programs are actually executed. Nevertheless, perhaps the most important role I play is being able to interact with a local parishioner who is practicing her English. These weekly conversations have allowed me to interact with a community member who has been here for almost as many years as I have been alive and experience DC through her eyes (which, unsurprisingly, is much different than the DC I have experienced, which begins from a place of privilege and a lack of understanding of the community in my surroundings due to the transitory nature of my stay). These conversations have also allowed me to get to know a person who makes the most from adversity, who is an extremely successful mother despite the uncontrollable hurdles, and who is talented, caring, and admirable in the way she carries herself. It is these personal interactions that allow me to see and become part of this community, a truly beautiful experience.

Luther Place and the Steinbruck Center have given me the opportunity to witness all of these good deeds in person, and though my role has been more as an observer and learner thus far, I cannot wait to continue seeing this congregation in action as we begin working with children through the summer camp they are realizing.

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