Urban Challenge Program Overview
The Urban Challenge Program is an urban, service-learning, immersion experience rooted in the Catholic faith tradition. Offering a point of access to the lives and stories of the people of Camden, NJ, and its surrounding communities, the Urban Challenge Program is a unique educational and retreat opportunity that serves mainly suburban high school and college-aged students. Please click here to download our Urban Challenge General Information Packet.
The Urban Challenge Program is comprised of three fundamental components: faith, service, and community. By emphasizing these components, we hope participants will take action on behalf of the poor and vulnerable, long after participants have left the Romero Center.
Faith within the Urban Challenge Program is manifested through prayer, reflection, Catholic Social Teaching principles, and an opportunity to celebrate Mass with the community of St. Joseph Pro Cathedral. Faith allows participants a means to focus on their service and activities and sets a meaningful backdrop for their experience in Camden. Participants will engage in reflections related to themes of Catholic Social Teaching, as well as, participate in simulations focused on social inequality. Participants are called to awaken to the intersection of their lives with the lives of those in need and Christ’s call to respond to the needs of others.
Service is arranged each day to provide participants an opportunity to encounter others and to discover/rediscover their own gifts and talents. Service is presented as either a ministry of labor (sorting food, landscaping, preparing/serving food) or a ministry of presence (sharing stories with the very young and very old, playing games at a community center). Both types of service aim to expose participants to the benefits and challenges of urban communities and the various issues confronting the least of these living within those communities.
Community at the Romero Center is an extension of the idea that we are all part of one human family and we belong together. During the Urban Challenge, community will be emphasized through community meals, activities, reflections, and shared spaces (community rooms, kitchen and dining areas). Participants will be encouraged to support the Romero Center community by listening respectfully as others reflect, being present to those gathered, being discreet with cell phone use, and respecting other participants’ need for rest and space.
Urban Challenge Program participants and group leaders are expected to fully participate in all programming. There may be times when participants will feel uncomfortable or unsure of themselves. We recognize that everyone has his/her own story and is at a different place on the journey. We believe that through challenging ourselves to live outside our comfort zones, we open up to deepening our relationships with God, each other, and ourselves. The Urban Challenge Program is available in overnight, weekend, and week-long formats. Please note that there may be multiple groups at the Romero Center at the same time. While groups will not be sleeping in the same rooms, they will likely be together for meals, large group reflections, and for evening educational activities.