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CCSJ coordinator to retire, organizes final Project Mexico/Encounter El Salvador auction

Students, faculty, staff and other members of the Loyola community gathered in McGuire Hall last Friday to support the students, staff and leaders who will embark on either Project Mexico or Encounter El Salvador, the immersion trips which the Center for Community Service and Justice (CCSJ) sponsors. The person behind the successful event was Mary Goicochea, but if you know her well enough, you know her as Andy. This year’s auction was her last; after 12 years of working at CCSJ, Andy will retire at the end of the year.

Project Mexico, which Andy coordinates, is themed around international social justice and is a U.S.-Mexico border immersion program. She also coordinates the Encounter El Salvador immersion trip, which focuses on international social justice. Andy believes that these two programs are “some of the most transformative life experiences available to students on this campus. I tear up every time I read the evaluations our students fill out after their experiences.” The immersion trips are so powerful that Andy said students “often change their course of vocational choices, or at least they see and understand the world in a new and compassionate way.”

While Andy believes that classroom education is important, she thinks that what students can learn from immersion trips can be found nowhere else. On the invaluable lessons learned from these trips she said, “When students are able to go out and encounter people and experience social injustices first hand, it impacts them in a very deep way. Hopefully the combination and integration of classroom education and experience enriches their real growth and understanding of the world.” Part of the reason Andy loved being involved in Project Mexico and Encounter El Salvador was that she saw students experience the transformative and life-giving relationship that she herself has experienced in her life’s work with marginalized communities.

When Andy began working at CCSJ, the students broke down the stereotypes of who are the “typical” Loyola students for her. “I have been so inspired by so many of our students’ concern for others and dedication to learn about the ‘real world’ and engage with our world to work for a more just society,” she said. Andy said she was continually inspired by the “time and energy that so many of our students devote to others, service in the Loyola community, as well as our local and global communities and at the same time they are full time students and developing young adults.” She has found that Loyola students have something in common with her own generation, a desire to serve and do so “with a new perspective, different skills and creative ideas.” Andy said, “[the students] have renewed my faith in humanity.”

One of the most rewarding parts of being a member of the CCSJ staff for Andy was working with the CCSJ professional staff. “We are such a team and are respectful and caring of each other and all working passionately for the same reason.” Her gratefulness of the relationships she has created over the years show when she said it is not easy to find such positive feelings about your work environment. Working to educate the students on social justice issues and see and experience their passion, growth and development and “who they become” influenced her greatly as well.

Much of her time at CCSJ, Andy said, has been a blessing. She believes that the CCSJ student staff, the students who have participated in the immersion programs and other professional faculty are true collaborators in the work for justice. “I couldn’t even begin to name all of the people who have made my time here a true sacred journey.” Although she said there have been some challenges along the way, she believes that one thing she would like to see at Loyola is the “need to constantly challenge ourselves and the institutions we believe in to be our best selves and live up to our mission and values.”

The biggest contribution Andy felt that she has given to CCSJ is “a mission focus of journeying toward justice, seeing the bigger picture, asking the root cause questions and focusing on educating our students along these lines.” She continued, “Charity is important, while we continue to live in an unjust world we need charity, but we always must ask the bigger questions so we can work for a more just world. God, and through Jesus, gave us the mission to bring Life to Life in all its fullness to all peoples.”

Andy’s retirement is due to her desire to be an active grandparent around her three small grandchildren more often and to support her children as they move forward in their careers. She came to CCSJ after working with a Catholic Lay Mission group for over 15 years and saw the position as a great transition from what she was previously doing. The first job title she held at CCSJ was “assistant director poverty concerns and faith connections” which focused on hunger and homelessness issues and urban immersion programs. She held this position for over three years until she moved to her current position, “assistant director international immersions.” As she thinks to the future, Andy said, “Only God knows what is next for me and I am excited to see. I sometimes refer to God as the God of Surprises so I will wait and see.”

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CCSJ coordinator to retire, organizes final Project Mexico/Encounter El Salvador auction