The Start of a New Year

Welcome to our new and continuing members of the Cortina Community! After a busy start to the year full of new student orientation and the beginning of classes, we couldn’t be more excited for the year to come.

Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 11.22.09 AMOur first community meeting of the year was the annual Community Partner Bash where students learned who their community partner for the semester would be and met their fellow Formation Group members and leaders. Cortinians are eager to go to their service sites and learn about the Omaha community.

Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 11.22.53 AM The following weekend was the Cortina Fall Retreat, held at Carol Joy Holling Camp, for a time of learning, reflection, relationship-building and plenty of fun.

Students learned about Fr. Jon Cortina and were given a glimpse into his life of faith and service. In addition, we were privileged enough to see the premiere of a film made by Nico Sandi, second-year RA in Deglman, called “Faith That Does Justice,” which tells about the Jesuit martyrs tragedy in El Salvador that occurred 25 years ago. The incident shocked the world and spurred Fr. Cortina to fight injustice during a time of civil war in the country and for the rest of his life.

Cortinians also heard informative and inspirational talks from Ken Reed-Bouley, director of the Creighton Center for Service and Justice; Kyle Lierk, director of Campus Ministry at Creighton; and Dr. Faith Kurtyka, assistant professor of English at Creighton University, who all gave greater insight into the Cortina Community and how it will challenge students to think and to grow during their time in the community. We thank them for taking the time to speak to us, and we are looking forward to discussing and reflecting on what they shared with us as we continue to learn about ourselves and our world during the year.

In these first two weeks, we faced our fears, thought about our own beliefs, met new people, and shared laughter with wonderful people.

Here’s to the start of a life-giving year.

Letters to a Future Young Cortinian: “Who am I and whom shall I become?”


My dearest Cortinian,

“Who am I? And whom shall I become?” This is a question that has come to the hearts and minds of every single person I know. We are on a constant quest to know the path in which we belong, but thankfully God doesn’t tell us. He instead guides us, and lets us go on a journey that sometimes seems fruitless but shall become fruitful. So although you may think you joined Cortina because of your friend, your parents, or to boost your resume; in all actuality you were meant to be here. God, or whomever you believe in sent you here. You belong. I unfortunately am not a poet, so that’s the end of my eloquent speaking, of the words in my heart. Now I will speak simply and honestly. Enjoy your journey! There will be hard days and easy days. Through it all remember you are strong. Going to your service site will almost always brighten your day, it is an escape, and a time to give of oneself. Go to Community Time, someone worked hard to put it together, by someone I mean a fellow Cortinian, show them you care and attend. It is a time to share with your fellow Cortinians or just a time to listen. Don’t miss a retreat. It is a time to think; nothing else, but peace and quiet to think about that question of “who am I and whom shall I become?” Remember we all make mistakes, and that’s the beauty of it, we all are flawed. Take care of yourself, college is hard yet wonderful, “you can do it!, si se puede!” You are loved my dear and you deserve love! Seek guidance when needed, listen, be patient, and show the love you receive by loving others.


AM – a fellow Cortinian

Letters to a Future Young Cortinian: “Growth”


Dear Future Young Cortinian,

To explain my experience in Cortina, I can use the Cortina symbol of a tree to represent what I have learned this year. I think one of the most important factors for experiencing growth is the need for strong roots, as the symbol reveals the tree’s roots to us. Cortina has given me a wonderfully positive community (or soil) to grow from. I have developed a strongly connected network of friends who appreciate who I am and deeply care for me. They make me feel safe and grounded. The trunk of the tree represents the growth I have been able to produce from this positive community. I feel that I have become more patient, more self-aware, and more vulnerable, just as a tree is vulnerable to its surroundings as it reaches out. The leaves of the tree represent how I have been able to reach out to other people, giving a part of myself to them. From serving others at my service site, to listen to other people’s stories, I have been able to share the nutrients I have gained just from being with others. While each part of the tree represents a stage in my Cortina experience, they are all necessary to creating a better community for myself and others.


Erika Bowman

Cortina Info Nights Begin Tonight!

Cortina Info Nights Begin Tonight!

Come to the Deglman Basement at 7:30pm tonight to hear about what it means to “do sophomore year differently” in the Cortina Community. We look forward to sharing a bit about the vision and logistics of a life lived in … Continue reading

Fall Break Immersion Trip Reflection: Victor in New Orleans

In the spring semester of my junior year as an undergrad I remember watching a new show that had just premiered on MTV called “The Buried Life.” The show is a reality documentary series that follows 4 friends who travel across North America as they try to complete a list of 100 things they wanted to before they die. For every item that they cross off of their list, they help a random stranger achieve one of their dreams and encourage them to complete their own lists. I instantly fell in love with the show and could not wait for each week’s episode. There was one episode in particular that I still remember to this day because it absolutely ripped my heart out.

The group of guys travel to New Orleans where they meet a girl named Queen. In 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, Queen’s world was torn apart when she found out that both her mom and her dad had died as a result of the storm. In the chaos that ensued in the following weeks and months after the storm had passed, thousands of people were displaced all over the country, including Queen’s parents. Queen’s mom was transferred to Colorado where she was buried.

Because she was working to piece her life back together, and because of the lack of available funds, Queen was never able to go visit her mom’s grave. “The Buried Life” worked at a local restaurant in New Orleans and used the tips they earned to buy Queen a plane ticket to go to Denver. The episode concludes with two of the guys arriving with Queen at the graveyard where her mother is buried. Queen finally finds the grave and just crumples to the floor and proceeds to sob on her mother’s grave as she says, “I miss you, mom.”

(This intro to the show includes a few seconds of Queen’s story)

Here we are, 8 years after the storm, and New Orleans as a whole is still trying to recuperate. During our tour of the city we took a drive to the 9th ward, one of the neighborhoods most heavily impacted by the flooding. Many of the houses still lay vacant, abandoned by their previous occupants who were too overwhelmed by the recovery process, choosing instead to move to another area of city or to leave the city altogether. It was truly heartbreaking to imagine having to leave a city that I have called home for my entire life and no being able to go back. People work so hard to start a family and create a life for themselves in a community, and so many of the people in New Orleans had that literally washed away in a single, tragic day.

Even though hurricane Katrina was such a catastrophic event, there were so many great things that came out it. Community members joined forced to rebuild the city that they called home. Support from all over poured in to assist with this effort. One of those organizations was the St. Bernard Project, a nonprofit started in 2006 that helps rebuild homes damaged by the storm.

During our service time we got to paint the exterior of the house and assist with various construction tasks around the property. Our site supervisor, Molly, talked to us about the history of organization and the type of people that they help. She said that about 65% of the people who they assist were scammed by contractors who would promise cheap labor and then leave town as soon as they got the cash they were after. As if it wasn’t bad enough losing their home, they also got scammed out of the only money they had to rebuild. I was so infuriated by this and could not believe that anyone would do that. The SBP is doing so much good in the area though and I’m so glad that people are getting to benefit from their work. I’m so excited to see what the house that we worked on ends up looking like.

At our second service site we worked at a community garden that’s part of the regional chapter of ARC in New Orleans. ARC is an organization that works with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. During our debriefing it dawned on me how unfairly we treat adults with disabilities. We treat so many of them like children and assume that they can’t do anything for themselves. I really liked the fact that ARC provides them the opportunity to get out of the house and to learn life skills that they can use in the future.

The fact that our site leader had such a personal connection to the work that she was doing, was really inspiring. The love that she has for her son (who has Down syndrome) was beyond heartwarming. I still tear up every single time I think about the story she told us about the joy that her son gets from talking to his older sister on the phone every day. She said that he calls her every day, usually in the morning when she’s sleeping. One day he called her and when she answered he said, “Hi sis, I know you’re sleeping, but I just wanted to call you and tell you that I love you.” I still don’t know why, but that just hit me so hard. It stuck with me all day and I kept crying just thinking about it.

On the last day we were there we had a meeting with the Young Leadership Council of New Orleans. The organization is a nonprofit that works on developing leadership throughout the city through community projects. How I understood it is that it’s basically a nonprofit that helps others start their own nonprofit. The model that they use to help different groups get started up is really interesting and it’s not something I have seen before. So many people (including me) have all these ideas for groups or projects that they would like to start, but they simply don’t have the resources and help that they need to make those ideas become a reality. What I learned from them as well is that it doesn’t always have to be a huge project in order to make a difference in the community. It’s more about finding out what the community needs and what you can do to satisfy that need.

Overall, this was one of the best weeks I’ve ever had. On top of getting to explore a new city and community, I got to learn a lot about the other people who went on the trip. Nothing makes you bond more than drooling on each other in a van for 17 hours and throwing shampoo and body wash over the community shower stalls all the while belting out songs. One thing for sure is that, this is a week I’ll never forget.

Fall Break Service Trip Reflection: Kelsey in West Virginia

Up until my service trip to West Virginia, I had only ever read or heard about the kind of poverty I encountered on my trip. As Sister Pat put it, generational poverty has a unique culture of acceptance with a mindset of hopelessness. We passed miles and miles of small homes that were falling apart, grown over, windows broken, and roofs partially caved in. We saw a mountain top literally removed from the surface of the earth, leaving exposed rock where thousands of years of wildlife once existed. We talked to individuals who fell innocently into devastating and violent addictions to prescription drugs due to work-related injuries and improper pain management. We learned the hold mining industries have on the community, offering high paying salaries in an economy where jobs are scarce and the dangers of mining is worth the risks and health sacrifices.

With destruction existing in every facet of their lives, I never thought West Virginia could also hold such beauty and heroism. Thinking about the nature, history, music and traditions of Appalachia still gives me goose bumps. We drove throughout southern and central West Virginia, needing no more than the beautiful Appalachian mountains in autumn to keeps us entertained. West Virginians have an incredible appreciation for Appalachia and a history of unyielding devotion to their families and community. If there is one story of WV’s history I will always remember, it is one that Tom Breiding shared about the term “redneck.” Men unionizing against oppressive coal companies wore red handkerchiefs around their neck to symbolize their unity. Although the red handkerchiefs were once a symbol of solidarity and justice, it has been popularized to refer to uneducated, poor, and conservative “hicks” by the very people the unionizers were standing against. We also had the privilege of visiting heroic women in West Virginia. We met a 21 year old single mom of a two year old (child genius) and 3 month old. Despite coming from an abusive relationship and a poor family, she works hard each day, working towards an accounting degree so she can own her own home one day—a feat most women in the area do not expect themselves to do. Her persevering strength is an inspirational spark of hope for others in the community.

While we were exposed to some of the tragedies in West Viriginia, we had the privilege of meeting its beautiful people, dancing to its music, and learning from its experiences.

What Cortina Was to Me: Invigorating

Three of my four college years were spent living and engaging in the Cortina Community. To say these three years were life changing would not be giving them enough credit. In many ways I am both jealous of and excited for the upcoming freshman class for the having the opportunity to be a part of this community when beginning their journey at Creighton. However, I was blessed to be challenged and inspired by my peers, resident advisors, and those whom I served (yes, service was not a one way street) all while being a part of a caring community.

Before becoming a part of Cortina, I was ignorant and happy to be so.  Through our Sunday community time, service sites, and community conversations, I was challenged to actually open my eyes and confront the injustices in our society.  Service at Siena Francis, a local homeless shelter, started as an uncomfortable endeavor for me.  How was I, a 20 year old college student, suppose to connect with someone who lost their home, job, and is struggling with addiction?  For some reason I could not get around the prejudices I walked into Siena Francis with.  However, week after week, I returned to serve breakfast and participate in their weekly celebration of sobriety.  Slowly, I began to get to know the clients of Siena Francis and was able to see them for individuals they were as opposed to defining them by their homelessness.

These moments at Siena Francis, along with a service trip centered around homelessness in Denver, ignited my passion and shaped my post-graduate plans.  By addressing my prejudices and deciding to focusing my energy on the issue of homelessness, I ended up a volunteer at a transitional housing facility in Omak, Washington.  Sure, my case may be slightly more drastic compared to most of my peers, but Cortina provided a safe space where I could confront my ignorant attitude.  I was able to reflect on my beliefs, be exposed to social justice issues, expand my comfort zone and gain meaningful relationships, all of which was done alongside my peers and supervisors.

One word to describe my Cortina experience: Invigorating.
-Kayla Zobel
A Cortinian in 2009-2010, A Cortina RA from 2010-2012
kayla zobel

Service Reflection: Community Bike Shop

Our time at the Community Bike Shop has been nothing less than influential during this semester. It all begins with “community,” as the name says, where we have learned and strived to build community there by working in partnership with the neighborhood members, from and people from across Omaha to build a foundation of togetherness. We have also discovered that community extends to the fact that the shop is actually a physical house as well, with a shopkeeper living upstairs and its identity as a home away from home for some of the kids. The service aspect is met because we’re serving the community by being there as a helping hand, while at the same time it comes full circle when they serve us and give us the satisfaction of knowing our presence is meaningful as they laugh and play, many times without a second glance at any bike in there! Our main tangible service aspect is fulfilled by providing others with a viable transportation option and giving those with lesser opportunities a way of going out and being able to hold down a job. Doing this while educating new buyers on maintenance techniques and keeping the shop open for anyone is quite comparable to “teaching a man to fish,” instead of “giving a man a fish” as the bike shop can provide for a lifetime. With their rule of converting volunteer hours to shop credit, the bike shop also goes a long way in relating to attendees the dignity of labor and the value of hard work.

The community bike shop is like a “rallying point:” it’s not just for transportation, but a place where neighborhood kids can take their mind off things and cultivate a happiness for life. Here, they’re part of a safe haven and involved in meaningful projects. It has been refreshing to notice all of the relationships there of the adults as role models and second family, and the children making friends just through the bike shop. It’s always exhilarating to see the children riding bikes after they fixed them and to see the array of people we were able to serve at the shop too. It’s also fun to see the shopkeepers donate their time and energy to run the shop and turn it into a place of caring for others and teaching others a meaningful life.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the Shop, it’s that everyone is there for a common goal: there’s no judgment, each attendee is present to work hard and learn, and volunteers donate effort to others when needed as well. In regards to judgment and seeing the presence of everyone there, we’ve contemplated the spiritual side at our service site as well. Jesus can be witnessed in those whom we serve and all within the shop’s walls. By serving them we serve Him, especially as we follow his parable and “teach a man to fish.” Although there is no visible sign of the CBPO being foundationally built upon Christianity or the Jesuit aspects of love and giving, it inherently is because of its ability to provide for others in a unique way that that no other service site can fulfill.

The first two weeks we were so lost on how to fix bikes, from the handlebars and brakes to chains and tires, we felt clueless, but then we were able to expand our knowledge with hands-on activities and implement them to helping the attendees. Ed’s favorite moment was a time when he was able to find happiness after helping a child accomplish a satisfactory job and enough work to earn their bike. One of Derek’s best memories includes the aspect of service that goes the way of the server, where they actually end up serving themselves and spiritually growing through the meaningful conversations and actions that take place during service. Toni enjoys the times at the Shop when she can take a break from fixing a bike and take the time to talk with the kids, especially the youngest ones, and bring a smile or laugh to their face.

Service Trip Reflection: Madi Felipe at White Rose

What is service? I found myself thinking this upon my return from my Spring Break “Service” Trip. I kept looking back at my week and tried to determine what services I provided. I never fed the homeless, built a house, or tutored kids. Did I serve? Yes? Maybe? Honestly, at first I didn’t know. But then I started thinking about my experiences with my group and the people at our host site, the White Rose. We shared laughs and knowledge, food prep and clean up duties, floor space and house work. We were together, we were whole. We listened and spoke with intention. We created a safe space where all of us felt comfortable sharing opposing, contradictory, and scattered thoughts and feelings. We served each other. By becoming vulnerable and open we were able to be honestly present physically, mentally, and emotionally for each other. No one needed a hand out, no one needed food or clothes or shelter, but we did need love, acceptance, and community. We provided each other with the support that allowed ourselves to be so truly authentic that we could connect with ourselves, and each other, on a deeper level.
I realize now that those actions were my forms of service. Being a supporter and friend IS an act of service. Just staying in the room talking to the people on meal prep or dishes; asking questions about themselves so time could go more quickly and create a more pleasurable environment, IS a way of serving them. There might not be a physical reminder of the service I provided, but there is a profound change within the people I interacted with, as well as inside myself, that proves to me how much my presence and openness mattered to this experience.
I learned so much this past week about myself, but I know that would not have been possible without the service of the people around me. Their authenticity and intensity was contagious. I was there to serve them, but in the end I would say they served me much more than I them.
I want to send my gratitude to the coordinators of the trips, my wonderful White Rosers, and all the people I came in contact with in Chicago. Through learning this new definition of service, I have come to the conclusion that I can dedicate my life to the service of others without changing any of my future goals. Service is a mindset and attitude just as much as it is an action. Motivation matters, and I plan to use my motivation to live as a servant of humanity.

-Madi Felipe