Immersion Program

The Bellarmine immersion program embraces the Ignatian cornerstones of Faith and Justice as inspired by the Gospel call to love and serve our neighbor, especially the poor and marginalized.  Our goal - to form men and women for others, who will dedicate their lives to living according to this pattern of service as inaugurated by Jesus Christ.

The Bellarmine Immersion Program reflects the important principle of Jesuit education that “Jesuit education is world affirming1.

Immersion into the culture and daily reality of those living in other countries offers unique learning opportunities to the members of our Bellarmine Community. It is through our contact with other people, in other cultures, that we can better prepare our students, and members of our community, to be “a new kind of person in a new kind of society1”. Through the immersion experience, a world in which each individual has the opportunity to be fully human and accepts the responsibility of promoting human development in others, becomes possible.

The nature of immersion is transformative - through this experience we can enter into the daily reality of “the other” in a more deeply personal way as to be changed by the experience. In the spirit of Ignatius, the immersion experience provides greater opportunity for this lived experience to be internalized and formalized into action that makes the world more peaceful, more just and more loving.

1 Go Forth and Teach, The Characteristics of Jesuit Education 

Immersion Program

Joe Cussen
Asst Director of Christian Service - Immersions

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Basic Elements of Our Program

Prayer and Reflection

Learning to live the values of Faith & Justice through the immersion experience and all school activities derives from a foundation of daily prayer and reflection. Prayer and reflection are essential aspects in the activity of the entire school community.  In the immersion program, however, the participant is encouraged to direct the intention of their prayer and reflection toward the reality of ´the other´ (the poor) as described in the Gospel and our own relationship to their suffering.

Seeking Understanding

Prior to their trip, each immersion participant is encouraged to develop an understanding of the historic and daily reality of the poor and the structures that perpetuate their suffering.   Thus each participant develops a better understanding how this reality came to be, and, to understand the structures that perpetuate this suffering reality today.

Building Relationships

Each immersion participant is encouraged to build relationships of solidarity with those whom they serve through shared experiences and through direct service.  It is believed that through direct experience with the poor that this experience becomes an internalized principle that results in the transformation of the individual to live as a global citizen concerned about the well being of all who suffer from disenfranchisement and marginalization.   In the spirit of accompaniment the motto becomes “men and women for and with others”. 


The immersion participant is encouraged to share what they have learned with the wider community, is encouraged to challenge the structures that cause poverty and marginalization, and is encouraged to change their own behavior so as not to contribute to injustice.  It is hoped that, through action to change unjust structures or advocate for the poor, that the immersion participant accepts their responsibility of their own connection to their suffering.

Immersions Trips

Our program offers several different types of immersion experiences. While every immersion provides opportunities to learn about the daily living reality of people in other cultures and to witness different ways to be in the world today, each type of immersion trip has a unique focus and main purpose.

Solidarity Immersions

Solidarity immersion trips seek to serve the poor first and foremost. The purpose is to develop in our students an understanding of the daily reality of the poor and the context within which their poverty is rooted. Furthermore, this understanding developed through service to and direct experience with the poor, manifests itself in action to redress the causes of their poverty. Through our direct experience with the poor it is hoped that a relationship develops that calls for a long term response that is based in compassion, concern and genuine caring for those with whom we regularly visit.

Service Immersions

Service immersion trips seek to provide service to the poor through specific work and service projects. The service immersion experience raises the questions about many structures that perpetuate the conditions of marginalization and suffering by others, especially the poor. Through our service immersion experiences, whether done locally or abroad, the seeds of concern and compassion are sown in ways that lead to a re-action to what is experienced.

Urban and Rural Plunges

Occur throughout the school year - Open to Juniors and Seniors

Bellarmine sponsors local urban and rural "plunges" on a number of weekends throughout the school year. These immersion experiences offer students and faculty the opportunity to understand the impact of poverty at the local level, to interact directly with the poor affected by this poverty and to take action in response to what the students have witnessed on their journey.

  • The urban plunge provides students with the opportunity to grapple with the issues related to homelessness in San Jose and San Francisco. Students meet with a number of different agencies that serve the homeless, and provide service via working at soup kitchens.
  • The rural plunge takes students to Salinas for several days, where they will come to better understand the struggles faced by migrant farm workers by working alongside them.