Backpack Journalism at Creighton University is a collaboration between the Theology Department and the Journalism, Media, & Computing Department. It came about because of a theologian interested in social justice and filmmaking and a journalist and an artist interested in filmmaking and social justice.
Each summer, a small group of students travels to a community in search of a story. Led by professors Dr. John O’Keefe, Tim Guthrie, and Carol Zuegner, the students immerse themselves in the communities, interviewing, filming, recording, and writing. When they return to Creighton, they take the stories they have collected and develop them into a short documentary film. The Backpack Journalism documentaries have been accepted at several film festivals, including the Omaha Film Festival. The class has traveled to such far-flung places as the Dominican Republic and Uganda, Bethel Alaska and Nogales Arizona/Sonora. The next project is tentatively planned for Northern Uganda in 2018.
So incase you’re wondering, 12 passenger vans do not met the time estimations provided by Google Maps. We were on the road from 7:45 this morning until 8:45 this evening. It has been a long day. I will likely crash immediately after publishing this blog.
Shockingly, being confined to a small space for 13 hours makes it easy to get to know the people around you. So here is what I learned about my team today: John HATES pop music. Nico has never, in his entire life, eaten meat. Aj has somehow never seen The Friendly Giant. Putting your phone in airplane mode helps it charge faster. Mistaking the airplane mode button for the flashlight button will not help your phone charger faster. Also, I was introduced to the amazing music of the musical Hamilton.
On a serious note, I really enjoyed traveling today. I became a lot closer with the my teammates, and the scenery was beautiful. Nico played music that seemed to accompany our drive into through the pass into New Mexico perfectly. It was a great trip.
Simply finding an answer usually isn’t enough for me. I want to know why. I am intrigued by finding deeper meaning and reason behind something that is already believed to be true.
So naturally, when John told us about the Jesuit who compared their soup kitchen to a Eucharistic table, I spaced out of the next 10 minutes of the lecture and thought about this analogy.
Ok, this makes sense. A soup kitchen feeds, and the Eucharist feeds. Even the visuals are similar: lines of people waiting to receive food. But the more I thought, the more this made sense to me. When I think of the Eucharist, I think of three different aspects: life-giving, sacrificial, and unitive. Even thought the Eucharist offers a different type of life than the soup kitchen, they are still easily comparable. Food gives life. Also, the soup kitchen resembles the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist in a small way. Members of the Jesuit mission could be doing much more lucrative things with their time, but instead, they minimize themselves for the well-being of others. I see the concept of selflessness at the heart of both of these feasts.
Finally, and most importantly, I find the Eucharist to be unitive. Those who participate in this Holy Communion become united in Christ. The word union is even in Communion. Those who participate in the meal at the soup kitchen also become united, but by their experience. I find this unity to be an awesome theme considering the reason for this whole project is fueled by division a border brings. To me, this is a beautiful contrast. Amidst a world divided by a border, people come together to form a community.
So, to be clear, I learned more in the last four days about filming and interviewing than I thought was realistically possible. But, what captured my mind most completely was the Jesuit’s analogy of the Eucharistic table. It’s beautiful, and it made me think. I loved it.
I’m sure this will become plainly obvious, but this is my first ever blog. I am a rookie. I have just one year of college under my belt and virtually no background in journalism or filmmaking. After just one class with my new team, it became apparent to me that everyone has strengths in specific areas. It was easy to tell, even by just reading other members’ blogs, that everyone has something to bring to the team. It made me think. What can I bring to the team? I haven’t decided a major yet, and I don’t really have any special skills, but I do have a passion for theology. I love to analyze real world issues with a theological mindset. Theology is not something only of the past; it is not a history class. It is something that can help us work with real issues and real people. As a part of my love for theology, I strive to live out what I study in my own life.
The word mercy has appeared frequently in my prayers over the past week. I think it is very important that I approach this pilgrimage with a heart of mercy. I want to be able to understand the story we produce on an intellectual and spiritual level. We are working with real people with real stories, and I pray that I can have a merciful heart to fully grasp this experience. I do not know what to expect. I do not know what I will be able to tangibly provide this team, but I hope God can provide me with a heart of mercy so that I can be as present as possible in this awesome opportunity.
O Most Blessed Mother, heart of love, heart of mercy, ever listening, caring, consoling, hear my prayer.