Please update your web browser or disable Compatibility View.

The Five Pillars of ABE

Participants, Co-Leaders, and Advisors combine the 5 Pillars of ABE as a framework to guide their trip experience. By embracing these pillars, our participants grow in values-based leadership and develop an integrated global vision. Derived from our Catholic and Benedictine heritage, the concepts of Social Justice, Community, Reflection, Learning, and Intentional Living merge, offering participants an experience to inspire their lives.

Social Justice

It is not enough to simply do good works.  For example, if someone is hungry, we need to feed him/her.  We also need to ask why the person is hungry and seek to change the social systems that create such situations in the first place.  We are called to create social conditions that enable all women and men to achieve their full potential.  We explore justice by looking at the issues that affect the people in the host community, helping us to understand the interconnection between personal and societal responsibility.  With this comes the realization that social justice isn't just something we practice on our ABE trips - it becomes a manner in which we live our lives.

2015-2016 DR Participants 

"Social justice: I witnessed injustice every single day, either it was the lack of food someone was getting in a day or the lack of education a child was receiving. I am so much more appreciative of everything I have. I want to do something to change those injustices, now." - 2015 Participant


Rooted in the Benedictine tradition, community reinforces the concept of solidarity.  In an increasingly interconnected world, we are all part of one human family despite national, racial, religious, economic, and ideological differences.  Community respects the value of the individual while affirming the common good.  There are many communities involved in ABE trips: the group of participants, the host community, the CSB/SJU community, the Benedictines, and beyond.  Participants are not simply individuals who experience ABE trips on their own, but rather they are a community that is there to support and challenge each other throughout the experience.  By participating in ABE, the group and host community mutually benefit from the presence of each other. 


"I want to integrate community into my life by continually seeking opportunities to reach out to others both locally and internationally to build a sense of solidarity among all."

~2015 New Orleans Participant  



"Listen with the ear of your heart" is one of our core Benedictine values at CSB/SJU.  We strive to listen in a reflective manner in order to hear the voices of all creation with compassion and reverence.  We listen in order to more acutely participate in our ABE experiences.  It is through reflection that we make meaning out of these experiences, and we find reflection is as important as the mutual service itself.  Through reflection, we hope participants can integrate their immersion experiences with the rest of their lives.  Each evening, the group comes together and reflects on the day's experiences. Many participants find this to be the most rewarding and insightful part of the week.


"I think more reflection in my daily life is important. It was great to have time each night to stop and talk about my experience. I need to stop more often to just think."  

~2015 Ecuador Participant 


Intellectual growth is not confined to the classroom.  Through experiential learning, our young men and women are endowed with a wisdom that increases their awareness of the "invisible realities" faced by others in our national and global community.  In addition, we are made aware that many nations that are poorer in material goods are richer in wisdom: a wisdom that surpasses the world of "mere things."  This experiential learning enhances the classroom experience as participants connect the "real world" with the "academic world."

"The service I accomplished was strongly impactful, however I believe the knowledge I gained from the service I did was even stronger."

- 2015 Guatemala Participant

Intentional Living

 Through our experiences, we find that we can't always change the situations we see, but we can change ourselves and live our lives in a way that carries out our experience.  Every decision we make and every dollar we spend is a vote for the kind of world in which we would like to live.  As we reflect on our experience, we ask, "How do my decisions directly or indirectly affect the people we encounter during our ABE trip?"  In thinking about this, we are more deliberate in making daily life choices, which continues the trip far beyond the short week.  In this way, we incorporate our experiences into a lifestyle of change.

"It's not about how much work you accomplish, it's what you take away from the work that matters the most." ~ 2015 Participant