The Catholic University of America

April 27, 2007

CUA Students Get a Glimpse of Mission Destinations

Belizean Ambassador Lisa M. Shoman meets with CUA students, who will spend two weeks in May on a mission trip to Belize.

While their friends are packing to go home for the summer or to move into apartments after graduation, 28 Catholic University students are packing their bug spray, sunscreen and work clothes for two weeks of mission work in Latin America.

Two groups - each with 14 students and two Campus Ministry staff members - will travel to Belize and Honduras for the last two weeks of May. This spring marks the first Campus Ministry mission trip to Honduras and the second to Belize.

To prepare for their trip, the students took Latin America 358, a religion class that culminated on Thursday with visits from Lisa M. Shoman, ambassador of Belize to the United States, and her colleague, plus two representatives from the Embassy of Honduras.

The embassy officials and university Chaplain Rev. Robert Schlageter, O.F.M. Conv., known around campus as "Father Bob," briefed the students on what they could expect at their respective destinations and how they should conduct themselves in unfamiliar cultures.

"Most Belizeans on a whole are exposed to American culture," Shoman said. "You're going to find a lot of curiosity about why you're there and what you're doing. You'll find they ask a lot of questions and are very interested."

Belizean Ambassador Shoman

Upon arrival, the 14 students traveling to Belize will ride six to seven hours by bus from the airport to the southern town of Punta Gorda, the location of Mayan ruins, coral reefs and countless species of birds. Shoman described Punta Gorda as one of the "hidden secrets" of Belize. "Here is a place that is a treasure of humanity," she added.

In Punta Gorda, the students will work with St. Peter Claver Parish, teaching young children at the parish school. Emmjolee Mendoza, associate campus minister for community service who worked in Belize as a Jesuit volunteer after graduating from CUA, will travel with the group.

Shoman suggested the students try a bevy of Belizean foods, including fried fish, conch, fried jacks (fried bread), and some johnny cake for breakfast. And because they will be there during mango season, she urged them to sample the exotic fruit.

"I've never been to Belize and I'm a little scared of the food situation and the bugs, but I think it will be a great experience, you know, once in a lifetime," said Cassie Strohl, a rising senior and a nursing major from Orefield, Pa. She said she applied for the mission trip after hearing other CUA students describe the experience as life changing.

"The people give you more than you ever give them," Father Bob said. His final piece of advice: "Just be the humble, good people you are and you'll be fine."-MFM