June 20, 2013
Students Begin Summer with Mission Trips
CUA students with Monsignor Richard J. Albert, founder of St. Patrick’s Foundation in Jamaica.
To kick off their summer, a group of 24 students from The Catholic University of America traveled to Jamaica and Belize for two weeks, from May 21 to June 4, on mission trips sponsored by the Office of Campus Ministry.
Brother Jim Moore, O.F.M. Conv., associate campus minister for social justice and missions, and Jacqui Shuman, associate athletic director, led students to the capital city of Kingston, Jamaica. Luke Hlavin, associate campus minister for retreats and men's ministry, and Adriana Lincoln, program coordinator in the Office of Campus Activities, traveled with students to the smaller town of Punta Gorda, Belize.
In Jamaica, students and staff served in a variety of ways while staying at a hostel run by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, N.Y. The students helped clean the hostel and also ventured to various places in the city to minister to children, the elderly, physically handicapped teenagers, and those with HIV/AIDS.
Brother Jim describes the students’ work as a “ministry of presence.” One of the most important things they did, he said, was spend time with people and develop relationships with them. He recalled meeting children in a room lined with cribs and beds in Bethlehem House, a home for severely handicapped children run by the Missionaries of the Poor.
“You didn’t know if they could see or understand you, but you could tell they knew you were present for them,” he says.
|Brother Jim Moore, O.F.M. Conv., associate campus minister for social justice and missions, with a child from the St. Patrick’s Foundation.|
One of the organizations the students worked with, St. Patrick’s Foundation, was founded by alumnus Monsignor Richard J. Albert (B.A. 1970, S.T.B. 1975). The foundation was established in 1994 to alleviate the suffering of the poor in Kingston. Students got a chance to meet with Monsignor Albert while also spending time with abandoned elderly residents and tutoring and playing with children in schools run by the foundation.
The Jamaican children were curious about the students and excited to see them. At a school in Riverton, they’d play games at recess and the CUA students would tutor the children in their one-room schoolhouse, which sits next to a dump. At St. Margaret’s, another school where the students volunteered, the library was in a shipping container, which had been modified to house desks and shelves of books.
“It was an amazing experience. I would even say life-changing for some of our students,” says Brother Jim.
In Belize, Hlavin said the children of St. Peter Claver Roman Catholic School were equally as excited to see the students from CUA.
“They flock to you,” he said. “You become a living jungle gym.”
|Students paint St. Peter Claver Roman Catholic School in Belize.
While the Catholic University students in Jamaica served in many different places, their counterparts in Belize served solely in the school and the local parish. Students painted some of the school’s buildings and tutored the children.
CUA has partnered with the St. Peter’s parish school for mission trips for eight years. Hlavin said the trip is a “cultural immersion” since the students stay in town at a retreat house associated with the local parish. They walk the town’s streets daily, getting to know the local citizens.
“These students experience the culture and affect the lives of those who live in Punta Gorda,” Hlavin says.
After the students returned from Belize, Hlavin says they began to miss the children and the simplicity of life in Punta Gorda.
Before students leave for these mission trips, they must complete a School of Theology and Religious Studies course that provides an overview of the countries and culture they will become a part of. While on the mission trips, they keep a journal and meet at the end of the day to reflect on their experiences.
“There’s a lot of thinking and processing to incorporate what they’ve experienced into their faith life,” says Brother Jim. “I like to use a saying from Saint Francis, ‘Preach the gospel. If necessary, use words’ to describe the experience.”