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Rutgers University students forego beach week for missions of mercy
May 03, 2018
While some students at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, may have traveled to Florida for the sand and sea during their annual spring break in March, members of the Catholic Student Association sought relief from the stress of studying and tests by deepening their spirituality in less fun-filled places.
One group flew to Houston to help the needy and clean homes and property damaged by Hurricane Harvey, while another drove 14 hours to New Brunswick in Canada to work in a food bank and other sites that assist the less fortunate.
Prayer and fellowship were also an important part of the weeklong missions.
In Houston, the group of 36 students and two chaperones, including Brother Joe Donovan, campus minister at The Catholic Center at Rutgers, stayed at volunteer housing at Cathedral Church in Beaumont, Texas.
Joe Conroy and Anjelica Gacayan served as trip directors from the Catholic Student Association.
Each volunteer paid about $500 to get there, but the group was housed, fed and equipped at no cost.
The Rutgers mission partnered with Operation Blessing, a disaster relief service of the Christian Broadcast Network, said Brother Joe, a member of the Brotherhood of Hope. Activities ranged from helping in soup kitchens to rebuilding/cleaning up communities affected by the hurricane.
Along with service, the group got to know their Catholic Student Association brothers and sisters, meet new people and deepen their relationship with God, he said.
“Our work basically consisted of clearing out and gutting homes damaged by the storm,” Brother Joe said. “Some of the most serious damage was to people’s spirits. To that we brought the love of Christ. I believed the residents were loved and blessed. We certainly were.
“We look forward to future collaboration with Operation Blessing. It was an experience of ecumenism of friendship and service.”
Jesus Our Hope Sister Lorraine Doiron, also a campus minister at the Catholic Center, is a native of Cap-Pelé, New Brunswick, who has organized other student service missions. The group stayed at the home of Sister Lorraine’s younger sister in New Brunswick.
In Moncton, the group volunteered at the Karing Kitchen, House of Nazareth and Harvest House. In Shediac, they sorted used clothes and prepared food at Saint-Joseph at Vestiaire.
Among the seven Rutgers students were Maria Migliorino, Betina Tan, Micaela Lang and Bridget Knodel.
“Serving God in another country helped me to realize that his grace extends all over the world, and that there will always be people in need of his love outside of your own town,” Migliorino said. “This trip in particular left a mark on my heart. I am determined to reach out to communities overseas and continue to feed and clothe God’s people.”
“My time in Canada reminded me what it means to be human, to not be ashamed or frightened of feeling less than happy about where you are in life,” Tan said. “No matter our current situation in life, there’s a grace in sharing small experiences, like talking about the best places to ski in Montreal over Hamburger Helper goulash or listening to some ‘80s rock while scooping margarine into containers. This is how we connect and spread love in the world and how we retain the beauty that is humanity.”
“The Women’s ASB trip to Canada was such a needed break from the stresses of college,” Lang said. “It was a wonderful mix of retreat time and service. I particularly was nourished by the time spent building deeper relationships with the other CSA women on the trip as we had plenty of time to intentionally relate with one another as we prayed, served, and were refreshed throughout the trip.”
“One part of the trip that really stuck with me,” Knodel noted, “was sitting in on a Bible study at Harvest House, one of the homeless shelters we volunteered at. Everyone present was really into it, and it was truly incredible to see God working in everyone’s lives.”
By Chris Donahue, Associate Editor at The Catholic Spirit