Its Monday night here in Rochester and the day is just winding down, we just finished our evening reflection and prayer and are getting ready to settle into an evening of games with these “crazy sisters” as they have been affectionately labelled.
I am serving this week at Hope Hall, a school where everybody has an auditory processing delay and more often than not it is coupled with some other health issue or learning obstacle. In addition to that, 87% of the students at this school live at or below the poverty line. I have been very blessed in being able to serve at Hope Hall for the last 2 years on this headlights trip as well. This being my third year at Hope Hall I had some sort of an idea of what to expect, but of course you can never know everything. This year I am working in the middle school’s social studies classroom (Hope Hall is grades 3-12) so I had 2 6th, 7th, and 8th grade classes. I had some experiences today that really impacted me in a way that I have never seen at Hope Hall. I worked one on one with a boy named Dustin that had just transferred to Hope Hall last week. He is a 7th grader, but at the public schools in Rochester he was locked in a room and served as an aid to severely handicapped kid, he has never really received an education of his own, so his reading level is that of maybe a 3rd or 4th grader. I worked with him on a worksheet to get him caught up with his class and on his homework. It was easy to see that he was discouraged by all that he didn’t know but I could also see that for the first time in a long time he had hope that he might be able to succeed. It was a huge blessing to be able to see that moment in his life. I definitely felt that God used him to show me just how blessed I was in the privileges i had growing up and still have today.
The other moment today that truly touched me was when a girl I had worked with last year asked for my help on her homework because she remembered me, and as she told everybody she encountered when I was around today “she took a picture with me last year.” I cherish the pictures I take with my classes every year but I had no idea that they cherished those pictures, pictures that they never saw after I left the school last year, I had no idea the students remembered those pictures, or even the fact that I had been there before. I don’t know if she will remember me 5 or 10 years from now, but I know I will never forget her excitement or the joy I saw in her that had come from an interaction with me. I saw God in her face today, she found joy in the simple things, and she will never know how much her memory of a simple item such as a picture meant to me.
Hope Hall is a place that has changed my life, it has given me hope, it has made me consider my circumstances, it has encouraged me to open my eyes to the lives of the people around me, it has shown me love, it has shown me joy. I will miss Hope Hall after I graduate this spring more than almost anything else I got to experience during my 4 years at Carroll.
Just while writing this, I was able to have a conversation with 3 girls on our trip that I would never have had if I hadn’t had these specific experiences at Hope Hall. Hope Hall has been a blessing in my life, and I hope that someday you all have a chance to visit a place as wonderful as there, and to know people as compassionate, loving, joyful, courageous, giving, and determined as the people there.
Thank you all for your prayers and support!
Love and Peace in Christ-
ps playing signs with the sisters is incredible!
Greetings everyone! It is a brisk and sunny day in Rochester, NY. We are about to head out to our service sites for the first time! I will be working in an innercity soup kitchen for most of the day, then going to visit elderly throughout the community. I will be working very closely with Sr. Lorraine and couldn’t be more excited.
Upon arriving in Rochester an overwhelming feeling of joy seemed to work its way onto our faces. It was a long day getting here starting at 4:30AM, with three flights, and two long layovers. The Sister’s of St. Joseph of Rochester drive a big white van, and we were all very excited to see it at the end of the day. We came home to a wonderful warm meal and smiling hello from four of the sisters. With fun stories along the way, we had made it to our destination.
Throughout the long day the Rochester crew got to know each other through laughter and naps on the plane. When you get a group of people together to serve, it is almost like there is a unique connection. As the night went on and turned into morning, another wonderful day approached. We prayed over the city of Rochester and the sites which we’ll all be working at. Taking time to slow down and reflect on what it is we were here for and further allowing us to serve to our fullest ability. Through the experience so far, I have discovered that going on a ‘service’ immersion trip is not only about immersing yourself in service; but, also in the loving grace of Jesus. With morning prayer sessions, and nightly reflection with prayer I believe He is bringing us together in a very special way. When you open your heart, small miracles seem to happen. I cannot wait to see what He will bring into our lives today while serving and being together.
Peace and Blessings from Devan in Rochester!
It is Monday morning here in Rochester and most of our group is on their way to their service sites. Taylor and I have a little bit of time before we depart for St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center. I thought I would attempt to summarize our time since departing Helena early Saturday morning.
We arrived in Rochester, NY on Saturday evening after stops in Minneapolis and Detroit. With each leg of the journey, the group’s excitement level grew. Srs. Donna and Marilyn met us at the airport and we happily crammed ourselves into the short bus for the drive to their home in the Southeast section of Rochester, observing the city lights along the way. Srs. Lorraine and Barbara had a warm meal waiting for us on the stove after we found our rooms and made our beds quickly. We spent the evening getting acquainted in the house and our hosts and played many rounds of Catch Phrase.
Sunday morning brought with it a day of opportunities. Our group joined Sr. Marilyn for mass at a local parish. The celebrant talked about mountain top experiences during his homily. I couldn’t help but think about this trip to Rochester as a mountain top experience for myself. This is my second trip to Rochester with Carroll students and often look back at the trip last year as one of several peaks in my life over the past year (a series that includes marrying my wife, Brittany, who is also on the trip this year and the adjoining of our families). After lunch and some relaxation, Srs. Donna and Marilyn led our group on a tour of service sites as we “Prayed the City” and prayed for the sites and our group members serving at the locations. It’s more than amazing to see the impact that the Sisters of Saint Joseph have throughout the city of Rochester. From a daycare center, schools, a neighborhood center, and a soup kitchen to name just a few, these women serve so many throughout the city. (See photos of our service sights at http://www.tumblr.com/blog/carrollheadlights).
Sunday evening was spent in community: dinner with Sister Mary Lou, the congregation president, evening reflection and several hours (and the accompanying laughs) of games in the living room. All of us were amazed at how quickly the time went by.
All of a sudden it is Monday morning and all of us have shared morning prayer together and wished each other well as we have departed to serve this community. I’ll be excited to hear about the experiences later today.
Thank you for your prayers and help along the way. This is an incredible experience for these students. Brittany and I are fortunate to share this experience with them. I look forward to sharing more throughout the week.
After much anticipation we have finally left Helena for our trips. The day began by gathering at 4:15 AM to take students going to Rochester and Cinci to the airport. As I returned home to finish packing my own things and pick up the Kansas City students, I was told they barely had enough time to get through security and next year we need to leave more time. So I will mark my calendar now for 3:30 AM next year!
The Kansas City group left Helena at 7 AM and travels went really smoothly. We arrived in Denver and celebrated a birthday dinner with Katie Majerus at Ted’s Montana Grill where we had burgers. We are now settled in to our hotel and ready to drive all the way across Kansas tomorrow. During the trip the students have been asking Fred and Laura a lot about their experience last year and the closer we get the more anticipation they have for the week ahead.
During our drive we had a quick check in from both groups that they had arrived safely but experienced some turbulence along the way.
Thank you for following us this week and for your prayers for our experience. The more I travel with students for these trips the more I realize the importance of meeting people who are passionate about helping others and of getting an experience of building relationships and dedicating this time to service. We are very blessed to have these experiences.
The rooms are ready, the ministries are ready, the food is ready (and lots of it, they are coming from Carroll after all!) and most of all we are waiting and ready for our 12 wonderful folks from Carroll College! We have hosted your group now for, I think, 12 years now and we have loved every one of you coming to be with us! It looks like we may even be snow-free while you are here too! So have a safe journey and we will see you on Saturday! Peace, Sr. Donna
On Saturday we depart for our Spring Break Immersion Trips. We have groups traveling to Rochester, NY to visit the Sisters of Saint Joseph, to Kansas City, Missouri to visit the Sisters of Charity and to Cincinnati, OH to visit the Franciscans for the Poor. Aside from having to get to the airport at 4:45 AM all of the students are really excited for the new experiences and people they will meet.
Devan Hromcik – Helena, MT
Dan Minor – Helena, MT
Brittany Minor – Helena, MT
Chris Kiefer – Banks, OR
Travis Biedermann – Big Fork, MT
Kirsten Rotz – Rathdrum, ID
Natalie Stewart – Coeur d’ Alene, ID
Taylor Stewart – Couer d’ Alene, ID
Nicole Henry – Boise, ID
Andrea Ward – Springfield, OR
Jenessa Borodkin – Cordova, AK
Whitney Stormberg, Citrus Heights, CA
Kansas City, MO
Fred Collins – Helena, MT
Tessa Berg – Missoula, MT
Elyse Ramirez – Helena, MT
Tony Rosales – Great Falls, MT
Christina Frederick – Helena, MT
Nathan Kavanaugh – Cut Bank, MT
Colleen Dunne – Helena, MT
Katie Majerus – Valier, MT
Katie Hanson – Helena, MT
Laura Gillette – Miles City, MT
Chelsea Ford – Portland, OR
Kelsie Hahn – Olympia, WA
Cheney Gianarelli – Conrad, MT
Shelby Goodrich – Vancouver, WA
Maddie Woodruff – Banks, OR
Jessica Knapp – Olympia, WA
Raniece Richardson – Helena, MT
Angie Biskupiak – Helena, MT
Amy Reagor – Great Falls, MT
Thank you for following us as we travel!
We’ve been back from Rochester, New York for a few days and I thought it would be helpful to reflect on my experience. As I look back on the week we spent with the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Rochester, there are lessons that I bring back to Helena: give generously, serve with a smile, and love continually.
I was fortunate to spend a week with thirteen outstanding Carroll College students who were eager to give of themselves each day. As I process the week and look ahead to my future, I can’t help but think that is the most generous gift that I can give others, the gift of myself. It was a great feeling to share ourselves with those we served, whether it was women in a house of hospitality, children at a daycare center, students in schools, clients at a community center, patrons of a soup kitchen, the sisters who hosted our group, or one another. I hope to listen to God’s call to give of myself more fully to others.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Choose your attitude” time and time again. Our time of service and ministry was a great reminder to me about the importance of serving with a smile. My time at Nativity Prep, I was shown how students react to someone’s smile, something they unfortunately aren’t shown every day. Their reaction isn’t completely unpredictable; they smile back, which is an amazing reward. I hope as I serve others in the future, to do so with a smile on my face and in my heart so others know that I am happy in helping them.
It’s not always easy to love others. Occasionally, I catch myself making up an excuse to not love. I become selfish with the greatest gift God gave me, the ability to love. I was reminded on this trip the importance to love others first, just as God loves me. Not just when it is convenient or when it will benefit me, but all the time.
I had a great week serving and growing with some amazing people. We shared an abundance of laughs, a few tears, some early mornings and some late nights, and many prayers together. I can’t wait to do it all again!!
Thanks for all the support through prayers and generosity!
I sat at the airport today and wondered where the plane was. A voice came over the loud speaker informing us our plane had not even left Detroit. Quiet panic settled in as we calculated flight times and realized we would not even be off the ground when our next flight would leave from Detroit.
It is currently four hours later, and I’m back in the kitchen at the convent. We are here until 7pm tomorrow and (God willing) will be back in Helena by midnight.
With all the extra time, I’ve been reflecting on my week. I volunteered at a Catholic elementary school. I worked in a class of first graders.
On Wednesday we had a prayer service at the school. A kindergarten class sang “Amazing Love.” Some kids were belting the song out at the top of their lungs, some were just doing the motions, a couple kids were completely distracted, and one even had his back to the audience. I sat there and couldn’t help but think, “Do these kids have the slightest clue what they are singing?” Then a thought hit me upside the head, “Do you?”
These kids had shown me so much love. Not only that, they have their innocence. Their imaginations haven’t been taught there’s a limit, and they believe in the impossible. Who better to understand impossible love?
I also realized, even if they don’t have the slightest understanding of the words they sing, how could God not be pleased with their song? Does it not still bring God glory? Does it not still praise Him? We cannot even fathom the depths of God’s love. We may not know the meaning of the words we sing, or the difference we make in another person’s life. That doesn’t mean we honor God any less with our life.
When I looked back at it all I realized everyway I have served this week, I could have done in Helena. I wanted to come to Rochester so that I can serve, looking for a life changing experience.
Today it hit me, ultimately what lasting difference would the trip have made in my life if the service opportunities ended with the trip? If I could only find service opportunities unique to Rochester, my experience would have ended when I got on the plane. The service cannot stop here!
Another thing I wanted to do was make a visible difference in someone’s life. Although I had become quite attached to these kids, I wasn’t convinced my presence made any difference beyond saving the teacher sometime correcting papers. That was until I received a thank you card from one of the girls in my class. Of all the kids, I thought she was the most indifferent to my presence. The card itself was construction paper and the majority of the words were spelt wrong. (In fact, I’m not even sure what a couple of the words are.) But what I could read was very heart felt and almost made me cry. I also found out later that she is going through a particularly difficult time. We never know the impact our presence will have on another person’s life.
Thus far I have learned…
There is work to be done everywhere; it is not necessary to travel thousands of miles to make a difference in someone’s life.
Service sometimes takes the form of simply being present with an open heart.
There’s nothing like celebrating Marte Gras with these sisters.
Listening does not consist of silencing your mind in order to hear someone else. Listening is accomplished by opening the heart.
So today was an interesting adventure to say the least. Our morning started off similar to most, except for the fact that all of us were half-asleep since we weren’t going to any of our work sites today. Sister Donna shared with us an analogy to consider as we prepared for our road trip to Niagara Falls. Our life is a car and we are the drivers, and Jesus is trying to get into our car. Sometimes Jesus is standing on the street corner asking for a ride, sometimes we throw Him in the trunk for when we decide we really need Him, sometimes He’s in the backseat (where He’s not much of a backseat driver at all), and sometimes he’s in the front seat co-piloting or even in the driver’s seat. It’s up to us. Personally, I reflected on the fact that right now I feel like Jesus and I are in the middle of a Chinese fire drill: the car is stalled and I’m crawling out of the front seat into the passenger seat, and Jesus is outside running around the car because I just can’t drive it anymore. It feels as if I’m out of control of the situation, but it’s only a matter of time until Jesus takes the wheel (Carrie Underwood shout-out).
Our day then took us to Bethany House, which is a house of hospitality serving women. We were put to work cleaning the house, unpacking diapers (a task taken on by all three of our boys on the trip), and unloading boxes and boxes of food. One of the interesting things that came to mind while working was the fact that there was SO MUCH. Pantry shelves were packed, freezers were full (thanks to some awesome toss-and-catch abilities) and there were bags and bags of diapers. I was shocked at the fact that this was considered “not very much” and that the Bethany House has food delivered on a weekly basis and is constantly short on diaper and baby donations. It just made me realize just how many people are in need in this city, and it was a very humbling experience overall.
Enter driver and co-pilot. With Dan in the driver’s seat, yours truly received the humble honor of being the co-pilot, which carries a lot of pressure! I was in charge of directions, the car DJ, potty-break coordinator, and more. We made it to Niagara Falls successfully without getting lost (yet). We took some pictures, and then the majority of the group went to visit Ben’s homeland. I went with a smaller group who stayed on the American side of the border, and we wandered around across the bridge to the island where there is a smaller falls called the Bridal Veil Falls. This might have been my favorite part of the trip so far, because watching Dan’s excitement and then disappointment with seeing the Bridal Veil Falls and then realizing that they were closed was truly beautiful. It’s not very often as a college student that I’m able to see an honest example of true love and devotion to one’s future spouse. So shout-out to Brittany, who I have yet to meet, because you two are already a role model for me of the kind of love that I hope to one day experience.
But enough for the sappiness. So the rest of our day was spent partying (with respect to dance of course). As the car DJ, we ended our trip rocking out to some satellite radio, including KE-dollar sign-HA and multiple occasions of fist-pumping. We learned that numerous members of our trip have quite the vocal range, that Dan enjoys a good knee-slap or wheel-tap on occasion, and that there is nothing better to bring a group together than some good old tunes and shuffles in the seat while driving.
This morning marks our third day of service at our sites this week. As I take a little break from all the excitement of the day, I’ll share with you a little bit of my week so far.
Dan and I were placed at Nativity Prep School, which is a small multi-cultural middle school just across the parking lot from the convent. It has only been up and running for 2 years, and currently holds grades 5-7. There are 35 amazing kids attending that have such unique personalities. Most of the kids come from low-income families and a majority were falling behind in the public school system. From the very first day we walked into their morning assembly, I felt so blessed to get to spend time with them and experience diversity that I never experienced growing up in small town Montana.
Throughout the week we’ve done many different tasks including reading with students and tutoring after school. Yesterday I had the opportunity to work with 4 different students after school, and we had a blast. They are so energetic and of course they wanted to do anything but homework. I have to say that I have gotten attached! I have had so much fun reading with a fifth grader named Treveon. He gets so into the stories, does sound effects, and is always asking when we can read together again. It’s going to be very difficult to say goodbye at the end of the week.
Overall, I am very impressed with the school. The faculty, which consists of experienced teachers and volunteers, really care about their students. They constantly strive to help the kids be the best they can be. It really reminds me of Carroll’s motto “Not for school, but for life,” because they really are taught life lessons that will change their future.
Back at the convent, last night was our Mardi Gras celebration. We ate way too much, ice cream sundaes and brownies included, and had a dance party. The highlight of my night was watching the sisters dancing the Macarena and The Electric Slide (pictures and videos will be available!) We really have become a little family here and I have been blessed to get to know some amazing classmates on this trip that have really become friends.
The whole experience has been very humbling and I have come to see and appreciate how much I really have. The kids I work with everyday are so full of life and it has really sparked something in me, and I thank God for that. The experience has been inspiring, and there is so much yet to come. Thank you for all of the support and to the Kansas City group, we are praying for you!