Service trips through MOVE
Service trips counter negative Catholic news narratives
At a time when the most commonly heard news about Catholic institutions can feel distressingly or relentlessly negative or sad, about 50 Saint Michael’s College students and staff members recently were doing something decidedly positive nationwide at the grassroots level that runs counter to such narratives, says Fr. Brian Cummings, S.S.E., director of Edmundite Campus Ministry at the College.
Service trips through MOVE — Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts, the service arm of the campus ministry office — over winter break sent Purple Knight volunteers to projects in Immokalee, FL, Beaumont, TX, Slidell, LA, Buffalo, NY and Kanab, UT. That’s five trips with 10 participants each, including a volunteer staff/faculty leader per trip representing a wide range of Saint Michael’s offices and departments. Among those trip leaders were several Admission staffers, the College plumber from Facilities, an alumnus who works in Information Technology, and a member of the journalism faculty who advises the student newspaper. The Society of St. Edmund (“Edmundites”) is the founding religious order of Saint Michael’s College, and some of their priests have led previous trips and helped organize the recent ones.
All who took part in these service trips were invited this week on January 24 to come together on campus for a dinner to share their experiences and see a slide show from the five sites. One or two volunteers from each site described their work and fun activities from January 5-12 while they were away serving others.
“There’s a lot of complicated things happening in the world right now and you all are your very own bright lights because of the work you choose to do,” said Anna Boesch of the MOVE Office staff to the students at the dinner as she held her infant son. “Being a new mom, I appreciate it on another level because I hope he’ll grow up seeing lots of people like you as I work in higher education.”
The Louisiana group focused on housing, security, mentoring and food security with Habitat for Humanity/Big Brothers Big Sisters and New Orleans Mission; in Buffalo, NY, they were working with middle school students in Jesuit-based Nativity Network for underprivileged; the Utah group was advancing animal rights at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary; and the Beaumont, TX, group improvised admirably to pitch in at a food shelf and some alternative environmental work after the federal shutdown limited their initial plans at Big Thicket Preserve. Each group had time for recreation and fun activities while away too.
In Immokalee, FL, participants worked with the local Habitat for Humanity, building homes for the migrant workers in the community, and helped at an after-school program at a school with children of migrant farm workers. Students reported that a highlight for them was a beautiful dinner hosted for the group by Don Dion ’76, a generous supporter of the College for whom the campus Student Center is named, since Dion and his wife, Cathy, live in nearby Naples, FL.
More MOVE trips are scheduled for spring break: to Hope House on Long Island, to the Edmundite Southern Missions in Selma, AL; to St. Elizabeth’s House in Hartford, CT; to the Christian Appalachian Project in Kentucky; and to Catholic Charities in Baltimore; and also one in May, to the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota to work in solidarity for Native American rights. MOVE leaders behind these trips along with Fr. Cummings include Boesch and Lara Scott of the MOVE Office Staff, and Edmundites, Fr. Lino Oropeza ’11 and Fr. Michael Carter ’12.