In the Dominican Republic, Emily Gliebe
'12, a Business Administration major, teaches girls the
order of the Mass in English. Photo by Laura Schaefer. Click
on photo to download larger resolution image.
In South Carolina, Chris Spinner '11,
a Business Adminstration major, starts shingling a new roof.
Photo by Victoria Miller. Click
on photo to download larger resolution image.
The Marymount University students who recently returned from Alterative
Spring Break trips may have a suntan, but it's not from hanging
out at the beach. Instead, these students spent their spring break
in the service of others.
In what has become a much-anticipated annual volunteer opportunity,
Marymount's Campus Ministry Association organized two service trips
for spring break: one to the Dominican Republic and one to a rural
area in South Carolina. In both locations, Marymount student volunteers
rolled up their sleeves for some heavy labor, learned practical
skills, developed new friendships, and made lifelong memories.
This year Marymount's director of Campus Ministry, Father David
Sharland, Y.A., led the group of 25 students and staff who traveled
to Georgetown, South Carolina. There, they worked with the United
Methodist Relief Center, helping disadvantaged local residents whose
homes were in severe disrepair.
Victoria Miller, a junior majoring in Communication, recounts,
"Our group split up to work on three sites, doing roofing and
siding repairs. I worked on the home of a woman who is raising her
granddaughter, and their roof desperately needed to be replaced.
We had to scrape off old shingles, put new tarpaper on, and then
put on the new shingles - a complete re-roofing job."
"It was challenging," she recalls with a laugh. "We
learned how to use power tools and quickly figured out the importance
of 'popping a chalk line,' which is how you accurately measure where
to place the shingles. It didn't go so well at the start, so we
learned a lot about patience."
Miller continues, "More seriously, we wanted to do a good
job, and we wanted to do it right. We were really gratified when
the owner, who had been very shy throughout the week, thanked us
and said that after an evening rainstorm, her roof didn't leak for
the first time in years! I felt we had really made a difference."
Father Sharland echoes Miller's comments and elaborates on the
spiritual component of the experience: "Our theme for the week
was The Lord's Prayer verse, 'Thy will be done.' In our nightly
prayer groups, we reflected on the fact that in our day's activities
we were carrying out God's will that we serve people in need. We
also challenged ourselves to look at other areas in our lives and
how we can continue to live a life of generosity. Our ongoing mission
is to find ways to care for others every day."
The Dominican Republic contingent of 14 students and staff members
was led by Father Jack Peterson, Y.A., Marymount's assistant director
of Campus Ministry. The group worked under the auspices of the Diocese
of Arlington, which supports a mission parish in Banica, a small
town near the Haitian border. Their base camp was a remote village
a few hours from Banica; from there, they traveled to even more
remote outposts in the mountains.
The students' project was to paint chapels. But Laura Schaefer,
a junior majoring in Politics, says, "Calling them chapels,
or even buildings, is a loose description by U.S. standards. They
are more like plywood huts with roofs."
She continues, "These chapels were high in the mountains,
and we had to hike about two hours to each site with backpacks that
included our food and sleeping bags. Our work supplies, like the
paint cans and cement bags, were transported by mules."
In the small villages, the students were greeted by residents who
often pitched in to help. As each day's light faded, the MU group
took time to bathe in the river, eat their dinner of rice and beans,
and then share prayers and reflection. Schaefer laughs, "Once
the sun goes down there, it's dark. There's no electricity. But
after a day of climbing mountains, painting, and in some cases pouring
cement, it's easy to fall asleep on a hard floor in your sleeping
Despite physical discomforts, the week was one of spiritual fulfillment
for both groups of volunteers. The students saw God's handiwork
in their surroundings and in the people they served. They also found
inspiration in daily Mass and evening prayer groups.
Laura Schaefer sums up the experience: "This was my third
Marymount service trip to Banica, and I feel a real solidarity with
the people there. Through these trips, my faith life has grown by
leaps and bounds. I come back each year because this is the spot
where I feel closest to God."