Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Closing the blog

Good afternoon everyone,

This is Fr. Bill making the final blog post.

What a wonderful experience we have shared.  While a few people knew each other at the beginning of the trip and a couple were friends, I think that it is very safe to say that the relationships formed on this trip surprised everyone.  There is a depth that can only be reached when we take ourselves away from our homes and go out on the pilgrims' path together.

Thank you to our loyal readers and all who followed along side us through this blog. Your prayers and encouragement were sustaining to us.

Thank you to all who contributed to our crowd funding.  We were able to make contributions to the Kenwood United Church of Christ, St. Ambrose Parish, Bettendorf House, St. Benedict the Moor parish and most of all we were able to fund the foundation piece to St. Benedict the Moor School's new playground.

My personal thanks to our students for their enthusiastic participation and willingness to enter into the ambiguity of the Spirit.

And special thanks to Beth, our student leader, and Maggie, our graduate assistant, for going above and beyond all expectations.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The kids are all grown up, and headed home!

It is our final night together and our newly formed friend-family is feeling a bit sentimental and sad to leave one another and our spring break bubble. Over the past week we have gone from near strangers to close friends and we all hope these bonds last, not just through the end of the school year but long into our lives. While we cannot possibly spend every minute together when we are back on campus, the lessons we learned this week will ever with us forever. 

These "kids" have once again renewed my faith in my fellow man by showing me, not just through words but through their actions and compassion, that the future is filled with hope. And love. 

Thank you, loyal blog readers, for sharing your loved ones. Not only with me, but with the world. 

All the best, 
"Grandma" Mags

A Fuller Heart!

Beth here! When faced with the task of reflecting on this week, I think that much of how I feel has been expressed already by my fellow mission trip friends. However, I have chosen to talk a little about something else I realized. I have been on 3 CCME's now and I have to say that the people on this trip have really inspired me and have made this week so enjoyable. Even so much so to the point where I really dread going to bed tonight and waking up to leave tomorrow. With such a small group we were really able to become a family. From singing in the car to BeyoncĂ© to cooking together every night as a family. I am not a cook so I really haven't had this many good meals while at school for a long time. I came into this trip only knowing Fr. Bill and Nick and I have come out with so many more friends who I know are going to change the world. It's really inspiring to be around these people. I treasure the motivation and comfort these people have given me. I hope to carry their enthusiasm and positive attitudes with me throughout the next phase of my life. I look forward to engaging more in the community through getting my Masters in Social Work and getting to work in my community in Pittsburgh. I'll never forget these guys!

It's been a wild, wild ride.

Wow, I can't believe that the last ten days have gone by as fast as they have. All of the planning and information leading up to this trip couldn't have even prepared me for this experience. I came on this trip with eight strangers and now I am leaving with eight friends. I was probably the outcast on this trip being non-Catholic and never completing a service opportunity in my life, but I can honestly say that this trip has opened my eyes to so many things. It has showed me that stepping out of your comfort zone is the real way to live life; I've been to more Catholic masses in the past week and a half than I have in my entire life, I tried perogies, Chicago deep dish pizza, and I've have made some pretty successful desserts (I like to think, anyways.) But I think the most memorable moments from this trip came from learning how to open my eyes to things and take a second to breathe everything in. James and Ernest in Chicago were so thankful just to have us there to lend a hand to providing people with food who couldn't afford to themselves. Doing maintenance at the harm reduction center showed me that even doing what we consider to be little, minute things allow time for people to focus on the more important things that need to be done. Going through neighborhoods with broken windows and boarded up doors has showed me to appreciate my hometown and the life I have grown up and have been blessed enough to have. It didn't stop in Chicago though. Even here in Dayton, I witnessed the pure joy of the children of St. Benedict the Moor who finally had us to practice their multiplication tables with and to play with them in gym class. All of these moments taught me so much more about myself than I ever assumed to be possible on this trip. It is quite true that had I not stepped out of my comfort zone, I would have probably been spending the last week on my couch at home binge watching the Food Network or MTV. But also, if I had not come on this trip, I would not have met the eight wonderful people who have helped me recognize the importance of the little things and friendship and helping others with what we were blessed with in order to make even the slightest difference. So to you, the blog viewers, I wanna say thank you for your donations, your support, and your encouragement throughout this trip. And to Father Bill, Maggie, Allison, Gigi, Kayla, Chelsea, Beth, and Nick: thank you for helping me step out of what I have considered to be comfortable and thank you for making the past week and a half so memorable, pleasurable, and enjoyable. I wouldn't have wanted to experience this trip with anyone else. So, as we close out the week with mass tomorrow at St. Benedict the Moor before we head off back to our busy lives at Duquesne, I ask you all to take a moment and appreciate the little things. We are truthfully so blessed and it's amazing how much of a difference you can make in someone's life with something as small as raking leaves or playing kids scooters and parachutes. Thanks for following my experience as well as everyone else's. I know that this trip is one I will remember. 

All the best,
Miranda Lowery

Communities Equal Love!

This mission trip has been one of the most memorable experiences of my life. We are all so blessed to be able to experience memories like this. God granted us with hands to help those in need. From a Spiritan view, we are called to help those who are in need and marginalized. I can truly say that we have definitely shown that help through the communities we helped serve this past week. Starting the trip, we all began as friendly faces we passed along on A-Walk, and now we are leaving as a family. The communities we served helped bring us together. Starting off the trip in Chicago, we assisted at an HIV rehab center and a soup kitchen. I honestly cannot tell you what my favorite part was in Chicago. I loved helping their community, lending them a helping hand, and giving them a break from their everyday lives. Moving on to Dayton, we began working within the school right away! This was my dream come true sense I am an Early Childhood Education major. The smile on all of these students' faces was heartwarming. These students were all so sweet, smart, and so much fun! I enjoyed every second I spent within the school. I was so thrilled to find out we were helping with these students. Some of these students go home every day and go home to no one, busy parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. I felt so blessed to be able to spend time and lend a helping hand to these students. There was a fellowship with these students as we all helped them study for their state tests, and have fun and play games during their breaks. This made me want to become a teacher even more. I cannot wait to be in a classroom with students just like them and give them a lending hand, a smiling face, and arms wide open awaiting a hug! Overall, I had an amazing experience on this Urban Plunge Mission Trip in Chicago and Dayton! Yes we helped the communities, but personally, I believe that the communities helped us more. They taught us all about what a sense of community, how community means family, and how we do not need a lot of things in our life in order to be happy. Less is more and we are all blessed with the communities we grew up in, our campus community at Duquesne and the communities we meet on experiences such as this. Therefore I leave you with one last note, cherish everything you have in your life, we are truly blessed with the lives God granted us, therefore let us open up and share our skills with those around us and learn about new communities and love all of God's gifts! It's been real and thanks for following along with us on our memorable experience! Xoxo, Allison

We are Family!

Throughout the missions trip, everyone learned something new about service, the communities we visited, and ourselves.  The strongest impact of the trip and greatest aspect was the sense of community. Whether it was community with the people we met or the people in our own houses, we learned about both culture and teamwork.  One of my favorite moments was last night at St Benedict the Moor when we spoke with some of the members of the church and the local president of the NAACP. Though we had little personal experience with some of their customs, they had us all laughing hysterically with the stories they told.  We grew in faith and relationships as new stories about Spiritans and the church arose.  My favorite memory with the group in the trip came from the meals we cooked and cleaned up together. Each day, we learned new stories about each other's homes and family traditions. We danced to the different music tastes of each person and learned to work as a team (and even some new cooking skills). Though much of the missions work we did was just temporary, we cleared some time for many of the community members to work on the projects that they are here for in the long term. Through service, faith, and love, we became a family. We learned to live in the moment and appreciate the different stories of our new friends in Chicago and Dayton. Until next time,

Focus on the now

Greetings from Gigi! There are too many moments in this mission trip to pinpoint one that describes our entitre experience. But this mission had taught and re-taught me some values in life that I intend and will try to keep with me for the years to come. It had made me come to realize concepts within and without the mission. One of them that stood out the most was to appreciate and live in the moment. Before the mission trip I thought we would be making more long-term impacts on the lives surrounding us, and we did but I loved how much we really focused on making a difference right now, right here. From the lovely people at the soup kitchen in Chicago to the loving students at St Benedict the Moor, they all taught me to appreciate the little moments in time; because in a way we did impact their future by influecing their present. The moments that were caught during this mission were also when there was a brief drive around the neighborhood of the school, it was clearly a neighborhood that was once thriving. As we drove around the blocks most of the houses were run down, borded up, caved in, with graffiti writing on several of them. It all seemed like a broken dream. It made me wonder how this town had reached this point and how it was once was. But then I remembered the enthusiasm and love the students had shown all of us and it absolutely warmed my heart that despite how little they had, in a way they did have everything. The morals, values, curiosity, intelligence, ambition, and the amount of the love they have to share will take them so far. So my point is not only to dwell on the past or feel rushed to see where the future takes you, but to really take in the moments happening right now and take the most out of them, and appreciate the people you have in your life without worrying if they'll stay, because they will always be a part of your history either way. So focus on the little things now and then, and stay gold.