Foregoing their school vacation, nearly 60 Prep students led by 11 faculty and staff chaperones traveled a combined 4,000 miles via highways and jetways to give of themselves to others. Descending upon five different locales—three stateside, two abroad, and each with a distinct objective—participants lived amongst communities, learned about customs and hardships, built relationships and lent their hands and hearts to a variety of endeavors.
“The primary goal is to be in solidarity with all these people we meet when we’re away from campus,” says Director of Campus Ministry Lawrence Molloy, now in his 12th year at the Prep. “Sometimes it means using your gifts to help them, sometimes it’s just about being present and recognizing that we’re one people, whatever our socio-economic background might be. It’s a two-way street as well: Our students recognize some of the conventions and conveniences that we ourselves need to be freed from. We come together with the people in the places we go, and we can share our stories, which liberates all of us.”
Last week’s international trips took place in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Stewarded by main office administrative assistant Evangelyn Surrette, campus minister Rob Tyler and Assistant Principal Mark McManmon, the 17 students who traveled to Jamaica and stayed at Blessed Assurance, a Mustard Seed community that serves as home to more than 500 children and young adults with disabilities and illness, as well as pregnant teens and their babies. Students engage in meaningful interaction with the children and adults, residents and complete tangible work projects that improve the facilities and infrastructure of the home. More photos available on SmugMug.
The trip to Ecuador is an immersion retreat program called Rostro de Cristo, where students assimilate into the local community. “The students visit residents’ homes, play soccer with local kids, go to Mass and live exactly as locals do,” says Molloy. “They get a banana and some bread both for breakfast and lunch, and vegetables and rice for dinner. It’s a real cultural awakening as they explore the intersection of faith and justice.” This year’s visit by 12 students was chaperoned by math teacher Kate Tremarche and information services department senior support specialist Amir Ghali.
The Prep has strong alumni connections with both Rostro de Cristo (it means the Face of Christ) and Blessed Assurance. Father James Ronan '62, who is pastor of Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Mary's Parishes in Charlestown, founded Rostro de Cristo in 1988 as a retreat center where high school and college students from the United States could live in community with the people of Ecuador. Father Leo Shea, M.M. '56, former Vicar General of the Maryknoll Society and the Prep’s 2006 Distinguished Alumnus, has served as a chaplain at Blessed Assurance in Montego Bay for many years.
“My experience in Jamaica was absolutely incredible and totally life changing,” says John Walsh ’19. “These kids, for the most part, had no infrastructure around them. The Mustard Seed community worked with what they had to create a new, loving environment and system for these kids. It really gives me confidence that anything can be achieved with devotion to what you believe in. The trip also really drove home how lucky I am to live where live, with what I have. It was incredible to see this community, which didn't have running water half the time, flourish. All of the workers as well as the children consistently had smiles on their faces. It made me realize that when I am up late at night doing homework or I am incredibly busy, at least I have the opportunity to choose to do homework. The nurses at Blessed Assurance work 16-hour shifts, five days a week, and they commute an hour each way every day in a taxi because they can't afford to buy cars.”
In San Jose, where Mr. Molloy served as a chaperone along with campus minister Chris Bauer, 10 students spent the week working with programs based at a local Catholic parish to benefit a broad demographic across the community. More photos available on SmugMug.
Camp Sunshine in Casco, Maine, provides a welcoming setting for adolescents to 18-year-olds who have, or have experienced, life-threatening illnesses. This year, 10 St. John’s students served as volunteer counselors. Math teacher Liz Dobrowolski led the trip along with Rich Coray, whose son, Ben ’18, participated. More photos available on SmugMug.
“One thing that stood out to me this week with the boys is how invested they are in helping beyond (this trip),” says Dobrowolski. “One student talked about being so moved last year that he knew he needed to do it again, and find other ways to help, which included volunteering for (the Dana Farber Cancer Institute). It really stood out how much these young men are involved outside of school. They are all ready to sign up to go to Camp Sunshine again (over April break).
A pair of first-time chaperones—Latin teacher Mike Russo and school counselor Melanie Piendak—oversaw a highly rewarding PULSE trip that included nine students. The Prep Urban Life Student Immersion program offers juniors a four-day opportunity to experience life in downtown Boston. Students work in soup kitchens, homeless shelters, inner-city grammar schools, and food banks.