Since 2007, Saint Vincent College’s Campus Ministry has organized alternative service trips during breaks and summer for hundreds of students. Two of their destinations are the Foreign Missions of Saint Vincent Archabbey, where our monks working abroad and the local religious and lay communities offer opportunities for our students and staff to walk hand in hand with those living out the kindness and mercy that comes from Christ.
Kayla Gross, a Sophomore Theology and Communications major who has been involved in youth groups dedicated to service work since high school, had the opportunity to spend her spring break last year on a Mission Trip to Vinhedo and Jundiaí, Brazil, with several other Saint Vincent students. There, she ministered to women who were abused, suffered from addictions, and were victims of human trafficking. She also taught, prayed, and played games with children who were also victims of abuse and neglect – children who were essentially forgotten and discarded by their communities, but who found a safe haven with the Missionary Sisters of Christ. She was quite moved by the experience of seeing in the eyes of those so familiar with the pain of being marginalized by the rest of the world the joy of being valued and loved, just as they are, by her, her fellow students, the Monks, and the Missionary Sisters of Christ.
Kayla feels that she received from the experience far more than she was able to give. She returned to campus humbler and more grateful for the opportunities she has enjoyed in her life than when she left. The strength and courage of the people she met, who in the face of tremendous injustice find a way to keep their faith and hope alive, gave Kayla a first person encounter with a power that can only come from Christ. Not only will the children and women she met always have a place in her heart, they will also forever help to strengthen her faith and her resolve to follow the call to become a professional youth minister and show that faith and hope can be found in the midst of the most difficult circumstances.
Gabby Kohl, a Junior English and secondary education major, spent part of last year’s summer break in Taiwan. While there, she taught English to physically and mentally challenged children at an orphanage, learned about the culture, language, and traditions from the students of Fu Jen University, and made pastoral visits spending time with people in the communities surrounding Taipei, the capital.
When Gabby chose to come to Saint Vincent College, she was looking for a second home in many ways—a place that would allow her to live out her call to serve others. What she discovered was that her “home” was larger than she could have imagined. Not only did she find at Saint Vincent a community of like-minded students that shared her values, but also, thanks to the opportunities available to her from the ongoing missions of the Archabbey, witnessed firsthand that those values and her “home” extend to the global community. Whether by sensing the children’s need to show her how proud they were to count in English, or by sharing the same taste in music with a Taiwanese college student, she realizes her perspective will never be the same. There is no longer the “other.” There is only one common people made in the image and likeness of God. She has seen it firsthand.