Mission Trips Make Summer Meaningful

Giving up an entire week of summer break to travel to a foreign place and serve unfamiliar people may seem like a daunting and tedious chore to some teenagers, but not for Elizabeth Rosenkranz—the CJ student has spent parts of two summers volunteering with her school and already plans to attend a third service learning trip in 2012.

Elizabeth is just one of many students at Chaminade Julienne who decide to apply for the roughly 40 volunteer spots available on three separate weeklong summer mission trips offered each year by the Office of Ministry and Service.  Those interested must receive recommendations from two references, pay for the costs associated with the trip, and meet all the school’s eligibility requirements for extracurricular activities before earning the privilege of working within communities in Cincinnati, Ohio; Solsberry, Ind.; and Punta Gorda, Belize.

“It’s just so much fun,” Rosenkranz stated matter-of-factly to describe her motivation for making a second consecutive trip to the Tau Community House located off Interstate 75 just north of the Queen City in St. Bernard.  The CJ junior spent the week of June 12-17 working with the Franciscans For the Poor alongside ten of her classmates and fellow high schoolers from Iowa and Georgia.

“You are doing volunteer work, but you become really good friends with the people you are around all day so it isn’t boring or hard,” she explained. Under the supervision of chaperones Janet Lasley, CJ art teacher, and Deacon Jim Walworth, director of development, the team from CJ worked in the community rehabbing a house, tearing down fencing, and performing yard work for neighbors in need; however, the most “eye-opening” experience, according to Rosenkranz, was helping children and adults with disabilities at Redwood.

“I’ve never really had the chance to work with the mentally handicapped until now,” Rosenkranz added. Volunteers helped those in need at the non-profit agency during two sessions in the morning and afternoon.

According to Kelli Kinnear, director of ministry and service, the purpose of the CJ Summer Mission Trip Program, however, is not solely to provide a helping hand. The program is designed to give students an opportunity to develop their faith by responding to both national and international issues of poverty and injustice in the real world, and the trips are meant to incite a passion in young people to continue to serve beyond high school.  In addition to the work involved, students also reflect on their experiences through prayer services and are allotted leisure time to build relationships with classmates.

Rosenkranz, who enjoyed her free time swimming with friends at a nearby pool, said she hopes to be wading in the Central American waters of Belize this time next year. She first became interested in CJ mission trips after her brother Henry Rosenkranz, ’06, traveled to Guatemala with the Eagles. The school has been offering summer service opportunities in locations throughout North America since 1998.

“It’s woven into who we are as a school with our Marianist and Sisters of Notre Dame charisms. That’s just what we are all about; serving the poor and fulfilling needs,” Kinnear explained in regards to the influence of the two orders that sponsor the school. She has been with CJ for 20 years.

Fifteen other CJ students spent the week of June 12-18 working with disadvantaged men, women and children residing in the Toledo District of Belize, just north of Guatemala, to help build a church.  The group’s endeavors included mixing and applying homemade plaster to the building’s interior and exterior walls, climbing the Mayan ruins, delivering supplies to schoolchildren and assisting at mobile medical clinics with chaperones Dr. John Downer and Dr. Steve Huffman.

“I found it very enlightening that a group of CJ students made the decision to give up a week of their summer vacation to carry out the ideas of St. Julie and Blessed Chaminade, coming together in a very difficult environment to provide service to such an impoverished community,” said Dr. Huffman, parent of CJ junior Elizabeth Huffman.

The doctors—both veterans of CJ mission trips, having each been to Belize in years past—were accompanied by faculty and staff first-time chaperones Amy O’Loughlin ‘86, science department co-chiar, and Angela Richardson Mason ’81, administrative assistant in the office of student services. Mason, who attended with son Logan Daugherty ’11, said this service learning experience is one that will stay with her for the rest of her life.

“It was the most rewarding and the most challenging experience of my life all at the same time,” she said. The trip south of the border with her son held even more special family significance for Mason, who is a descendant of Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN, a 1949 Julienne graduate who was martyred in 2005 for her work assisting poor farmers in Anapu, Para, Brazil.

“I know that this trip gave me the opportunity to see what my aunt Dorothy did in her community and why she chose to continue to fight for the education of the children and rights for the poor.

“I believe we are doing something so special and we are truly fulfilling the missions of Fr. Chaminade and St. Julie.”

Participants volunteering for the third and final mission trip of the summer in Solsberry, Ind. depart for the rural town on Sunday, July 10 and will work with the local Habitat for Humanity chapter before returning on Friday, July 15.