Living simply is not something many high school students are used to in this modern age. But 14 CJ students, along with 14 students from Moeller High School in Cincinnati, chose to do just that for nearly a week as part of a rural plunge experience.
The group traveled to the Solsberry Hill Retreat Center in Solsberry, Indiana to participate in several service projects.
"The retreat center is set on a wooded farm in rural Indiana so we were surrounded by the beauty of nature - a constant reminder of God's goodness," said Kelli Kinnear, Director of Ministry and Service, who was a chaperone on the trip.
The students split into small groups and volunteered at various service sites around Bloomington, Indiana. Some groups painted a grade school, some worked at a build site for Habitat for Humanity, while others spent time in a garden which supplied food for a local food bank.
Clara Mussin Phillips '17 reflected about a large task her group completed. "We moved a 2000 pound rock. This is something that I never thought that I would be able to do. However, through the teamwork of about 15 people, we were able to move it and help build the amphitheater at the retreat center."
While at the center, the students embraced the world around them and could not rely on everyday technology. Some students used the retreat center's solar powered showers, which provided heated water via sunlight. The groups were also responsible for preparing their own food and cleaning up afterwards.
During the evenings, the students enjoyed time swimming in the pond, playing games and fishing. Kinnear said the groups also used this time for prayer and reflection.
"I think all of us left feeling blessed in some way, and being reminded of the true joy we receive when we dedicate our lives to Jesus' call for us to serve others," she explained.
Ellie Cronin '17 echoed that sentiment, saying during the trip, "we came out of our comfort zones and became more a part of the Marianist community."
Alumni Relations Coordinator Teresa Spanel '10, who also chaperoned the trip, agreed about the experience. "I was incredibly impressed by our students willingness and excitement to embrace the unknown and do service."