Friars Give Back to the Greater World Around Them

by The Cowl Editor on September 5, 2018


Photo courtesy of Kelli Jenney ’19

by Hannah Langley ’21

Assistant News Editor

Providence College organizations, classes, and students are heavily influenced by the Dominican tradition to serve not only the community, but the world around them. 

This summer, different groups of PC students, along with PC staff members, were selected to serve in areas of Guatemala and Jamaica. Through working with both Catholic organizations and local communities, these students had the opportunity to grow not only in worldly experience, but also to grow emotionally and spiritually.

The trip to San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala was led by Fr. Dominic Verner, O.P., and Heidi Fraitzl, campus minister. The two staff members, along with nine PC students, worked with the Mission of San Lucas on serving the rural Guatemalan community around them. Projects included construction work on elementary schools and homes, as well as helping to create fuel-efficient stoves.

The students also learned about the culture of San Lucas from the people that live there. “We visited a woman’s center where we learned about daily tasks, such as washing clothes, carrying wood, and making traditional food,” recounted Brooke Douglass ’21, one of the students on the trip. “We also visited several villages around the Lake Atitlan Region,” said Douglass. 

The group was also able to experience Mass with the San Lucas community. On the Feast of Corpus Christi, the group got to experience a Eucharistic procession through the streets. Douglass talked about this, saying, “It was the most beautiful display of faith and love I have ever encountered.”

Another group of students was sent to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Led by Fr. Peter Martyr Yungwirth, O.P., and Dr. Richard Barry, adjunct professor of theology, 11 students were selected to work with a division of the Mustard Seed Communities. 

While there, the students worked with children with disabilities, most of whom were also orphaned. The PC students worked with these children daily, helping with meals, working on educational enrichment, playing games, singing and dancing, and praying throughout the day. “Most of the children were non-verbal,” mentioned Kelli Jenney ’19, one of the students on the trip, “but would still love to smile and dance and laugh with us.”

The groups left for Guatemala and Jamaica on May 26 and returned June 2. Before this, in early March, the chosen students had weekly classes, as well as a day-long retreat, to learn more about where they were going to serve. “We study Catholic social teaching and theological ways of approaching these trips,” said Robert Pfunder, associate vice president for mission & ministry, “[as well as] understanding the larger scope of what goes on in an international service trip, especially from a cross-cultural context.” “We also learn about the particular mission of the two organizations,” said Pfunder.

When the groups came back, they spent a day going over the time they spent in these countries, what they learned, and how they grew mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. “A lot of it is about building relationships,” commented Pfunder. “We hope it’s a chance for them to learn about the community,” Pfunder said, “but we also hope it’s a chance for them to build their own relationships with God.” 

Maria Rosa Sciancalepore ’20, a student leader on the trip to San Lucas, commented on her own experience with the trip, saying, “[It] has been one of the best experiences I have ever encountered.” She continued, saying, “The people are welcoming, loving, and always so excited to see students willing to volunteer to better a community that is a thousand miles away from home.” 

Fr. Peter Martyr also talked about his experience in Jamaica, saying, “It was amazing for me to see how much the students threw themselves into the lives of the residents. I was blessed in many ways seeing how God’s grace was touching not only the residents but also the students.”