St. John Fisher College’s Campus Ministry will be embarking on its biggest service trip to date. Thirty two students are signed up to go to Houston, Texas during the coming spring break – from March 5 to March 11. This is the 5th trip that the ministry has taken, with a trip being unable to happen in 2021 due to the Coronavirus.
“We do so much service for our community here in Rochester, which is amazing, but there’s something so special about having a raw experience somewhere new and getting to experience things we can’t here in Rochester,” Senior and peer minister, Alivia Collins said. This will be her second service trip.
According to junior nursing major and service peer minister, Alyson Witt, the trip itself will be focused around service and reflection. From working in various food kitchens, to helping provide safe housing, and running discount “stores” of donated products for those in need. Each day will be centered around service at different sites and doing different things for the community. Following their service, students will reflect on what is encountered and the experiences they had. However, Witt adds that there are fun things built into the trip — including a Texas rodeo, a concert and a collaboration with another college ministry.
“It’s important to step out of our comfort zone and be able to experience a culture that is so different from our own.” Collins added.
“St. John Fisher College was founded as a Catholic college and as a result service is a direct mission of the college,” said Father Kevin Mannara. “Service in the college community came from our Catholic identity.”
According to campus Deacon Jon Schott, the service trip is part of the college’s and ministries mission.“You can’t be a Christian and not serve others,” says Schott.
Through eye to eye encounters with individuals that many students would never have if not for the trip, Fr. Mannara says “it’s hard not to recognize their humanity and thus the image of God in them.” Schott refers to the trip as a “pipeline for student leadership” which allows them to “explore deeper their ability to serve and it manifests in other ways across campus.”
Assistant Director of Campus Ministry, Sarah Mancini Goebert, says the trip “gives students a perspective on the world outside of the St. John Fisher safety net” and “forces students to address everyone as a human being with dignity.”
“Living the way that Jesus has taught us to live” is one thing Collins hopes to get out of the trip, while also making new connections with the Fisher community and helping as well as being able to help those in need.
Witt was one of the driving forces in planning the trip. “My role has been reaching out to service sites for us to visit and serve while we are in Houston. I have also helped with a lot of the fundraising, including the upcoming gala I am so excited for.”
Witt refers to service as her passion within the campus ministry and explains the trip is something she feels honored to be a part of. She hopes that students gain experiences from this trip; “ experiences in the places we visit and serve, the people we met, and the experiences we share together.”
Any Fisher students are eligible for these trips. There is a $300 price as well as time commitments for fundraising. Most of these costs go to travel, housing, and feeding students. However, the ministry team clarifies that no student will be turned away for not being able to pay that fee.
Fr. Mannara said that the majority of the trip is funded by generous donations from the Basilian Fathers, and family, friends, and individuals in the community. “A faith component is offered but not forced,” according to Mancini-Goebert, reminding students that they don’t need to be Catholic to be involved with the trip.
Registration for this year’s trip is closed, but there will be a trip next year that students can always register for when the time comes. As the peer minister for ministry service, Witt encourages anyone to reach out to her with questions.
“I am always willing to talk to anyone about these trips if anyone has any questions,” said Witt. “I know it can seem intimidating, but these service trips can change your life in the best way possible.”
Students interested in getting involved with Campus Ministry can reach out to Fr. Kevin Mannara, Alyson Witt, or Jon Schott with any questions. The mass schedule can be found here. Information regarding next year’s service trip will be released at the end of next semester– and students can keep updated via their email and the Campus Ministry Weekly Minute.