By Gina Fleming, OP
Director, Dominican Young Adults USA
Jan. 5–9, nine members of the Dominican Young Adults Chapter at Molloy College participated in a service project on the Rockaway Peninsula of Long Island, New York. The build is sponsored by Friends of Rockaway and the St. Bernard Project, which have teamed up to continue the rebuilding of homes devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Joining the students from Molloy were five associates from our own congregation, as well as four of their friends.
The week began with arrival on Sunday evening, settling into bedrooms, a short tour of the house, dinner, and an overview of the plan for the week. This was followed by an opening prayer service.
Much to their dismay, the students had to rise each morning (sometimes with some prompting) at 6:15 a.m., prepare their breakfast, make their lunch (which they needed to bring to the site each day), and be ready to leave by 7 am. Quite a challenge, but they were real troopers and were ready to go.
Because of the large number of students and others in our group, we had to split up and work at two different sites. This was a challenge as far as transportation, but once again, we survived. At the work sites, the students had the opportunity to engage in all types of work. They cleaned, mudded, sanded, and primed the bare walls. There was much to do, but we were determined to do what was necessary to speed up the resettling of the families that once lived in these homes. The young people working alongside those of us who are a bit older hit it off right away, and the work, though exhausting at times, was done in a wonderful spirit of laughter and fun.
One of our groups had the opportunity of meeting the woman who owned the home they were working on. With tears in her eyes, she spoke of her gratitude to these young volunteers. She told them she would pray for them and ask God to bless them for their hard work and for making her dream of finally “coming home” a reality.
To make the service project more meaningful, and to have opportunity to reflect on our daily experiences, the Amityville Dominicans’ Dominican House of Hospitality housed 12 of the volunteers for the entire week. Each evening, the core community of the house, along with our Dominican Volunteers and other helpers, had dinner on the table ready for us when we returned home. We are truly indebted to their generous spirit of hospitality and service.
After dinner, the young people gathered to pray and speak about their day. What or who touched them, and where might they have encountered God in their experience. The prayer and reflection were powerful each night.
This experience was a true expression of what we mean by “Dominican Family.” Different parts of the family (vowed religious, associates, Dominican Volunteers, and Dominican Young Adults) all worked together to make this week work. No one of us did it all, but all of us did our part.
Soon it was time to say goodbye. Our week of volunteering was over, and we prepared to leave the sites. It was a good feeling knowing that we left the houses in much better shape than they were in when we arrived. It was also a good feeling knowing that each of us, in our own small way, assisted in “Continuing the Preaching ” in our own lives and the lives of those we met in the Rockaways.