Every March, tens of thousands of college students from across the country converge on Florida beaches for a Spring Break vacation. A smaller number seek “alternative break” experiences and choose community service, reflection, and prayer instead. Last month, 20 students from Mt. Aloysius College in Cresson, PA arrived at The Center at Mariandale in Ossining, NY for a week-long immersion experience in the Dominican pillars of service, community, contemplation, and study alongside Dominican Sisters of Hope. Ninety-eight percent of Mt. Aloysius receive financial aid, and the school has a higher than average number of “non-traditional” students including a mother of six earning her first degree. The diversity of life experience in this particular group lent itself to rich reflection and learning as the students processed what they saw, heard, and felt.
Working with Sr Mary Alice Hannan, the founder of Desda’s Grate in suburban New Rochelle, the group prepared sandwiches for people experiencing food insecurity and packed diapers for low-income families. They learned about sustainable vegetable gardening from Sr. Bette Ann Jaster in the Garden of Hope at Mariandale. With Mariandale Executive Director Carl Procario-Foley they travelled into Manhattan for a Midnight Run and distributed sandwiches to people living on the streets. In discussions and workshops with Sr. Connie Koch, they discussed the concept of “preaching justice” and how to make a difference in the world when their week was over.
Many students described the experience as transformative:
“This trip got me thinking about how I live my life and how to think about the world and people around me.”
“I saw some things that were difficult to see, but I’m glad I did. It really changed me for the better.”
“I learned a lot from people who don’t come from a similar background as me. This week was also very fun and I would go again in a heartbeat.”
“I loved the Dominican Sisters so much.”
“What I’m taking out of this trip is speaking up, being God’s mouthpiece, standing strong in my faith, and living a life that will benefit the world.”
New York immersion experiences are available through Mariandale for both high school and college students. To find out more, contact Procario-Foley at email@example.com.