Left, Sister Karen Elliott with two boys from the St. John Bosco Boys’ Home in Mandeville, Jamaica; Sister Carolyn Hoying photo. Right, Sister Carolyn Hoying with two boys from the St. John Bosco Boys’ Home; Sister Karen Elliott photo.
“Do you want to go on a mission trip?”
It’s a simple question, and yet, if one responds “Yes,” it usually leads to a life-changing experience. The amazing reality is that most of us embrace a mission in the hopes of helping others and making the world a better place. And yet, as is true of most spiritual experiences, what one learns through reflection and prayer is that the biggest change is in you.
One such life-changing experience was embraced by eight students from Wright State University and one from the University of Cincinnati. Sister Carolyn Hoying and I journeyed with them for a mission experience at St. John Bosco Boys’ Home in Mandeville, Jamaica, from May 1 to May 15. Two Sisters of Mercy, Sisters Mimi Krusling and Susan Frazer, minister to the boys and the staff which serves approximately 130 boys ages 8 through 18. Some of the boys are orphans and others come to St. John Bosco for a variety of other reasons.
The goal of St. John Bosco Boys’ Home is to prepare these young men to be able to learn skills that will enable them to support themselves when they leave the home. The boys complete skill assessments and then are placed in classes according to their skill levels for reading, English, math and science. Additionally, they are taught specific trades such as butchering and catering.
At the facility they raise, butcher and sell both chickens and pigs. They also run a restaurant which is open to the public every weekend. The boys assist in the preparation of the food and also serve the meals. The active teaching of responsibility and pride in one’s work is demonstrated daily as each boy from the youngest to the oldest completes his duty of sweeping, cleaning, working in the kitchen, doing dishes and other chores necessary to the daily upkeep of St. John Bosco Boys’ Home.
The university students engaged with the boys for an extended period of time each day. They prepared and led classes in Scripture study, music and sports, especially soccer. Interacting with the boys in each of these endeavors was a profound experience for the university students as well as the boys, who blossomed with the additional individual attention they received. Every evening during prayer, the students shared “God moments” and most often it was the interaction with the boys that provided the awareness of God’s presence!
The students who journeyed on this mission went to help and to make a difference — and they gained the insight that while they might be building, cleaning or teaching, they were the ones learning, growing and being nurtured into the people God has called them to be. The boys at the home changed our students, broadened their perspectives and contributed to their experience of the presence of God in humanity. Our students were graced with a deepened awareness of being brothers and sisters in Christ. Every evening, our group gathered for prayer and reflection incorporating sacred Scripture and the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. The students reflected a deepened appreciation of and gratitude for their families and for the educational opportunities they have been given.
As Sisters of the Precious Blood, Sister Carolyn and I truly valued and embraced this opportunity to live our CPPS mission statement, which calls us to be “a life-giving and reconciling presence” to the staff and boys of St. John Bosco. ALL of us are grateful to God for this opportunity to experience God’s presence in ALL of them! We truly have been graced with a deepened awareness of being connected to our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.
– Story adapted from an article by Sister Karen Elliott published at cruxnow.com.