The Jesuit High School service immersion calendar is jam-packed each summer. Jesuit students are traveling far and wide every year to make a difference in the lives of those in need.
For years, a Jesuit contingent has traveled to South Dakota, and Jasper, Ga., where their uplifting presence has become a welcome annual tradition. Another Jesuit group treks to Central or South America (this summer it was to Cartagena, Colombia, in the past it has been to Matagalpa, Nicaragua). Every summer for decades, a few dozen Jesuit students and alumni serve for a week at an MDA Camp in Florida. And Belle Glade, near Lake Okeechobee, is a frequent destination for Jesuit students looking to serve those less fortunate, and it was again this July.
In addition to all those opportunities, this summer a new Jesuit mission trip was formed: to Aiken, S.C. In late July, 15 Jesuit students, along with chaperones David Mammola and Corey Perich, served the communities on the outskirts of Aiken, providing manual labor and companionship for those in need, while working together with local volunteers from Aiken.
The 15 students were: Sammy Barranco '19, Alex Caceres '19, Nick Caulley '19, Jake Crowther '19, Nicholas Deptula '19, Evan Donaldson '21, Jackson Fanaro '19, Brennen Gil '20, Max Gonzalez '21, Max Hernandez '19, Mitchell Johnson '19, Ramon Martinez '19, Griffin McCombs '19, Alex Orr '19, and Reece Tappan '19. (The homepage photo, L-R: Mammola, Fanaro, Barranco.)
It was an extraordinary experience, which Caulley conveyed when he addressed the Jesuit student body at Convocation on Aug. 27. Click below for video of Caulley's presentation, and below that is a photo slideshow, and tab below that to read a transcript of Caulley's presentation.
Nick Caulley '19
Aiken, S.C. 2018 Mission Trip – Aug 27, 2018 Convocation
The Jesuit mission trip to Aiken was new this year – you probably haven't heard much about it, many of you probably didn't know it existed. Even though you didn't see pictures of the trip on the Jesuit Twitter or Facebook, I promise you there were 15 students, along with Mr. Perich and Mr. Mammola, who made the 16-hour round-trip to Aiken, South Carolina. I had always wanted to go on one of the Jesuit summer mission trips, but as the trip was nearing, I was nervous. The Sunday we were supposed to leave, I woke up dreading it. I already had my 80 service hours for my senior year, and this was going to be a full week out of my summer that I could have spent doing something else.
When our vans pulled into Aiken, I was surprised how clean the town looked. We were staying in the gym of the local Catholic elementary school, which was very nice. It had one of the most pristine chapels I've ever been in. I was confused about how this town even needed any help. I soon found out that every day we'd be traveling 30 minutes to worksites in surrounding towns that had much worse conditions.
I had no idea what to expect – after all, this was my first mission trip. Hearing about other mission trips, it became clear to me that Aiken was unique in that it wasn't just the Jesuit group helping out. There were people from Aiken who would be volunteering along with us. This included some high school students, most of whom were girls. In fact, our group made up a minority of the people volunteering.
There were three groups that went to different worksites each day, but all came back together to the gym after work. The groups were a mixture of Jesuit people and Aiken people. The three groups were selected at random, and I ended up with only three other Jesuit brothers: Reece Tappan, Evan Donaldson, and Max Hernandez. So most of the people I worked with the whole week were from Aiken. The volunteers from Aiken were very different – their culture seemed totally different and foreign – they didn't get any of our pop culture references or anything. The Jesuit group made up a majority of the high schoolers there, and it was cool how well we got along with the Aiken high schoolers in sports and other games we played, even though they were so different.
This trip was meaningful to me in multiple ways. I grew my relationships with some of my Jesuit brothers, while starting a relationship with two sophomores I did not know before. Also, I learned how to use power tools. Our group worked with two homeowners during the week, and we built from scratch a deck with stairs; painted walls; replaced parts of a ceiling; replaced a toilet; cleaned windows; cut grass; and much more. We basically went to these homes and looked for anything in need of repair and repaired it. This was my first experience ever using a power saw or a sander, and the ability to use them is now a skill I can say I own. This was straight up hard labor with few breaks, and it was a rewarding experience. Learning how to replace a ceiling with sheetrock was definitely a challenge, but it was very satisfying after we were done.
Every day the Aiken coordinator stressed that we should take every opportunity to talk to the homeowners, even if it meant we missed out on some work. These homeowners were basically shut-ins – they had very few visitors. The goal of this trip wasn't just to fix things – we wanted to help restore their dignity, if only through a few minutes of conversation. Corinthians 13:3 states, "If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing." No matter how much we renovated the various parts of their houses, if we did not provide the homeowners with love, we were missing the point.
A wise English teacher of mine once said that sometimes we forget to stress people's suffering and instead just focus on how happy they are. I think that was spot on. On this Aiken trip, God definitely opened my eyes to something I have hardly seen before. The people we helped were in desperate need financially. Every night we would have evening prayer and converse with the other volunteers. The common theme was that everyone felt so blessed with what they have. The people we served on these trip were all suffering, and they needed help. They are part of the many Americans living in poverty today.
The first homeowner, Ms. Mimi, balled her eyes out the second day we were there. Her daughter had recently been put in jail, and Ms. Mimi had to go to court to fight for custody of her grandson. She couldn't afford a lawyer – all she could do was cry. The second homeowner, Ms. Dorothy, was a single Grandmother living at home with her son and granddaughter. Her son has muscular dystrophy and her granddaughter has autism. Although she showed absolute love for both, it was obviously an arduous task take care for both of them.
From this trip I was inspired to reflect on all the people suffering financially that live even within a couple miles of our school. We need to be grateful for what we have, and we need to show compassion for those who are suffering. I recommend that you all decide to go on a mission trip during your time at Jesuit.
Please bow your heads for prayer.
Dear Lord, teach me to be generous...