Water, Carbon, and Stories

Hi all! We have officially reached the end of our journey! This morning we quickly cleaned up our house at St. Mary’s and headed off to mass at St. Benedict the Moor Church. While enjoying some lovely singing, we worshiped together one last time.

St. Benedict the Moor Church

We have come a long way since the beginning of the week. When we first arrived in Chicago we weren’t sure what to expect, but after our 7 hour car ride very close together, we quickly got to know each-other. The week was full of adventure as we walked the streets of Downtown Chicago and Hyde Park. The People of St. Ambrose welcomed us with open arms and we were blessed to serve at the soup kitchen as well as the women’s shelter. Leaving Chicago was hard but we were ready to see what was waiting for us in Dayton!

While arriving in Dayton on that Wednesday afternoon, we were slightly tired but just ready to get out of the car! We headed straight to the school and immediately began working with the students. The rest of the week was spent with the kids either playing outside for recess, eating lunch in the cafeteria, or helping with tutoring! The kids have taught us so much and we all would love to have stayed with them longer!

We reminisce on our week we shared together and the great memories we have.We are thankful for many hidden passageways, mice that never stop following us, the stress bakers who always cure our hunger, and for the finishers that never let anything or anyone get left behind! We leave behind so much, but there is so much to come back to. Dayton and Chicago have been such a blessing in our lives and we leave them knowing the best is yet to come. After all, as Father Bill quotes, we are only made up of water, carbon, and stories. And we are ready to share those stories with the world!

We are on our way back to Pittsburgh and are officially signing off. -Mackenzie

Group picture with Father Francis!

Two Big Days in Baltimore

We have had two very full days in Baltimore! After our arrival in West Baltimore on Thursday, we woke up the next morning ready to serve St. Edward the Confessor Parish.

The group was really impressed by the dedication and hard work of the parishioners who run a food bank. We helped them serve over a hundred and fifty people. Before serving the food, a community member led the prayer and we were all very moved.

When we had cleaned up after food distribution, we went back to the house and made macaroni and cheese for lunch, and argued about whether macaroni and cheese should have breadcrumbs on it or not.

After a rest for the evening, we went to Immaculate Conception Church and did the Stations of the Cross with the congregation. We had a really nice reflection and light meal afterwards.

On Saturday, we woke up early to head into Baltimore. We went to the Walters Art Museum. Right now they have St. Francis’ missal on display, along with a lot of other significant medieval artifacts associated with the early Franciscans.

We ate lunch and visited the Basilica of the Assumption (even thought it was closed, we snuck in the basement).

We stopped at the Edger Allan Poe house, and then we spent the afternoon at the inner harbor. Then Fr. Dave and Fr. Matthew, the Spiritans who are the priests at St. Edward’s Parish, treated us to dinner.

We had a long few days in the city of Baltimore but we’re looking forward to mass tomorrow morning with the congregation!

Immokalee 2020: Last Day

Today was an extremely relaxing day for the Immokalee crew. We departed in the morning at 10am to head to the beach of Wiggins Pass which is located on the Gulf Coast in Naples. The journey was under an hour – but en route to the beach we drove into Naples. It was interesting to see the contrast between Naples and Immokalee with Naples being an extremely wealthy city compared to the ‘third-world’ esque providence of Immokalee, which are both located in the same county! When we arrived, we immediately sprinted towards the ocean with a select few staying back to help prepare the food on the grill. During our preparation, we were visited by a curious raccoon who clearly wanted the scraps of our food. The raccoon climbed to the top of one of the palm trees and waited for us to go into the ocean before snatching some of our watermelon. After relaxing on the beach, we left and visited the beautiful Catholic University of Ave Maria for 15 minutes- a wide and spacious university, likened to that of Penn State. Following our brief visit, we went to 7pm Spanish mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe – a beautiful Church that had just been remodeled! To close our night, we delivered Sr. Judy a signed picture frame of us from when we had dinner at her house several nights ago. What a perfect way to cap off the last day of our trip!


Immokalee 2020: Day 6

Today was a day that we got to sleep in a little bit! We started the day with a light breakfast and lots of energies to go visit Lipman, a company that works with packaging tomatoes and that has already signed the Fair Foods Program. We went on a tour of one of their tomato packing facilities that was located here in Immokalee. We got the tour by James, who has worked there for 23 years and taught us all about this facility. We got to see how the tomatoes are selected, how they are stored and how they are packaged. It was amazing to see how many of these processes are done by machines, even the selection of the tomatoes. Tomatoes get sorted by their colors and size. One of the machines was in charge of sorting them, it would analyze each tomato as it went by it was really impressive!

Even though so much of the work is done by machines, there are still many processes that can only be done by humans, machines can do everything faster but they need some supervision. What was very interesting about the workers at this facility was their schedule, James was explaining to us how all the shifts worked, there isn’t a set time where the tomatoes arrive at the facility so there isn’t a set schedule for workers to come in every day. They have a phone call chain that lets all the workers know at what time they are supposed to come in that day. With that, there is some benefits but also some downfalls, he also told us that there is not a set time for how long a shift is. What he assured was that all workers get at least 10 hours between shifts, which allows all the workers to recover from their work. Overall the packing tour was really good, we got to learn more about the tomato industry especially of what happens after the tomatoes leave the farms.

After the packing tour we went to Delicias Michoacanas to get some more paletas, the favorite flavor of the day was Fresas con Crema (Strawberries and cream) almost all of us got it. After that we went to the Immokalee Sports Complex, where they had a nice and cool swimming pool. We all got to relax a little bit and to enjoy the Florida sun. Lucia was so excited that she jumped in the pool with her glasses on and Ysabelle learned how to swim! We all got a lot of sun and got yelled at for trying to get in the children’s swimming pool, it was kind of sad that we couldn’t swim there but we still had lots of fun! After the swimming pool closed we got back to Fellowship and ate some great quesadillas which allowed us to end the day on a great way.

Air Force Museum and yet another fish fry

Strategic Command Bomber

There is a lot to cover in the US Air Force Museum. From the very first Wright Brothers Flyer to the Space Shuttle and the Stealth Bomber the walk through the museum is a walk through the industrial history of the nation as much as the history of the conflicts of the past century.

After the museum we were to go out to Corpus Christi Parish to help support their fundraiser which is a rare Saturday fish fry. Fr. Benoit had asked if we could come and support the efforts of the community that he is pastor of. We were all set until we learned that the evening included games of chance and a bar and that the event was strictly over 21. We opted for takeout. Fr. Francis came over and sat with us while we ate and gave us the history of St Benedict the Moor school and gifted us with swag. Check us out on A Walk with our St Benedict the Moor t-shirts and St Mary sweatshirts when we get back to campus on Sunday evening.

Quiet Saturday Morning

Irish Soda Bread

After a very busy week of soup kitchens, homeless shelters, inner city schools and a parish fish fry the students on the Chicago – Dayton trip are having a quiet morning of soda bread and coffee. Hannah was baking into the night after we got back yesterday and finished our reflection/prayers. We’ll be off to visit the Air Force Museum later in the day but for now it’s steaming mugs and sweet bread and quiet.

Venturing Home: Day 5

Hi again! Our time in Mullens has come to an end. We have had so many great times over the last 4 days. When reflecting on our time here we can all agree it was the people that made the trip… from the group of us that ventured out on this together to all of the people we have met along the way. This trip has changed all of us somehow someway. We are excited to get back to Pittsburgh and apply what we have learned from this experience to our surrounding area. Always remember that service does not have to be big, it’s about the small things we do day in and day out, like helping someone across the street, smiling at a stranger or helping a friend complete a project. Most times these small things mean more to those people than we will ever know!

A Tuesday in Mullens: Day 4

Hi guys! It’s Tuesday and our last full day here in Mullens. For those of you who do not know Mullens is a small little town in Wyoming County, it was once a bustling place but with the decline of the coal industry it is one town that was and still is being hit super hard. One of the biggest challenges that the leaders in Mullens have is ways to develop different areas to try to increase tourism to try to revive the once bustling area. Today we got to drive around Mullens and different sites that Dewey is planning on revamping. He had us look at the different sites and think of ways to best develop the land. Everyone seemed to like today because it gave us the opportunity to think creatively and outside of the box on what these locations can one day be. During this time we all took turns of riding with Dewey and listening to what he had to say about Mullens and his vision for it. The people who were not riding with Dewey at the time rode with Gio and Aunt Ruby. We all had a great time learning from both Dewey and Aunt Ruby who have such a passion for this town. It was such a great day!

After our adventures with Dewey today we had another night of line dancing. Gio felt left out the night before (he was busy cooking for us and Arnie and Cathy) so Ms. Patty came back for another night of line dancing fun. We enjoyed our time with Ms. Patty line dancing but what really touched us was the unexpected life lesson at the end. She started talking about the personal experiences she had gone through that led her to line dancing and doing what she loves… tissues were definitely needed. This opened our eyes and reminded us that we never know what someone is going through and that people do different things to cope with different things. More importantly, it drove home the point of what everyone was telling us about the people of Mullens… that they have so much love and that is what gets them through the hard times.

Ready for Day 2 of Line Dancing

A Monday in Mullens: Day 3

Hi everyone! It’s Monday and today we worked with Dewey and the volunteers at the MOC. Dewey is quite the guy! Some back story, there is a small historical landmark in Mullens that happens to be church and one of Dewey’s hope is to eventually restore it to the church it was one. In order, for this to be possible we helped them start to clean and with some maintenance work that the church needed. It was a day full of sweeping dirt and leaves from the basement, moving wood, yard work and using power tools!

The whole gang
Break time with Timmy

It really didn’t feel like working because we enjoyed every second of it and getting to talk to Dewey, Aunt Ruby and all of the other volunteers and building relationships with them individually made everything worth it! Dewey and his team never failed to us how passionate they are about a place that they love so much throughout the day. One thing that hit us that morning was the love that the people of Mullens have for the area and for each other. It is so different from Pittsburgh!

After our morning at the church we went back to the MOC for lunch. After lunch we got to go to the “Orchard”.

Hanging out at the “Orchard” with Aunt Ruby and Timmy
Rachel and CeCe rocking the those rocking chairs

A previous team from Duquesne worked up there one year and we got to see what it has become. It was an adventure to say the least to get up there. We all know how dirt roads, rain, trucks and trailers mix! Needless, to say it was an experience in the best way possible. When we finally made it up the mountain we got to see the cabin that was made and the newest addition of the “John” the new out house. We took some time to looks around before hurrying to the other side to plant 30 new trees before the rain started. The ride down was as great as the ride up… may be a little bit more adventurous, especially if you were to ask Rachel or Maggi! We made it back to the MOC for a moment of down time before we had line-dancing lessons with Miss Patty! It was an hour of line dancing fun and then we had a dinner plans with Arnie and Cathy.

Line Dancing

Arnie and Cathy… what can I say about them other than the fact that everything they say hits home in more ways than one. We learned the story about how they ended up in Mullens and the things that they love about the area. A few of their favorite things about Mullens and the areas surrounding Mullens is the sense of family, place and faith and all of that could without a doubt be seen in all of our encounters we have had, thus far.  One point at dinner we started talking about poverty. Arnie really stressed the point that poverty is everywhere… the most important thing he said was that you do not need to go anywhere to see poverty there is poverty everywhere around you. He talked about how there was sure to be poverty in Pittsburgh, as well. The thing he said that really struck home with us was that we need to take what we learned from this experience and use that knowledge and apply it wherever we are, it doesn’t have to be a specific trip or place.  

Dinner time with Arnie and Cathy

Sunday Funday in Mullens: Day 2

Hi again! Mullens team here. It’s Sunday and today we volunteered at the St. Vincent de Paul food bank here in Mullens. It is run by Arnie and Cathy who are both absolutely AMAZING people! The food bank is open the last Friday of every month for the people within the community to come and not only get food but they have a wide selection of clothes, books, toys and even kitchen appliances they can have, if they need it. Since, the Friday before was the last Friday of the month things needed to be reorganized and ready for the following months last Friday. We spent the day sweeping the floor, folding clothes, organizing food and cleaning our freezers!

Fixing Tiles
Some life advice

More importantly, we spent the day building an authentic relationship with both Arnie and Cathy.  It truly made us realize how lucky we all are to be able to attend school at Duquesne and live in Pittsburgh. It really put things into perspective about, especially about how easy it is to take the simple things we have for granted. It also opened our eyes to the hearts of the people in Mullens. Arnie and Cathy put in all their efforts to drive the place for success so that they can serve the community around them. The fact that they are able to serve and cater the needs for 400 families monthly is heartwarming. They were both full of wise advice and inspiration. I am certain that when I say we left there feeling inspired, appreciated and truly loved by them that I am talking for anyone that has ever stepped foot in that food bank.  

That afternoon we went back to the MOC and hung out, out back, by the river! The sun was shining and some of us even got a little sunburn while we were out there.

Hanging by the river

Obviously we missed the message about needing sunscreen in WV in March. After spending the afternoon hanging out we got ready and went to mass. We attended mass with Arnie and Cathy! It was a super small mass but allowed us to get to talk to and get to know the people that were there. We truly learned so much about Mullens and the surrounding areas from everyone! After mass, we went to dinner and spent the night team building and of course the night wasn’t really over until we did a Walmart run! Upon returning to the MOC we turned in and were excited about what tomorrow will bring.