By Maggie Cornejo and Stephen Artner
When fifteen sophomore students and four adults at Paul VI boarded buses to travel to Nazareth Farm, West Virginia for a mission trip Sept. 18, they had no idea what kind of a weekend they were in for. Hard work, fun, deepening friendships, and prayer led to many unforgettable memories.
Life on the farm was a new and interesting experience for everyone. Each day started with waking up to cheerful music and then going to a prayer service in the upstairs meeting room. Prayer was different each morning; for example, one day the group read Bible verses and then reflected on them.
Mrs. Joyce Krolicki, our Campus Ministry coordinator, led the trip. She and Father Michael Kelly, the school chaplain, spent months preparing for this trip, and she truly led them as a second mother. Father Kelly arrived late to the trip as he was very sick the first two days, but he made a big impact on the trip.. He was a wonderful asset, allowing the students to grow closer to God by giving an opportunity to go to Confession and leading Mass and prayer. “He brought life to the trip, even though he was only there for one day,” said Rebecca Skouby ‘17. “His exposition and his Mass was really good—it helped us understand our faith—and he brought it to our level of understanding, and I am so glad he was able to make it even though he was so sick the first two days.”
Nazareth Farm has four pillars that the staff and visitors live by: prayer, simplicity, community and service. The pillar of simplicity included not knowing what time it was. When asked for the time, the staff always answered ‘10:10,’ signifying the hands of a clock pointing up to heaven, meaning ‘all in God’s time.’ This allowed group members to not have to worry about scheduling and instead focus on the service they were performing — a welcome change from their structured lives back at home. “We’re just so busy here, and I love that—any time we go away—to be able to really take time to be quiet and unplug. Like no cell phones, no watches—really unplug,” said Mrs. Krolicki.
West Virginia has very sparse resources compared to what most Northern Virginians are used to. “I’ve never been in that situation before, and it was incredible to realize that some people are less fortunate than we are,” said Clayton Astore ‘17. To conserve water, each person is only allowed one shower and is instructed to limit the flushing of toilets. One night, in order to limit energy use, the farm did not use electricity or tap water at all. Much of the food was grown right on the farm, such as the salad. The farm has a plentiful garden where the staff grows vegetables, such as cucumbers and squash.
The students were split into four groups, each going to separate worksites during the day. The work performed included repairing roofs and siding, and doing chores around the farm, such as gardening and cooking. The homeowners whom they helped were all extremely appreciative and made an effort to connect with the groups working on their homes.
The staff members were friendly and accommodating to the Paul VI students and made them feel at home from the second they arrived. The staff truly wanted everyone to feel that the farm was their second home and that they could feel accepted there. Many of the missionaries that work at Nazareth Farm are recent college graduates who live in the staff quarters and work five days a week. Their work includes repairing homes for those who do not have the financial support to pay for the repairs themselves. “I loved the staff!” said Emily Fentress ‘17. “They were all really enthusiastic, and they were really devoted to what they do and their whole cause. I really got to know a lot of them.”
The group had prayer twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. One form of prayer that they participated in was ‘shared prayer’. This allowed each person to share how they saw God that day, whether it be in a person, experience or activity. “I learned that Jesus is in everyone in all the little things. Like on Saturday night where we talked about how we found God—how everyone found God in something different,” said Peter Montwill ‘17. This was also Mrs. Krolicki’s favorite part of the weekend.
On Saturday night, there was adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, along with confession with Father Kelly, a powerful experience that a lot of the students, such as Sydney Baker ‘17, loved. “I was in confession and I was just telling him all this stuff,” she said. “The way that he talked to me, it was like he was in my situation, and he knew exactly what I was going through.”
Many students expressed that they had grown close to the rest of their friends on the mission trip through the work they did and through the bonding experiences they shared. “I went in knowing a few people, but I came out with a lot of good friends,” said Olivia Coan ‘17.
“It was good for all of us to have time like this,” said Mrs. Krolicki, “where you’re getting your hands dirty and you’re doing something that you can see the results of what you’re doing, and then to talk about it and see how it helps the homeowners, too.”