Fall Service Trips to Romero Center and St. Francis Inn

Participants from the Fall 2007 service trip worked at St. Francis' Kitchen in Philadelphia. Photo Credit: Campus Ministry

By Victoria Clarizio
Staff Writer

As many students have already discovered, service is a central pillar in the Marywood community.  In addition to the daily opportunities to serve, the university offers a series of longer service trips throughout the year.  Students traveled to the Romero Center in Camden, New Jersey during fall break and will volunteer at St. Francis Inn the weekend of October 31.

Camden, being the second poorest city in America, has a desperate need for a place like the Romero Center.  The center sponsors a program called Urban Challenge which brings awareness to issues of poverty, race and class.  Students participating in this program will participate in a variety of activities over the weekend.  According the center’s website,  “During the day, we work at a variety of work sites: in schools, with hot meals programs, at drop-in centers for persons infected and affected with HIV and AIDS, at housing construction, with the South Jersey Food Bank and with several other agencies in Camden and the Philadelphia area. In the evening, we discuss urban poverty, social and economic justice and reflect on our call, as disciples, to embrace a “preferential option for the poor”. We also tour the city and listen to people from the community tell their stories about living in Camden.”

St. Francis Inn consists of a soup kitchen, thrift shop and women’s center.  Their dining room is open year round and over 300 meals a day are served to people of all ages and races and is where the Marywood students will be volunteering.  They will be cooking and serving the food, then will help cleaning after each meal.  The Inn does not simply work to meet the daily needs of the people that come to them for assistance though; their mission statement states: “we empower persons to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty and address structural injustices.”

During these service trips students will not be passively serving others but actively participate in service learning.  Both weekends provide numerous opportunities for students to reflect on their experiences.  Amy Fotta, an Assistant Director of Campus Ministry and organizer of the service trips says, “All of Campus Ministry’s service trips are planned according to the PARE model (Preparation / Action/ Reflection / Evaluation)… prayer and reflection” are “scheduled into the the trips themselves.  For example, at the end of each day of service, groups meet for at least one hour for prayer to processing the day’s experience.” In addition participants must put many hours into pre-trip planning.  There are usually about four meetings previous to the trip and fundraising activities, which all participants must attend.”

Previous participants can attest to the fact that these service trips have changed their lives and the way they see the world.  Krystle Powell, who has attended and peer facilitated both fall service trips in the past, says they, “give you the opportunity to step outside the box and of your comfort zone.”  To her surprise she discovered that, “the people aren’t that different from you.”

Powell and others have discovered that service is an integral part of Marywood. There are opportunities to serve the community for everyone that can be found on the Campus Ministry website,  www.marywood.edu/campmin.