Do you want to go on a mission trip? 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.

You go to help, to make a difference, and you gain the insight that while you might be building, cleaning, or teaching, YOU are learning, growing, and being nurtured into whom God has called you to be. The persons with whom you engage change you, broaden your perspectives and your experience of the presence of God in humanity. Mission experiences grace you with a deepened awareness of being brothers and sisters in Christ.

One such life changing experience was embraced by eight university students from Wright State University and one student from the University of Cincinnati joined by two Sisters of the Precious Blood, Sisters Karen Elliott and Carolyn Hoying, 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 are tested and then 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.

Sister Carolyn Hoying with a boy from the St. John Bosco Boys’ Home in Mandeville, Jamaica, May 2017. (Credit: Sr. Karen Elliott.)

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 (Bible School), music, and sports, especially soccer. Interacting with the boys in each of these endeavors was a profound experience for both 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!

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 C.PP.S. 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.

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