Thursday, March 10, 2016


On the second to last day of our mission trip though I could easily say that it’s been the most emotionally taxing. There have been a myriad of emotions that have flowed through me today. A specific journey has been of particular importance to the group and myself. Today, we took a car ride throughout West and East Baltimore. Throughout the journey I grew increasingly shocked. That sense of surprise was exacerbated because it was coupled with a wide array of emotions that shifted continuously as the journey progressed. At the start of the trip we began to drive toward the epicenter of the riots in Baltimore that followed the controversial death of Freddie Gray. I was sickened, shocked, and saddened every block nearer to the infamous CVS that the news media reported was burning for hours. We explored neighborhoods that were more economically depleted than any place I’ve ever seen. Rows upon rows of houses sit unoccupied, boarded up, and dilapidated. On almost every corner sat police cars from different Baltimore precincts. Even the streetlights did not work. The Hill District looks like a wealthy neighborhood by comparison. We observed two incredible murals that were done on two buildings in Freddie Gray’s neighborhood. They exemplified the past and present of West Baltimore; a struggle for civil rights and economic equality resulting in a close sense of community and brotherhood. West Baltimore stood in stark contrast to the East. Johns Hopkins University stands at the center of wealthy East Baltimore that has received heavy investment. The massive disparity has left a bad taste in my mouth. The conditions of West Baltimore were completely shocking and truly made me appreciate how fortunate I am in my own life. It has also made me appreciate our own mission work and added a greater -sense of responsibility for us all.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


I have been on 2 CCME's now, and I have to say that it’s been the people on both trips who have really inspired me, and have really helped make my mission experiences truly gratifying. This year, with such a small group, I can say that we have become a family of like-minded individuals who stepped into a journey of change.  Change, not only within ourselves, but a change in our perspectives, and how we see the world of the world in which we live, stepping out of our comfort zones to achieve such a task.  It's really moving to be around a group of students who endured a trip that was filled with heaviness and confusion at times to come out as a more informed individuals of the issues that plague our society.  Issues like hunger, human trafficking, race relations, police brutality, gentrification, and poverty in 3rd world countries, just to name some of what we encountered. I am forever grateful for the amount zeal and comfort our mighty group of 7 has given. They allowed me to be myself, and where there for me when I was sorting through all of the weighty emotions I had to sort through in myself.  As I took part in my last CCME mission experience I’ve realized that Margaret Mead’s words still hold true, “that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

All my Best,



Monday, March 7, 2016

Stay tuned

Well be adding more stories and lots of pictures this week!  We had a great experience!

No Ablo Espanol

Today our group had helped with the food pantry at Our Lady Queen of Peace. And I have to say, of all the food drives or charity work I've ever done, I don't think I've ever been so intimidated helping people.
The population we were serving mainly came from Latino/Hispanic background and knew very little English. I found this experience to be intimidating because I know very little Spanish (*thank you kindergarten Spanish class and Dora the Explorer for the basic knowledge...)

People were coming at me asking me a whole bunch of questions about the items from the cart I had and I felt so helpless. In a way I kind of knew what they were saying because they would point to things but all i could respond with was "uno cosa (one item)", "no able Espanol", or desperately point at a volunteer who knew Spanish and say "Espanol!" hoping they would get the message to go talk to them about it. (At one point I almost started speaking in German.)

Yesterday our AFAC tour guide had told us about maintaining the dignity of people in poverty and the limited quantities they had at the food bank was a harsh reminder that they were in poverty and were limited by their options.

Even though the food pantry was intimidating because of my lack of Spanish, interacting with the customers was insightful. It showed me how helpful services such as a food pantry are to a community. Often a person in poverty doesn't have enough money to buy a lot of food from the store to sustain themselves or their families and so a food pantry is just a mechanism to getting the help they need to survive. I know a lot of people have this idea that poor people are lazy and don't work (I know I've had this view before) but honestly these people who i met today were so sweet and just regular people trying to get by.

So far I have loved everything about this parish and all the good things it has brought to this community. it's got its act together and it's beautiful to see how much they have done in the area.


Friday, March 4, 2016

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Dinner with Ann and Tim

The other night, Linda, Domenic, and myself had the pleasure of joining Ann (we call her "Dotty") and Tim in their home for dinner. They are such an amazing and interesting couple. They had so many stories to tell and such interesting lives. They would've kept us in their house all night had we not had to get back to the church by 9PM. Tim gave us a tour of their 1940's house- complete with built-ins, crown molding, original hardwood floors, and medallions around each light fixture in every room. They also had two outdoor patios. Linda and I were in our glory touring the home. Tim was so proud of his house and gave us the complete history of the home. The man who built their house was actually told that he was not smart enough for school. Then he built this beautiful and strategically planned house.  Tim also showed us the basement where he created a massive train set out of plywood. He showed us the trains that worked complete with the engine and horn sounds. Domenic was so excited to see the trains.  We made great conversation at dinner with Dotty and Tim. They are the proud parents of 9 children, three of which are lawyers, one is a nurse, and their only son who is a fantastic artist. Dotty and Tim have 17 grandchildren. They are extremely involved with their church and community. Our whole group had the pleasure of moving about 500 pairs of shoes earlier in the day with Dotty.  We all have really gotten to know her and love seeing her around the church.  Dotty even sent us home with some of her caramel tannies (aka 'blondies'). The whole night was great and was definitely one of the highlights of this trip for me so far.


Welcome to our House

Miranda and I had the opportunity to go to eat dinner with Tim and Jen at Tim's house. For dinner we had rice and stir fry and then for dessert we had brownies and ice cream. It was delicious and such a nice break from school cafeteria food.

More importantly, I loved how we have grown close to the parishioners from Our Lady Queen of Peace. Usually when I go on a mission trip, we mostly do the work we came to do and then hang out with friends from the group. It was very nice getting to spend individual time with the people we were serving and I'm very excited to do it again on Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

AFAC: Serving the Community with Dignity

Most of our day focused on food security as we took a tour of AFAC headquarters. AFAC is the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Koube, Director of Operations, gave us the tour.  We learned about how Arlington county's food pantries are run.  There are eighteen centers serving 2200 families or about 7000 people. It was moving to learn that 70% of the people served at AFAC are working, but they do not earn high enough wages to support themselves and their families.  The other growing population is those who are disabled and seniors with fixed incomes.  It was also interesting to learn their philosophy of hunger because they see that hunger usually stems from another problem.  With this in mind, AFAC allows only a one time walk-in.  After this one time shopping experience in AFAC, one must receive a referral from a social worker.  This way the families can also work on other problems that they are facing.  Finally, Koube emphasized the importance of hunger as a basic human right.  All the people who come into AFAC are treated with respect as they go through a shopping experience and get to choose what they would like to get. The dignity of human life is very well respected there as it should be.  It's so meaningful to see other young people making differences in their lives after college.  I think we walked away with some inspiration and see the importance of respecting the people we meet. 


#Shoes shoes shoes: Public Shoe Store

Today in Arlington we helped a family who is closing their shoe store which has been a family business for generations. We spent about three hours packing up shoes into big boxes then loading (and unloading) the boxes at Faith Lutheran Church and then taking a portion to Our Lady Queen of Peace. It was awesome to see the family dynamic within the shoe store. This store was really like taking a step into the past there were shoe brands that, I'll admit, I had never heard of and shoes I had only ever seen in movies like "The Great Gatsby". There were rolling ladders going back and forth along the walls of wooden shelves. There were mustard yellow chairs in the center with matching ottomans that were used to measure shoe size and they slide under the chairs when they weren't being used to make room in the narrow walkways. It was rather chaotic in the small store, but we got a lot done. Numerous people from different organizations came throughout the early afternoon to pick up shoes being held for them. Half way through I got to ride to the church with a full van of shoes with a long time parishioner of Our Lady Queen of Peace, Ann. I learned all about her life traveling the world with her military husband and their nine children. She shared with me her journey through life and how she came to be in Arlington and at Our Lady Queen of Peace. It turns out that she grew up in the area, and decided to settle down back here. So far on this trip I have met such a variety of people that come from so many different walks of life and the feeling of community here at Our Lady Queen of Peace is incredible. It is truly amazing how that feeling of community brings people from all over together under one roof for the same purpose, to grow in and share our love for Jesus Christ

Monday, February 29, 2016

Jackie and Veronica

Today we got to meet two wonderful sisters, Jackie and Ronnie, who spoke to us about the the history of the Arlington area and the history of the chuch were staying at: Our Lady Queen of Peace. They talked to us for over an hour and made me aware of issues they faced while growing up as African American women in the community. They became a part of the Our Lady queen of Peace Catholic Church when they were children. The chuch first started out as a predominately black Catholic Church and has been here for around 70 years. When Jackie and Ronnie were growing up, the problem of seggregation was apparent in the schools, churches, and restaurants. Jackie and ronnie's church posed as a sanctuary and safe haven for them after school hours or whenever they needed a place to go. I found it interesting how this church served as more than just a church for them and other people in the community. In my personal experience, my home town church never acted this way for me or other members. There were no activities after school or events that made me feel part of the community. What's great about our Lady Queen of Peace today is that this church values their members and wants to be that support system for the community.  This parish makes sure that everyone feels welcomed and cared for. Today, they have many different styles of masses, like Gospel mass and a Spanish mass.

These women also had the privilege to see Martin Luther King Jr during the Civil rights movement. Jackie even said that she climbed a tree to get to see him give his powerful speech. Both of these women were a pleasure to meet. I absolutely loved hearing their personal stories and experiences growing up during the time of the civil rights movement and all of the drastic changes that occurred in the US. I can't wait to learn to more throughout this trip!

Alumni Lunch!

Matthew 25 and Alumni  Lunch
We spent Sunday morning working in the Matthew 25 center  sorting clothing and helping out.  After the sorting we met with DC area alumni who treated us to a Panera lunch.  The event was coordinated by Imani Stutely () and Emily Hamscher Kindred (0.  Alums present were Jeff Sch  1996, Nikki 2004, Camille Pottinger 2013, Charquinta McCray 2013 and 2015 and Talia Kirkland
After the lunch we all went down to the storage center to do more work for the Matthew 25 Center  with the alums until we said goodbye to them at around 3:30 pm.   

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Church! Mass at Our Lady Queen of Peace

Today we got the chance to attend mass at Our Lady Queen of Peace. Personally, I’ve never had the best experience with the Catholic Church. Usually within the hour that mass takes, you can find me daydreaming about anything other than God. My view of the Catholic Church probably wasn’t the best either. Not only did I find it boring but I always saw it as a very exclusive religion in which people could only participate if they fit the Catholic mold.
That’s why when I came to Our Lady Queen of Peace, I was very thoroughly surprised by the Church community. Everything about it was so much different from what I knew about the Catholic Church.  The church was full of diverse people on fire for God. I loved how everyone was so warm and inviting and when they worshipped, they were extremely enthusiastic.
The people there weren’t just from a White background but there were also Hispanics and Blacks there too. They were very inclusive of people with disabilities and people in the LGBT community. To see this kind of diverse community as part of the Church really showed me how God sees each and everyone of us as important to his beautiful Kingdom.


We are still behind and only have 2 days to go in our fundraising. ....please help us reach our goal and we'll post a #dabforfunds  video......

Our arrival

We had a great trip and arrived at OLQP at 3:30.  After getting out of our vehicles we were greeted by Dr. Dennis Woytek,  Fr. Jean Michel and Talia and the who are filming a documentary about the parish and the ministries.  They wanted to film our arrival, so.......we got back in the vehicles, circled the building and arrived a second time for the cameras! 
In the evening we had some community time with the priests in residence,  Fr Tim, Fr Tom and Fr Brendan and some great Thai food!  We concluded the night with reflection time then lights out.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

First day at Our Lady Queen of Peace

Today is the first day of the urban plunge in Arlington Virginia. It has not been at all what I’ve expected thus far, though I admit I wasn’t exactly sure what I was expected. Maybe it was awful childhood experiences camping with my father, but I was imaging our trip to be dirty, or even uncomfortable. Today, was exactly the opposite. We arrived in Arlington, a place not unlike any average suburb of Pittsburgh. I found myself feeling rather at home. That feeling has only increased since visiting Our Lady Queen of Peace. The priests here, the rectory even, remind me forcibly of St. Januarius in my hometown of Plum. Just when I begin to think that I am becoming familiar with this place, we have our first group discussion. I hear the stories of my colleagues and some words of wisdom on what to expect here. I realize that I know nothing about the two separate communities that could easily be at odds with one another, or reconciled to form a great Catholic community. I realize in this moment, in our group reflection that this trip will not solely be about giving material items to this person or that person, but also to help construct the emotional building blocks necessary to create a community in complete solidarity.
Our home for the week.