Last month, college students converged on Florida beaches in record-breaking numbers for Spring Break vacation. A smaller number seeking “alternative break” experiences chose community service, reflection, and prayer instead. Last month, 20 students from Mt. Aloysius College in Cresson, PA came to Mariandale for a week-long immersion experience in the Dominican pillars of service, community, contemplation, and study. The group reflected the diversity of the student body at Mt. Aloysius, where 98% of students receive financial aid and the school has a higher than average number of “non-traditional” students – the group included a mother of six earning her first degree. The diversity of life experience in this particular group lent itself to rich reflection and learning as the students processed what they saw, heard, and felt serving alongside our sisters and staff in various ministries.

Mt. Aloyisus students attending preaching justice workshops

Working with Sr Mary Alice in New Rochelle, the group prepared sandwiches for people experiencing food insecurity and packed diapers for low-income families. They learned about sustainable vegetable gardening from Sr. Bette Ann in the Garden of Hope at Mariandale. In collaboration with Caring for the Hungry and Homeless of Peekskill (CHHOP), the students prepared a booklet of nutritious recipes for guests of their food pantry. With Carl Procario-Foley they travelled into Manhattan for a Midnight Run and distributed sandwiches to people living on the streets. In discussions and workshops with Sr. Connie Koch, they discussed the concept of “preaching justice” and how to make a difference in the world when the week was over.

Many students described the experience as transformative:

 “This trip got me thinking about how I live my life and how to think about the world and people around me.”

“I saw some things that were difficult to see, but I’m glad I did. It really changed me for the better.”

“I learned a lot from people who don’t come from a similar background as me. This week was also very fun and I would go again in a heartbeat.” 

“I loved the Dominican Sisters so much.”

“What I’m taking out of this trip is speaking up, being God’s mouthpiece, standing strong in my faith, and living a life that will benefit the world.”

Mariandale welcomes college and high school students for immersion and other retreat experiences throughout the year. If you have a group in mind, contact Carl at cprocariofoley@ophope.org.