Following in the Footsteps of St. Francis

There are those who choose to spend their free time and money to help others.

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While most students prefer to take a break from studying, catch up with friends and family back home or just watch TV during school breaks, other students choose to follow Franciscan values by volunteering to serve those in need.

Quincy University Campus Ministry sponsors several mission trips both locally and abroad throughout the year. Their “mission” is to help those who are in need. The students who participate learn from people of different creeds, cultures, and backgrounds.

The mission work performed by our university students has taken place for decades. These students find a spiritual experience through their personal interactions with those people they encounter on their missions.

Jessica Howell, student coordinator for the mission trips believes students volunteer for many different reasons. Some, because the university requires the service hours to complete graduation. A few students feel the obligation to do so and some are almost compelled by a higher power to serve those in need. For Jessica, it is the love of these events where Christ is involved.

“Most of the students do it for the right reasons. They want to serve others and it gives students a chance to grow together socially in the Franciscan spirit,” Howell said.

Students who choose to volunteer their time for mission work realize there is also a cost in doing so. Each student, depending on the location they travel to, must help to fund their mission as well.

The recent mission trip to Haiti during winter break cost each student several hundred dollars to join and fulfill their service hours. The cost is shared by the student, some of the cost is covered by fundraisers held throughout the year, the university contributes a portion and the remainder is given to students by Campus Ministry who receive donations from anonymous individuals or religious groups such as the Franciscans.

Quincy University shares in the spirit of St. Francis and St. Claire by preparing men and women through Franciscan values: fidelity to Catholic roots; spirituality flowing from Christian faith, prayer and service; commitment to safeguard justice, peace, and the beauty of creation; and respect for the dignity and worth of individuals.

The mission work the students perform can be labor intensive and usually in less than ideal conditions. They are expected to work long hours, some are very physical, such as painting a school or hauling wood. Other tasks might involve visiting an orphanage, working at a soup kitchen or sometimes it’s just listening to those in need of a friendly and sympathetic ear. The mission work performed is in response to the needs of a fast growing population of poor or victims of disasters.

Each student attends an orientation, participates in the project and then submits a reflection assessing their service. The display of Gospel values is reflected in the caring, learning, and connecting at all levels for the student.

One student from Nigeria, Oluwatimilehin Ajayi, believes in these values and has participated in several mission trips.

“I choose to go on mission trips because I wanted to experience what it takes to help others. I have been helped several times and I thought repaying my services back to the community would set me up as a better person,” Ajayi said.

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Many of the students who participate in the missions find inspiration from those closest to them. Lauren Tarleton feels it was her upbringing by family and friends that provided the inspiration to serve others.

“It was a series of people but mostly,  it’s how I was raised. My grandmother would allow anyone into our home to eat a home cooked meal. Thus, my mother is very similar and so am I,” Tarleton said. “It may be a humbling experience for some but the memories and timeless moments that you share with people are the rewards.”

Each student is required to complete 30 hours of service and most students felt the need to start as soon as they entered Quincy University. The missions involving a greater traveling distance generally take place over spring, fall or winter breaks, while local mission work is done throughout the year.

The need for service is felt everywhere and students feel the work is never done. There will always be those in need and the obligation to try is up to each and every one of us.

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