The five trips were to Baltimore, MD; Bronx, NY; Camden, NJ; Glenmary Farm, KY; and Greenbriar, W.Va.. Each trip had many different types of service including homeless outreach, building homes, watching children, and mission work. These service trips allow students to understand the realities of poverty and make a difference in the lives of others.
Students were pleased to see the amount of services being offered to the homeless. As Michael McGee, junior and student leader of the Baltimore trip said, “Having been to Baltimore several times I did not expect to see the amount of poverty that I did. The enormous amount of organizations and services that are available to those without a home in Maryland are amazing. Baltimore is a prime example to all cities suffering large amounts of homelessness that there is hope to one day end the fear of being homeless.”
Augustinian values are firmly emphasized on these trips. The Rev. Raymond Dlugos, O.S.A., vice president for mission and student affairs, who was a staff adviser to the Baltimore trip, said, “I was very impressed with the commitment our group made to the four pillars of service at Merrimack College. We became a real community as a result of two seven-hour van rides and spending a week living together in just three rooms. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so often or so hard. We enjoyed good times together and supported each other through difficult and challenging moments. The camaraderie and cooperation made even difficult moments easy to bear.”
“While giving ourselves in service to others, we learned a lot about ourselves and our word and its realities,” Dlugos said. “The depth and quality of the group’s daily reflection on our experiences was profound. I saw and heard our students express their faith, their generosity, their compassion for others, and their passion to want our world be a place of safety, love, and justice. I deeply felt God’s presence with us throughout the week.”
Students and staff had profound learning experiences through this service trip. They also formed strong relationships with each other and those whom they served. Stephanie DiCindio, graduate student and staff adviser for the Baltimore trip, added, “I knew this would be a fulfilling experience going into it, but the take away was so much more. The relationships we formed as a group are some that will be everlasting, and the people we met on our journey will be forever remembered.”
Overall, the Merrimack volunteers were touched by their experiences and returned home feeling a sense of empowerment. As Samantha Jewers, sophomore on the Bronx trip, put it, “My ASB trip to the Bronx was a great experience. It allowed me to learn more about myself and those who are in need of help. I met a lot of hard working people and would recommend this experience to anyone” Merrimack has a longstanding tradition of sending students on these meaningful trips. With a Catholic Augustinian foundation, the Grace J. Palmisano Center for Campus Ministry strives for the growth of students intellectually, spiritually, and morally with an emphasis on community life and serving one another. These types of service experiences will guide students to a more rich and fulfilling life for themselves and others.