Thursday, April 24, 2014

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Area college students go on a very different spring break


As a campus minister in the Diocese of Charlotte, I have been fortunate to have had a number of college Alternative Spring Break experiences over the past few years. Our diocesan-sponsored Alternative Spring Break 2012 was a definite departure from the "typical" ASB experience, which usually consists of traveling to a work site with a group from a school or diocese. This year's event afforded our college students a unique opportunity through the Sisters of Life – a contemplative/active religious community founded by the late John Cardinal O'Connor of the Archdiocese of New York for the protection and enhancement of the sacredness of all human life.

In an effort to provide "something more" than a typical ASB experience, the Sisters of Life offered a 10-day experience that could almost be described as a "Catholic immersion experience into the Culture of Life."

Pictured: More than 75 college students went on an Alternative Spring Break 2012 to New York, where they worked, prayed and lived with the Sisters of Life for 10 days. (Photos provided by Gloria Schweizer)

It began with a two-day silent retreat. The remaining days were filled with activities and opportunities for spiritual nourishment: a day visiting shrines in New York, two days of work at their motherhouse in Montebella, N.Y., a hiking day at Bear Mountain with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a presentation by Peter Kreeft, prayer for Dr. Emily's Abortion Clinic in the South Bronx, and a lecture entitled "Biology of the Theology of the Body" by Vicki Thorn (founder of Project Rachel). Additional offerings included daily Mass, praying the rosary, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Liturgy of the Hours, and presentations by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and the Sisters of Life.

Eleven students and three campus ministers from the Diocese of Charlotte participated in this very unique Alternative Spring Break – among about 75 students from colleges/universities in seven states.

From the morning rising bell at 6 a.m., until the bell signaling Compline (night prayer), followed by Grand Silence at 10 p.m., the students grew in faith, knowledge of pro-life issues, and compassionate ways to offer hope and healing to those experiencing an unwanted pregnancy or post-abortion trauma.

"In between moments of reflective grand silence and holy leisure, we attended conferences that taught us more about the love Jesus has for each of us, the great significance of life, and the biological effects of abortion and use of contraceptives," said Aurora Trujillo of UNC-Charlotte.

They also developed strong ties of friendship and established a support base for themselves as they face a world that does not actively promote chastity or encourage abstinence, and where the rights of the unborn are largely ignored.

It truly was an awesome experience for me as a woman religious and campus minister to be a part of the "First Annual Sisters of Life Alternative Spring Break." Ten days with more than 75 college-aged young adults, and the end result was phenomenal – an attitude of renewed hope and faith and a celebration of life.

Said Tim Potkay of UNC-Greensboro, "I attended my first Eucharistic healing service and spent time with the Blessed Sacrament every day. Best spring break ever."

Thank you to all the generous donors who support Catholic Campus Ministry in the Diocese of Charlotte, a ministry partially funded by the Diocesan Support Appeal.

— Sister Eileen Spainer, professed with the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, is a Charlotte area campus minister and chairwoman of Alternative Spring Break 2012.

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Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at  parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte: