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Mount St. Mary’s Service Trips Focus on Principles of Catholic Social Teaching

Habitat for Humanity trip in 2019

Students working with Habitat for Humanity in 2019, the last time spring break service trips were offered.

The Center for Service is coordinating three break-away immersion trips over spring break, focused on principles of Catholic Social Teaching (CST). Each student-led trip will emphasize service, forming relationships, and community building among participants and the people they encounter in their respective locations.

The three trips will each focus on a particular principle of CST. The largest trip will be to Nazareth Farm in Center Point, West Virginia. Eight students, including two student leaders, will help repair homes in the local community, live in simplicity for the week, and focus on the CST principle of solidarity.

In Camden, New Jersey, the Center for Service has partnered with Romero Center Ministries, a Catholic nonprofit dedicated to assisting with issues affecting urban communities. Meghan Fleming, C’23, explained that this can include everything from “environmental injustice, affordable housing, to hunger, all of which are an everyday reality for some of the citizens of Camden.” Six students, including three student leaders, will focus on the CST principle of Christ’s preferential option for the poor, and why listening to those who are materially, physically, or mentally most impoverished is important.

The third and smallest trip is to the Washington, D.C. area. Three students, including two student leaders, will stay at the L’Arche community in Arlington, Virginia, one of several L’Arche homes across the globe where intellectually disabled and nondisabled people live together. During the mornings, participants will help at Red Wiggler Farms, a therapeutic farm that serves the disabled. The focus of this trip will be the principle of the right to community, family, and social participation, regardless of ability or circumstances.

While break-away immersions are first and foremost service trips, students are encouraged to explore experiential learning and community building, not just action. “We’ve prioritized working with community partners who share our values about forming relationships with those you’re serving,” explained Sarah Neitz, the director of the Center for Service.

Students will be encouraged to simply get to know each other and the people they meet during their week, with time to contemplate built into each day. Groups have been kept small, to maximize the chance to discuss the impact of the day’s activities. “Planning for this trip has been very reflection-focused, as we want to make sure our participants get a full experience of living [out the values they’ll focus on],” shared Angela Vodola, C’23, co-leader of the Nazareth Farms trip.

In fact, Neitz noted that the chance to spend a week putting social justice and CST into practice and consider what you’ve learned from it (without being graded—it’s still a school break!), is part of what makes these trips so effective. As Tania Latin, C’24, and co-leader on the trip to Camden, said, “I’m looking forward to putting aside my academic and personal responsibilities and immersing myself in an experience where I will learn a lot about those I serve.”

Students of any major or background who are interested in CST and social justice principles, but might not be sure how to implement them, can learn firsthand from the community they visit.

“There are so many reasons to go on one of these trips: They’re a lot of fun, you make new friends, you can gain student leadership experience,” shared Neitz, “But I think the best reason I can offer is that they’re a meaningful, accessible way to join in the Mount’s mission of service to God and others.”

The Center for Service plans to offer break-away immersion trips during future breaks, including a couple over the summer. To learn more about the Center for Service or apply for a trip, visit