Created by Gianna Caruso '20
Francis Xavier Baccalaureate Program
Update: This is trip is now full.
Lake Sebago, Maine
Dates: August 11-16, 2019 (TBA)
Chaperones: Mr and Mrs Piatak
Spaces Available: 10
- Must be 16 years of age.
- Camp Sunshine is a camp for families with children battling any number of critical diseases.
- The children enjoy a free day camp filled with arts, crafts, boating, swimming, talent shows and volunteers eager to support them.
- Volunteers help with recreational leadership, childcare, food service and many other tasks.
Stay Tuned! Our 2019-2020 trips will be announced soon!
- Teams work together in food banks, assisted living and nursing facilities, daycares and a few larger construction jobs in partnership with the Praying Pelicans Organization.
- Explore the beautiful Appalachian Trial and Natural Bridge as well as a Civil War site and an authentic Monacan First Peoples village.
- Students will gain knowledge of the rich Appalachian history, as well as walk and work in solidarity with the residents of the area, especially in areas of need.
Lake Sebago, Maine
About Camp Sunshine:
Camp Sunshine is located on the coast of Lake Sebago in Casco, Maine. Camp Sunshine is a camp for families with children battling any number of critical diseases. The camp provides a week-long respite for the entire family during a time when rest and relaxation are hard to come by. The children enjoy a free day camp filled with arts, crafts, boating, swimming, talent shows and volunteers eager to support them. Over 1500 volunteers support the program during any given year. The volunteers help with recreational leadership, childcare, food service and many other tasks that are associated with running a safe camp for families. The students arrive together, and stay in cottages or dormitory style cabins.
Volunteers must be at least 16 to attend.
- Travel to Assisi and visit San Damiano
- Tour of Eremeo Carceri and Basilica de San Francesco
- Travel to Orvietto and visit Duomo with a focus on Signorelli Frescos
- Travel to Rome and tour Saint Peter’s Cathedral and Square
- Tour the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
- Tour Gregorian University
- Meetings with Caritas Internationalis and the UN’s World Food Programme
- Tour “ancient” Rome including Campidoglio, il Foro, and the Colloseum
- Students experienced one of the most historic cities in the country.
- Alongside our partner communities, Cadets gained valuable service experience in: environmental sustainability, education, housing and homelessness, and neighborhood revitalization.
- Students also toured New Orleans, Loyola University and the Louisiana Bayou!
Read the New Orleans Impact Report!
- Visit to Yamileth Perez and Women’s Cooperative Esperanza en Accion, artisans program
- Meet with Podcast for Peace program
- Visit San Francisco Libre, youth radio station
- Walking tour of Granda
- Travel to Nindiri to visit the Center for Education and Promotion of Holistic Health
- Volcano hike in Masaya
- Tour of Managua, Nicaragua
Puerto Rico, USA
Last fall, Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico and 25% of the population still lives without power -- resulting in the longest blackout in modern U.S. history.
Join St Joes on the latest Francis Xavier Immersion Trip and help restore hope by working alongside local churches and our partner NGOs.
- Continue Hurricane Relief efforts in El Dorado and El Yunque National Forest.
- Help restore hope by working alongside local churches and our partner NGOs.
- Visit Old San Juan, El Morro National Monument, and PR's beautiful beaches.
- Jacquelyn Tavella '21, Puerto Rico 2019
- Jake '19, Puerto Rico 2018
- Sophie '20, Puerto Rico 2018
- Timothy Weiss, SJHS Faculty, Puerto Rico
Our Puerto Rico Immersion Trip took place from June 23 to June 29, 2019. The 27 of us unpacked and got all of our stuff settled for the adventurous week ahead.
Our first night, we had chicken and rice for dinner and discussed God sightings, which we will do every night. We also wrote in our travel journals, which were provided to us by SJ.
The first day my group went to the food bank. We sorted boxes of mac and cheese, fruit cups, and pasta into cases. One of the workers, Aby, helped me and one of my friends throughout the day with the tasks we were assigned. We also painted the outside of the house a royal blue, since the paint was chipping off.
The next day we worked at a woman’s house who had chickens and roosters in her backyard! We worked on the sticks and branches outside and brought them to the front of the house. The owner of the house gave us all passion fruit after the day of working.
The following day, we went to the El Yunque National Rainforest and worked for about 4 hours on the sidewalks. After our work at the rainforest, we went to the beach about 15 minutes away and enjoyed the rest of our day there.
On another day, we worked at another resident's house who had debris all over her front lawn. We worked non-stop to help get her house the way it used to be 3 summers ago before the hurricane hit. We used 2 garbage trucks and piles of garbage bags, and she was relieved. It rained for some time so we stayed under the roof and played card games with the entire group. We got to know each other along the trip and everyone became friends that day.
On our last day, we went to old San Juan and saw beautiful monuments and breathtaking oceans. We went to a fort, and saw old statues that relate to what we were learning at school. We purchased souvenirs at local shops, and had lunch at Mojitos restaurant. We then took a 45 minute bus ride to San Juan beach, and it was amazing.
The final day we all packed and said goodbye to the people who were caring for us for the week and letting us enjoy the truly a once in a lifetime experience that is Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has changed my life and I hope to go again to make everyone happy as happy as those people were and how we changed their lives.
Describe your typical workday.
We teamed up with an organization called Mission Discovery to help clean
homes still damaged from the Hurricane; we were assigned a home that had severe water damage in Dorado. The homeowner explained that she couldn’t leave because of the memories… everything that meant something to her was in that home. We scraped paint, cleaned, replaced walls, and changed the home completely. I was more motivated than ever – I kept thinking, “this is someone’s home; this is work is special.”
What was the most memorable aspect of your trip?
Each night we would have a reflection and devotional — read the bible, pray, and discuss our “God Sighting.” Mine was a man named Carmello, a handyman who worked alongside us. Although he did not speak English, any time we got tired, he changed our energy by putting on Spanish music and dancing with us to keep everyone motivated. He is my “God Sighting,” because just like God, he will stand by you through any challenge and teach you the value along the way.
What might you tell a student interested in an immersion trip?
Pastor Wanda led our devotional one night and said something I will never forget: “Comfort blinds us from adventure.” The experience you get from helping another person humbles you like nothing else. I left Puerto Rico with a surreal understanding of what really matters. I stepped out of my comfort zone and gained peace, gratitude, and happiness from this experience.
What was the most memorable aspect of your trip?
The conversations. Through our service group, we met two pastors and their daughters – one of them was my age and we enjoyed talking about our different lives and
common ground. There was also a man who worked with us named Carmelo that everyone loved, and whenever he’d meet someone, he’d pull out his phone to translate “I am a servant of God.” We talked about how excited we were to be there and to work together. He would laugh all of the time and his laughter was contagious.
What would you say was your takeaway from the trip?
I now have a new perspective on life; I see everything differently. I tried to go on the trip without any expectations, but immediately upon flying down to the island, I saw all of the homes without roofs and that’s when it actually hit me. But then I met all of the residents and it was almost as if the hurricane had never happened, they were simply fixing their lives little by little, more positive than you could ever imagine and just happy to be alive. My takeaway from this trip is that it’s the positive people, not the negative experiences that can impact your life.
Would you say your faith was strengthened on this trip?
Yes! One cool aspect of the trip was that we had reflections each night and we would pray with a group of Episcopalians. We would pray together and teach each other different ways of praying. It was amazing how we could pray differently and still join together as one.
“If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there my servant will be also; if anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:26)
It was in a spirit of utmost service to God’s people that 18 students and 4 faculty members from St Joseph High School travelled to Puerto Rico to embark on an immersion trip centered around relief from the recent hurricanes Maria and Irma. The SJHS Francis Xavier International Scholars program provides trips for students to experience the depth of culture – in this case the beauty of Puerto Rico – and learn to listen, embrace and serve our brothers and sisters who may need assistance. I hope that I can give you a brief glimpse of our trip.
We had the pleasure of working with the Mission Discovery team of Jimmy Rivera, its president, and Lauren Kemp, EMT and with the INT community which provided our lodging and meals. The Iglesia Nuevo Testamento (The Church of the New Testament) in Dorado, Puerto Rico and its pastor’s Juan, Edgar, and Wanda were more welcoming and compassionate than we could have hoped for, along with their community of volunteers. We helped this team at four different worksites, and along the way the two daughters of Pastors Edgar and Wanda Agosto became fast friends with our SJ students. Genesis, a junior in high school, worked alongside of our team and Abby, a sophomore who is a fantastic cook, prepared several of our meals! Pastors Edgar and Wanda gave a testimony in the middle of the week, in which they shared their story of reckless abandon to God’s plan throughout their lives. Many of our students shared with us how deeply moving it was to hear their story of love – of God and of their daughters. They gave us a window through which to see the magnitude of God’s wonderful plan at work.
We were invited to serve at four locations. One site west of San Juan was an area of wreckage and debris caused by a cluster of trees that took down power lines to three houses in a small complex. We assisted in removing the trees and other debris to make room for a power line to be installed to reintroduce electricity after 10 months. Our second site was a house that was in disrepair because of its owner’s serious sickness. During the storm the top level of the house blew off causing water damage throughout the house. We scraped and filled in holes in the ceiling, repainted all the walls, cleaned out most of the rooms to make them comfortable and safe for living purposes. It was quite a beautiful transformation to see; little by little the house came back to life. The third site involved taking care of the church that we stayed at (painting a children’s Scripture room, setting up materials for future volunteers, among other duties). The final site involved helping with upkeep, some power washing, scrapping in the house of an Army veteran who struggles with Multiple Sclerosis and cares for her mother, who has cancer. We all were invited to sit with her and listen as she shared photos and videos about her experiences throughout the hurricane and the past year. To say the least – her story was inspirational!
Each of our evenings concluded with reflections, journal writing and fellowship. We took time to discuss our experiences, and focused on “God-sightings” – specific instances in which we saw God at work in the people and events of our day. As a teacher, I was touched to see our students share their passion for their faith and a clear desire to deepen their relationships with Christ. Our students were also able to have conversations with their teachers about their progress in their journeys of faith in Christ, which I hope had a profound impact on them. In addition to our periods of reflection, there were plenty of opportunities for fellowship – from playing card games, to playing basketball with Pastor Juan’s son, to even playing a serious soccer game in Dorado with some of the local community!
Our final day was spent on an adventure in San Juan. We began with a tour of El Morro (the fort of Old San Juan, dating back to the 16th century), and continued with lunch at a restaurant of authentic Puerto Rican Cuisine and walking time throughout downtown San Juan, visiting local historic sites like the tomb of Ponce de Leon. We ended our visit with a break-taking visit to the beaches of San Juan. This day offered us an historical perspective into the beautiful island of Puerto Rico and its people.
Perhaps one of the more influential aspects of our trip to Puerto Rico was the personal interactions and the relationships that we developed. Our SJ students were truly touched by the heart of a nine year old, fun-loving, spirited young girl named Daniella, who was the daughter of one of our chefs. She instantly bonded with our SJ students; she accompanied us in much of our work, and could often be found showing her fantastic gymnastic skills on-site! In a touching goodbye note to us, she shared how much she loved our students. In addition to Daniella, our hearts were forever touched by a member of the INT church, Carmelo, who first introduced himself as a “servant of God” to us. Through his stories of faith and love, and even in spite of a clear language barrier, we were able to get a glimpse of what a true love of Christ looks like.
We will always hold these experiences from Puerto Rico in our hearts. I have faith that our SJ students will continue to live out their calls, like Carmelo, to be “servants of God.” We take comfort in knowing that the students of St Joseph High School have and will continue to make a difference in whatever community God places them. Please continue to pray for our community, that Christ might continue to mold us into instruments of His love and peace, encountering Christ in the faces of all those we meet, including our brothers and sisters at home in the Diocese of Bridgeport.
Francis Xavier was one of the co-founders of the Society of Jesus; he is the patron saint for missionaries. He was encouraged by his close friend, Ignatius of Loyola, to commit his life to spreading the Gospel message and to devote his life to the service of others.
Francis Xavier was born in the Basque region of Spain. He was a member of a noble family, privileged with education. His childhood was disrupted by his father’s death and by political turmoil in his region of Spain. He traveled to Paris to pursue his education, which is where he met Ignatius and six other men who came together to form the Jesuit community.
Ordained in 1534, he spent his first years of vocation in Italy. In 1542, he was assigned to missionary work in Asia, arriving first in Goa, India where he stayed for five years to work alongside the poor and to help reestablish the Christian community that had ties to the early church as far back as St Thomas. He learned the languages of the countries that he traveled to which helped him work together with the poor. His travels took him to Ceylon, Malaysia and Japan; he died before reaching the mainland of China near Canton in 1552. Although his life was shortened by illness, Francis Xavier was able to make a huge impact on the universal church during his ten years of missionary work and life of solidarity with the poor. He is known as the second great evangelizer of the church following St Paul.
St Francis Xavier teaches us that we are called to share the Gospel by being living witnesses of faith to our families, friends, school, and community. Furthermore, his vocation challenges each of us to work for justice on behalf of those who cannot do so themselves.
Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O mortal, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God”
Far from just a “travel” program, the goal of the St Joseph High School Francis Xavier International Scholars Program is to broaden student awareness of the global mission of the Church, while also helping them traverse, with confidence, the distances between culture, economics, religion, and geography.
Students pursuing this certificate program will be involved in intensive world language study, take three credits of course work directly related to cross-cultural understanding and global perspectives, and participate in two or more SJHS domestic or international immersion trips. Once they fulfill these requirements, students will graduate with distinction as “Francis Xavier International Scholars.”