By Marissa Johnson
Saint Mary’s University’s Serving Others United in Love (SOUL) program was once again on the road, as ten different student-led groups, each with a faculty advisor, visited many different locations over this year’s spring break.
A few of the destinations for this year’s trips included New York, Rhode Island, Arizona, Iowa and Montana. The students involved helped in various ministries such as education, social work and construction.
Chris McClead, the faculty advisor of SOUL, participated in the St. Louis, Miss., trip. He described the sense of awe he felt when he saw how “sixteen people who didn’t know each other were put in a very uncomfortable position for anyone, woke up each morning and asked how to serve the community they came with and the community they were entering.”
SOUL has two purposes. The first is to provide as many students as possible with the chance to serve others; and the second is to enable the SMU community to connect with diverse communities throughout the nation and world while enriching the lives of those individuals.
Although every trip has different people and perspectives, each decision and course of action is based on the four pillars of SOUL: faith, service, community and transformation.
Every student encounters SOUL differently. Depending on the ministry of the trip and the experience of the participant, one could walk away from a trip with new friendships, greater humility, or even a simple understanding of what life is like on the other side of the spectrum.
SMU sophomore Bill Van Wagner participated in the trip that visited a Blackfeet Indian reservation in Browning, Mont. The students on this trip spent the week helping in the eighth grade classroom of a San Miguel school. The focus of his trip was primarily on helping to motivate the students to work hard in school and strive to attend college so that they can break the cycle of poverty in their community. Van Wagner described his experience as “a reminder to be grateful for the many blessings I have in life as well as to appreciate the joy of a life of simplicity.”
Although it is not possible for a group of college students to completely fix the problems in the communities they visit through SOUL, the trips allow them to become more aware of the issues in the world and, if the students serve with the Lasallian spirit, they are able to make a lasting impression on the people they serve.