Fall Break Offers Students Time for Passion, Service and Reflection

Purple pride morphs into red, orange and gold

As the seasons change and new color emerges on the hills of Worcester, Mt. Saint James finds its students immersing themselves in unique opportunities they will remember for the rest of their lives. College of the Holy Cross takes pause in the fall semester from daily academics to provide Crusaders from all walks of life the chance to try something new.

From Oct.9-19, the College offered programs for service and hands-on learning. The opportunities for students included: Ciocca Office of Entrepreneurial Studies (COES) Finance Boot Camp, the Fall Break Immersion Programs and Spiritual Exercises.

COES – Finance Boot Camp

COES hosted their annual Finance Boot Camp over the break to give students interested in pursuing careers in finance a taste of life on Wall Street. The four day program is an opportunity for students who are interested in finance to work with alumni in the field and visit major banks in New York City to see the daily activities of the industry.

The program allows for many networking opportunities with alumni currently working in the field. “Holy Cross has a very loyal alumni network that is always willing to help students. Networking is one of most important things current Holy Cross students should be doing,” said Carson Marsh ’17, as advice for interested students.  An alumni question and answer panel provided students the chance to ask important questions and set the tone for alumni-student interaction vital to later networking receptions which took place during program.

Marsh, an economics major passionate about the world of finance, and a returning Boot Camp attendee said, “The kind of work you do [in finance] is stimulating and interesting.” The Boot Camp puts to action the lessons taught by Holy Cross professors in a way that is indispensable for students hoping to pursue such a career. “Seeing what we learned in the classroom happening on a daily basis is incredible,” Marsh explained.

The Boot Camp was available to first-year students for the first time this year. Jennifer Kary ’19 attended the Boot Camp and hopes to pursue a major in economics at the College. She reflected positively on the experience. “I feel like I grew up in four days,” Kary said.  “I got a sense of the real world and what job expectations are every day. And that encouraged my passion for the industry.” As one of two young women in attendance, Kary commented that in the world of finance, “As long as you know what you're doing, whether you’re a man or woman it doesn't make a difference.”

Agape Community Immersion – Sustainability and Nonviolence

Students wishing to take a breather from Worcester’s urban bustle and reconnect with nature, as well as their spirituality, find an outlet at the Agape Community in Hardwick, Mass. The immersion program incorporates sustainable living and environmental awareness with periods of prayer and reflection based in the Catholic faith. The atmosphere opens a dialogue on how to live a nonviolent lifestyle and offers reflection on contemporary issues.

Students worked with Agape community members over the course of the week to prepare a community center for the homeless. The food used to feed both students and, later, those in need was grown by the previous year’s Holy Cross group. While reflection on how to live a nonviolent life and spiritual contemplation are important aspects of the program, the day-to-day labors needed to keep the community running kept the students busy. They gathered and chopped firewood, canned fresh herbs and worked in the community gardens. But they were not merely passing visitors in this culture of sustainability.

“We were immersed in their lifestyle,” Joseph Aramini ’19 said. “Everyone gets something out of it. Everyone is a little bit better when they leave.” The students bridged their experiences at Holy Cross with their time in the program, Kristina Washer ’17, a biology major, said that, “One of the Jesuit ideals is building community. At Agape, you don’t have access to mobile technology, so you really communicate with the people around you, and get to know them very well: their quirks, the facets of their personalities. One of my favorite parts of immersion trips is trying to get to know that one person you’re working with all day.”

The powerful sense of community at Agape was nothing out of the ordinary for a Holy Cross immersion. Kathryn Hill ’16, a Chinese and International Studies major, and a returning student, said that “At the end of each immersion you do, you know everyone in your group as if you’ve known them your entire life.” She emphasized the compassion of the community, using the term “Aga Love” to emphasize the Greek origin of “Agape,” a biblical term meaning the love of and from God.

L’Arche Immersion – Everyday Solidarity

An international foundation guided by compassion and community, L’Arche was founded in the small French village of Trosly-Breuil in 1964. Jean Vanier, guided by the Dominican priest Father Thomas, invited Phillippe Seux and Raphael Simi, two people with intellectual disabilities, to live with him in his home. Rather than institutionalization, Seux and Simi were given the opportunity to live side-by-side with Vanier. Their disabilities were not treated as isolating differences that divided their lifestyles from Vanier’s. Instead, Vanier sought to build a community of cohabitation in which lives could be shared rather than alienated from one another.

Holy Cross students offered their time at the L’Arche Boston North community in Haverhill, Mass, during their fall break. One of the community’s core-members, Jimmy, was getting ready to move into another home. The students  prepared his new room, and they cleaned, stripped wallpaper, painted, removed trash, and helped rake leaves in the front yard of the home. While their labor was an important aspect to helping improve the community, Jay Trebicka ’16, a political science major, explained that “the most important thing we did was ‘share time’ with the core-members and assistants. We got to know them a bit, shared meals with them, as well as laughs.” This day-to-day sharing helps to encourage the L’Arche mission of compassion and understanding.

Students took home lasting lessons from their experiences. Daniela Fazio ’18, a psychology major, remarked how, “Even though I was there to help them and serve them, they helped me more than I could have ever imagined.” Fazio was moved by how the lives of those who called the L’Arche community home affected her world views, “They shaped me to want to look at the world more innocently and care for more people and love more people and trust more people. It was refreshing to see just the courage in these people to want to care for other people in that way.”

Spiritual Exercises – A Retreat of Silent Reflection

For students seeking quiet contemplation and reflection as a break from their busy lives on Mount St. James, the chaplains’ office offered the fall Spiritual Exercises at the Campion Renewal Center in Weston, Mass. An adapted version of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, this five-day silent retreat is an opportunity for reflection and prayer.

While the focus is on silence and internal meditation, students met with a spiritual adviser once a day to ask questions to help guide them and discuss reservations they may have about the exercises. Although steeped in the Catholic faith, with a morning examen prayer to reflect on the past 24 hours and become more aware of the day ahead, the exercises are for students of all faiths. Allegra Le ’16, a psychology major, commented that “I do believe everyone can get something out of the exercises. If you come into it with an open mind and prepare to strengthen your faith, I think you’ll get a lot out of it.”

Structured talks with varying topics were given each day as well as readings students could reflect on during their free time. Le said private reflections on individual relationships with God help to foster a sense of serenity and mindfulness students are then able to bring back to their Holy Cross community and improve each day.

“I would recommend it to anyone looking to grow both spiritually and personally,” Le says. “It was great to take a break from my busy life at Holy Cross, and disconnect from all technology and others. This time alone allowed me to be mindful of my surroundings, my thoughts, and my wishes. It was both an educational and rewarding experience, and I’m glad I participated before leaving Holy Cross.”