Last Saturday, several members from Millersville’s John Newman Association, stationed in the Newman House on George Street, made the venture to a monastery in the middle of Newark, New Jersey.
Newark is a city that has a high crime rate and was ranked the sixth most dangerous city by CNNMoney. Impoverished areas like these are where monasteries frequently find their homes. These students, and their mentor Brad Fischer, left Millersville Saturday morning at 6 a.m. after serving at Saint Mary’s soup kitchen in Lancaster the night before. Once the crew arrived at the monastery, they celebrated mass and promptly got to work.
Inside the walls of the monastery seemed like a little patch of life in comparison to the run down buildings in Newark. The landscape was covered with flowers and trees, and almost everything was made of wood or stone, most of which is made by the friars. The group worked along side the friars to clean up the monastery’s grounds.
After the work was completed, all of the 50-or-so volunteers took part in a communal lunch. One of the friars living at the monastery, Giuseppe, then gave a speech about a tradition he encountered on his trip to Italy. The very animated Giuseppe explained how the town he visited decorated a statue of the Virgin Mary in hundreds of pounds of gold donated from the population by the townspeople. Then they processed the statue through the town.
The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal is the group of friars who run the monastery. They have several monasteries throughout the world, including Ireland and Honduras. The group works to serve the poor of the community. This order of Franciscan friars arose out of the need to live a more primitive lifestyle, closer to that of Saint Francis.
The John Newman Association promotes the idea of volunteering. Trips, such as volunteer trips to the monastery in Newark, are just the tip of the iceberg of the Newman House’s involvement in the community. The John Newman Association also volunteers at Saint Mary’s in Lancaster for various events such as the soup kitchen that they have on a weekly basis. They also participate in a week long mission’s trip to the Bronx, New York. During this trip, the members of the John Newman Association volunteer at a homeless shelter run by friars. They also help in handing out food to the poor living in the Bronx.
This theme of volunteering coincides with Millersville’s venture to promote volunteerism in the community. This school year started with Millersville’s annual Day of Caring, and the spirit will continue through groups such as the Newman House.