By Gary Hermann
As a student at St. Stephen Martyr School and St. Xavier High School, I learned about Catholic social teaching and participated in service projects. I could have only hoped that as a young adult I would expand upon the commitment to faith and service instilled in me as a student. I found a way to do just that through the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Lay Mission Volunteer Program.
This time, the text message said, “Can u go to Belize in Feb.?” I knew I should probably ask a few follow-up questions, but I also knew that ultimately my answer would be “yes,” because when the SCNs invite you to participate in their ministry, it is an opportunity worth taking.
This willingness to work with the sisters as a lay mission volunteer has taken me on trips to many places, including Appalachia and Montana, and to many events at their Nazareth, Ky., campus.
Each time I am with the sisters, I am amazed by the women that have so selflessly answered the call to be an SCN. I am also amazed by the associates and other lay people who have answered the call to join in the work of the SCN family.
Having traveled before with groups led by Sister Luke Boiarski, director of the lay mission volunteer program, I knew there would be some unknowns, but also had some idea of what to expect. I knew she would gather a top-notch group of volunteers with varying skills and personalities. I also knew there would be plenty of work and plenty of prayer.
We arrived in Belize after barely escaping the snow that blanketed Louisville on Monday, Feb. 16. Once there, our focus quickly turned to our work of building a home for a family near the community of Las Flores.
Everyone in the group came willing to do what they could, and we had much work to do. For several days, we saw the home we were building go up block by block. We also were able to spend time with the family that would move into the home once completed. We were overwhelmed by their faith, joy and gratitude. Every day, the hard work of this family and their neighbors who came to help inspired our group to work even harder.
To see the blocks we laid take shape and to know the family would soon be able to move into their new home was inspiring. Around Las Flores and in Belize City, we saw many more homes that had been built by groups led by the SCNs. It was amazing to see so many families, now living in homes built by those previous groups, come out to greet Sister Luke and lay volunteers they remembered from years earlier. I one day hope to return and see the family whose home our group built.
At the end of our trip, as the concrete dried, there was time to visit the reef, islands and temples for which Belize is known. While those things were nice, for me the trip will always be about what we built and the family for whom it was built.
I thank the SCNs for continuing to include me in their work. I encourage anyone to volunteer doing similar projects with any of the local or national groups doing this type of work. The experiences will allow you to grow in your faith through an authentic encounter with those you serve. No matter how much you give to others on a mission trip, it will never be as much as you receive in return.
Gary Hermann is a member of Holy Name Church.
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