College students are finding ways to give back to the community while sharing their faith with others.

The students at the Catholic Center at the University of Vermont place an emphasis on service and outreach. Throughout the semester, students participate in numerous projects and partner with local groups and organizations.

“It’s good to get out and interact with others and share our faith,” said Adrian Pierce, a first-year student at UVM.

In October, students visited Our Lady of Providence Residence in Winooski for a Game Day. They played board games, went on walks and chatted with the residents. “They have a lot of wisdom, and they have a lot of stories that they really like sharing, and you being there allows them to share,” Pierce said.

At one point of the visit, a retired Sister of Mercy became joyful upon hearing some students were embarking on a mission trip to her home country in El Salvador. She broke out in Spanish, asking questions and teaching them new words to prepare them for the trip. “I really enjoyed the joy in which she lit up when she knew we were going.

You could tell it meant a lot to her,” Pierce said.

The students travel internationally through Fellowship of Catholic University Students mission trips during which they work on a variety of projects like street evangelization, spending time with the marginalized and providing medical care and education to those in need. Past FOCUS trips include Honduras, Argentina, England and Taiwan.

Residents of Our Lady of Providence Residence enjoyed meeting the students and look forward to them returning. “When you live within a closed environment, it’s always good to have something to open the boundaries, and it’s very good to have new people in your life,” said Sister of Mercy Patricia Murtagh.

Members of the Catholic Center community plan to visit more frequently and create a long-lasting relationship with Our Lady of Providence residents.

In addition, twice a month, students gather to cook a meal for the Salvation Army in downtown Burlington and then deliver and serve it to the patrons. “In the past, the various lieutenants have commented on the students going down and serving at the Salvation Army and how they’re just so grateful,” said Campus Minister Kim Allbee.

Throughout her 21 years working at the Catholic Center, Allbee has seen a rise in service projects. “Especially at UVM, social justice and a cause for service is something that many college students desire, and there are so many opportunities for that on this campus,” she said.

Each Labor Day, students and Catholic Center staff do a service project for St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski. They also respond to requests from community members that reach out asking for help.

This year, a Service and Outreach Committee was created to expand volunteer opportunities and allow students to come up with more ways to serve others. “I think it’s a great gift to have so many students involved and willing to help out and a desire to serve others,” Allbee said.

—Alayna Masker, media intern for the Diocese of Burlington

—Originally published in the Winter 2018 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.

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