Senior Audrey Dirnberger wrote the following reflection on the recent mission trip that she and other Notre Dame Regional High School students took to New York:
During the Franciscan Immersion Experience, held February 19-24, community, service, and prayer were the main objectives.
I, along with nine other Notre Dame seniors, Mr. Strohmeyer, and Miss Strohmeyer, arrived at St. Francis Preparatory in Fresh Meadows, NY, on Sun., Feb. 19. We joined with 30 other students from Cardinal Gibbons of North Carolina, St. Anthony’s of New York, and St. Francis Prep of New York.
I was nervous about meeting everyone. Although we were the last school to arrive, we were greeted with smiles all around.
Everyone wanted to know what they could do to help us get settled in. We spent Sunday night getting to know each other, playing games, and ended the night with Mass. Prayer was a major part of the week; we began and ended each day with a prayer service.
Lying in bed Sunday night, I knew this would be one of the most memorable weeks I would experience throughout my life.
Waking up the next morning, I was excited for what the day would bring. We started by going to the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero. Words cannot describe how touching the memorial was; I recognized the lives that were lost on September 11, 2001 and those still being touched. It was beautiful. I was really impressed by how the community came together to honor all the lives that were lost.
That morning showed me how people can come together for one cause and make a difference. This made me realize what my mission was for the week: to join with the other 39 students around me to do God’s will, to serve, and to display Christ to those whom I would come in contact with. A simple smile can impact anyone’s feelings and change the way they act throughout their day. I knew my mission was also to give my smile to those who needed it, work together with the other students, and serve the community in any way I could.
Our first service project began on Tuesday. We were split into different groups. My group went to the Covenant House, a homeless shelter for 16- 20-year-olds. There, we sorted clothes, served food, and ate with a couple of the teenagers who were residents at the house. Their stories were unbelievable. They were normal people, just like you and me, who just had bad luck. They knew what they wanted to do with their lives. Coming back to St. Francis Prep that afternoon, I was so excited to hear about everyone’s day. But that night really opened my eyes to what this week was all about.
After we got back from our service projects, we spent the afternoon sorting clothes and making bag lunches for the night ahead. That night we went on a “Midnight Run.” This was sponsored by an organization that helps people in New York City. We loaded onto three different buses and then each went our separate ways.
As soon as we got to our first stop, half of those on our bus got out and half stayed in. People were waiting for us and started coming up to the bus, asking for anything they needed. Those on the bus handed the items to the students outside, and we gave the items to the lady or gentleman who asked for them. Many of the people we served that night were homeless; they lived either on the streets, in parks, or even in the subway. This opened my eyes to just how grateful these men and women were for getting a simple pair of socks. The smiles they walked away with touched my heart. It amazed me how something so small meant the world to them.
We were given the chance to show service to many others. This week largely consisted of serving at soup kitchens, washing dishes, running around town serving food, sorting clothes, and helping in any way we could.
Coming together with 39 other students, all with one mission made for a week that I will never forget. When Friday came, I couldn’t believe the week had gone by so fast; but I knew when I left I had made a difference, and it was the greatest feeling I have ever experienced. I couldn’t wait to come back home to show others what I learned during my time in New York. I will never forget the lives I touched and how they touched mine in return. Throughout the week, I learned even a simple smile can be all a person needs.
Dirnberger is a senior in Notre Dame Regional High School, Cape Girardeau, MO.