Spring Break Service Trips


Every year during UMSL’s spring break we take a group of staff and students on a trip of service so that we can all better understand Christ’s call for us to serve the poor. These trips open students’ eyes to the bigger community of those in need, broaden their horizons, and help them to grow as people of God. In the past, some trips have instead taken place in January, March, May, or the summer. See descriptions below.

2019: A Simple House

A Simple House is an organization in Kansas City that aims to serve the poor through the proclamation of the Gospel: specifically through acts of faith, love, and charity. Their motto is to “wonderfully and radically fall upon the cross of Christ for grace and support.” While there, our service specifically focused on helping the homeless but we also went to daily Mass and had frequent prayer in community.

2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2018: Bethlehem Farm

Bethlehem Farm is a Catholic home repair center located in Appalachia, and is the sister farm of Nazareth Farm and Jerusalem Farm. Their ministry, also based on the Gospels and the Catholic Social Teachings, is built on a life of centered on the cornerstones of prayer, community, service, simplicity, and an added one of sustainability. Beth-Farm (as we affectionately call it) responds to the needs of the local community and live in solidarity with the people they serve as both are led into a closer relationship with Christ. The core group of caregivers host volunteer groups who live the communal life while serving the local community by working with local organizations and individuals who request help.

2017: Rural Appalachian Service Immersion

In the spring of 2017 we took a trip into the heart of the Appalachian Mountains where we experienced the plight of rural poverty. Our trip began at Wheeling Jesuit University where we were educated on the history of Appalachian poverty, especially as it pertains to coal mining. Then we traveled to Richwood, West Virginia, where we joined a non-profit group, Hosanna Industries, to do home repair. Richwood had severe flooding the year before and the town was still plagued by its aftermath. There we directly experienced the despair of a community that had flooded homes, lacked jobs, and was in the middle of a food desert. The entire trip focused on bringing hope to the suffering while simultaneously seeing God in our neighbors.

2016: Urban Plunge STL

In 2016 we traveled right down the road—to north St. Louis city.  We spent four days living and working in the heart of St. Louis, exploring various topics of social justice, building relationships, and engaging in acts of service within this city we call home.  The overarching theme of the trip was the Jubilee Year of Mercy—how do we live Pope Francis’ call to mercy within our own city and struggles closest to home?  We touched on topics like poverty, housing, racism and segregation, homelessness and urban farming, among others.

2015:  Hand in Hand Ministries, Managua, Nicaragua

In the summer of 2015, the CNC took our first every international service trip.  We raised nearly $25,000, thanks to so many generous donors and friends.  The trip consisted of building a home for a local family and learning a lot about the local culture of Managua.  The 14 members of the trip had an experience that they won’t soon forget.

2014: Jerusalem Farm

Jerusalem Farm is a Catholic Intentional community located in Kansas City, Missouri, built on the four cornerstones of Prayer, Community, Service and Simplicity. They strive to transform lives through service retreat experiences, sustainable living and home repair.

2012: Habitat for Humanity New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity (NOAHH) is a non-profit organization, incorporated in 1983 as an independent affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI). New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1983 and averaged a building capacity of 10 homes per year until Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Post Katrina, New Orleans Habitat has built over 425 homes (as of June 30, 2011).  Habitat invites people from all faiths and walks of life to work together in partnership, building houses with families in need. New Orleans Habitat for Humanity’s Musicians’ Village is one of the most notable rebuilding projects in New Orleans.  The Village is home to 72 partner families in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans and is the home of the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music. During the week, CNC students helped with the foundation and built the walls of a home. We took 18 students and learned about the culture of New Orleans through many experiences like a jazz concert and walking through the French Quarters.

2010: Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Pine Ridge South Dakota

“Re-Member” is a non-profit organization on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, hosting more than 1200 volunteers at Pine Ridge each year for week-long service trips with an emphasis on cultural exchange. From 1980 to 2000, the counties that make up Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota comprised the poorest of our nation’s 3,143 counties. As of 2007 Pine Ridge has a per capita income of $4,000, 8 times the national rate of diabetes, twice the rate of heart disease, more than twice the national suicide rate, and 4 times the national rate of teenage suicide. Perhaps the most disturbing fact is that life expectancy on Pine Ridge is the lowest in the United States and the 2nd lowest in the Western Hemisphere; only Haiti has a lower rate. During the week, CNC students participated in various work projects across the Reservation, helping to rebuild relationships, homes, and lives, while learning about the Lakota tribe from the elders. We took 17 students, 3 vans and a lot of snacks for 8 days to serve!

2004, 2005, 2006, 2007: Nazareth Farm

Nazareth Farm is a Catholic community of volunteers inspired by the Gospels and Social Teachings of the Church and focused on prayer, community, simplicity, and service.  They are devoted to developing relationships and eliminating sub-standard housing through home repair in rural West Virginia.  They provide a communal experience of Church as a center of action and prayer. Our very own graduate, Julie Schneider (class of ’07), had such powerful experiences at Naz Farm that she decided to give a year of her life in volunteer service there!

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