Service ministry is an opportunity for St. Lawrence Seminary High School students to transform the world through reverence, the vision of Capuchin ministries throughout the Province of St. Joseph. Through ministry to others, St. Lawrence students build relationships, improve the quality of life for those served, learn new skills, share gifts and, above all, live out the gospel invitation to serve others.
Ministry at St. Lawrence is built not only upon transformation, but even more foundationally, on relationships with those they serve. Our students experience a life-giving transformation through their ministry experiences, but the people that our students serve tell us that they experience transformation as well. Sophomores are required to complete at least 10 service hours through the school year, with the juniors and seniors required to have 20 and 30 hours respectively. Students are encouraged to complete more than the minimum requirement, and many choose to do so. Please see below for some of ministry opportunities for our students.
Angel Tree Project
One of St. Lawrence Seminary High School’s most popular community-wide ministry projects is the Angel Tree Project. The Angel Tree Project is a national program that provides Christmas presents for children who have a parent in prison or jail. “When I was in prison you visited me,” is a statement from the Gospel of Matthew, citing Christ’s challenge for us to go and do the same.
Our students don’t physically visit the prisoners. However, through the sharing of gifts with the children they do the next best thing, which is to treat the families of the incarcerated with respect and integrity. The Angel Tree Project is an integral part of our Advent journey, because it is the only ministry project that is embraced by the entire St. Lawrence community. Seniors deliver gifts to the families, juniors shop for the gifts, sophomores wrap the gifts and freshmen write cards for the families.
“I liked this ministry because I know I helped put a smile on those children’s faces.” Naveen Tomy (’09).
“I had a very good experience with the Angel Tree Project. Naveen and I were about to leave a store, when a man stopped us. The man said that he heard we were from Angel Tree and said that he was very proud of what we were doing. He proceeded to give us ten dollars each. We thanked him and he wished us happy holidays. This showed me the impact that I was making by carrying out this ministry and how kind strangers can turn out to be.” Matias Trinidad (’09).
Broken Bread is a food distribution and light meal program for the hungry of the Fond du Lac area. Sponsored by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and supported by many churches of Fond du Lac County, Broken Bread provides needed assistance for many of the poor of the Fond du Lac area. Students help with serving food, taking down tables, putting food away at the end of the evening and especially carrying boxes for the guests who are physically unable to do so. This ministry is primarily available to juniors on Friday evenings throughout the school year.
“Broken Bread allowed me to learn about how some people really live, even as close as Fond du Lac. I was grateful for the opportunity to help those in need so close to our community at SLS.” Dominic Lucero (’09).
“Broken Bread is a wonderful ministry experience in which you learn to appreciate what God has given to you and where you are able to return it to the needy of the community.” John Go (’08).
Operation Back to School
Back to School Fond du Lac served more than 1,200 students from throughout the country by providing them with a backpack filled with necessary school supplies. Now in its 20th year, the program is a collaborative, community-wide effort aimed at making sure all students have a successful start to the school year. (FDL Reporter)
Mt. Morris Conservation Ministry
Mt. Morris is a 280 acre retreat center near Wautoma, WI. Three years ago straight-line winds downed acres of trees. Students aid the camp by hauling brush, cutting up down timber and stacking wood. This ministry is a great opportunity for our students to spend time in and work hard at taking care of creation. It is stewardship in action.
Housing Rehabilitation is a hands on opportunity for students to learn and provide skills for impoverished families in central city Milwaukee. Students generally work on houses in the near north side and near south side of Milwaukee.
Students work on a wide variety of projects: demolition (which they certainly enjoy!), hanging drywall and learning how to mud and tape, minor construction of porches or walls, painting and other construction tasks. Through this experience, students also learn about the importance of home ownership for individual self-esteem, as well as neighborhood stability and growth.
“There are very few mission trips that I have actually been excited to go on, but working with tools has always been a love of mine. This, coupled with knowing how much difference I was truly making, gave me a reason to smile while we drove away.” Logan Swanson (’08).
“When we went on the housing rehab, I was really excited about working, but when we got to the work site and had the objectives explained to us, I really began to realize the depth and importance of the project. We were told that home ownership in inner city neighborhoods encourages care for the neighborhood. I saw all the work we did and was glad that I could be a part of something that will change how inner city Milwaukee is today.” Robert Draftz (’08).
Leaf raking is one of the most anticipated ministry experiences of the fall here on the Hill.
St. Lawrence Seminary students are invited to go into the village of Mt. Calvary and rake leaves for various residents who are unable to do so themselves. Although a seemingly simple and “taken for granted” experience, the leaf raking is a first-time experience for many of our students. The joy in working as a team, jumping in large leaf piles, and feeling the cool autumn air, all add to the experience.
Make a Difference Day
Each October St. Lawrence Seminary students participate in Make A Difference Day by travelling to Fond du Lac to help rake leaves, move furniture, assist with landscaping or other projects where many hands will make light work.
Senior Milwaukee Experience
The Senior Milwaukee Experience is one of the “rites of passage” for St. Lawrence Seminary High School students. It is an urban plunge experience for seniors. On this trip they have opportunity to experience St. Ben’s Meal Program, the Guest House (a men’s homeless shelter), Repairers of the Breach, Casa Maria, Growing Power and other organizations.
This overnight experience is a wonderful opportunity for seniors to come in contact with a few of the central city agencies that serve the poor, and it also teaches a lesson in self-empowerment. The Milwaukee Experience is intended to expose our seniors to situations that might make them a bit uncomfortable. Through that experience their awareness of and sensitivity to the poor is heightened.
“Going on the Milwaukee Senior Experience, I didn’t know what to expect. The previous group didn’t tell us what they ‘experienced,’ and I saw a different side of life. I realized that I am very fortunate. I was also struck by the efforts of St. Benedict’s and Repairers of the Breach in how they were helping all of the needy.” Ismael Tomas (’08).
“During my Milwaukee Experience, I was surprised to see how people, who I thought had nothing, did not lose their hope. Then I could understand that with that hope, they could survive and try to solve their problems and get back to their life.” Yong Seok Ro (’08).
Hilltopper Summer Mission Trip is an intensive summer experience to the U.S. – Mexico border. Ministry to and with others is one of the foundational elements of life at St. Lawrence Seminary. Taking time to do an extended mission trip to the south Rio Grande Valley of Texas is an exciting part of our ministry program.
Why the South Valley and McAllen? The McAllen area is located on the southern-most tip of Texas adjacent to the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. This is an impoverished area both on the U.S. and Mexican sides of the border. The south valley provides St. Lawrence students with an opportunity to learn about immigration, border wall and poverty issues.
Special Olympics Bowling
Through the ARC of Fond du Lac, the Special Olympics Bowling program is a poignant experience of building relationships with people that the students might not normally have opportunity to relate with. After going through training, the students travel to Fond du Lac for 10 consecutive Fridays to work with Special Olympics athletes. Students support, coach, affirm but most importantly get to know the athletes. The students start out this ministry a bit shy and unsure. However, it is amazing to watch the change take place through the course of this ministry experience as they get to know and walk, side-by-side, with the athletes.
“Special Olympics was an amazing experience for me, because I got to discover many things about others, as well as myself. This experience meant a lot to me because I used to look at disabled people differently, and my point of view changed. I thought that they were like vegetables, didn’t know anything and had no lives, but now I learned that many of them are caring individuals. They have their own lives outside of bowling, and do marry sometimes. I would also like to thank you, Mr. Voell, for allowing me to go to this ministry. ” Andy Nguyen (’08).
“Special Olympics reminds you to see inside yourself and find the heart again, and open up to the world.” Christian Saldivar (’08).
“During those weeks, the simple words, ‘Thank you’, rekindled my joy in service to others. In my entire life, I have never seen people thank me so sincerely. By the end of the ministry, I realized that the athletes weren’t as incapable as I thought they were. In fact, they accepted who they were and knew what to be thankful for, something we all find a hard time doing.” Paolo Espanola (’08).
St. Peter Claver Parish Fish Fry
St. Peter Claver Parish in Sheboygan, Wisconsin sponsors a fish fry each first Friday of the month. St. Lawrence Seminary High School students help serve the food and clean up the hall afterwards. This simple experience of helping at a parish event provides students with a chance to witness how many hands come together to make a task light and enjoyable. As is often the case, our students are up front and center at the end of the evening for the clean up and tear down tasks. Seeing youthful energy at work is most welcome for the parish volunteers, who have already put in a long and hard day.
“The St. Peter Claver ministry I attended was really moving for me, not just because I was helping the people out, but because the mood that the other workers were in was great. They would always make me laugh. That trip was very enjoyable.” Hector Murillo (’08).
Villa Loretto is a nursing home in Mt. Calvary, Wisconsin just down the road from the St. Lawrence campus. Through the years we have developed a wonderful partnership with the Sisters of Christ the King who staff the Villa, but more importantly with the residents there.
Ministering at Villa Loretto provides students with an opportunity to bring their youthful energy into a nursing home setting. Students are given opportunities to reflect on their experiences, and at times recognize that nursing home visitation is something they would like to do in their future. At various times through the year, students will go to the Villa to play bingo, visit and provide other support services. Students also have an opportunity to work at the Villa’s annual “Fun on the Farm” event, as well as at the Haunted House that Villa Loretto sponsors.
“I never knew how much a simple game of bingo was like Christmas to everybody in the Villa. Erik Rodriguez (’09).
Dialogue. Direction. Development.
The Spiritual Direction program is integral to the development of our students over their time on the Hill.
Sophomores, juniors and seniors are asked to choose a director from one of the many available on campus. Freshmen who desire to have a spiritual director may do so on a voluntary basis. Students meet with their director at least twice a semester, although they are encouraged to meet more often, and many do.
Spiritual directors have their own method of spiritual direction drawn from Spiritual Direction training programs, continued study and experience in this ministry. An important element of spiritual direction is to offer the student hospitality by creating a safe, welcoming place where he can feel secure, a place where he can speak honestly and openly about anything in his life, and a place where he can be accepted by an adult without rejection or judgment. Questions can be asked and answered, problems of whatever kind can be discussed.
Students know that these meetings are confidential. Spiritual direction is a place and a time to talk about a relationship with God and what that means. A director might ask about the student’s classes and activities, how he is taking care of himself, how he is getting along with his classmates, or how God is present in his life. The spiritual director will encourage the student to reflect upon all the experiences of his life and bring these to the meetings.
The whole process is a sacred sharing in the student’s life. Spiritual directors will share their own thoughts, reflections, personal experiences and recommendations when appropriate to do so. Directors will challenge the students, when necessary, to take responsibility for each of their own questions, ideas and responses.
There is a significant maturing process during the course of the time the student is here. The first year sharing is quite general. In the junior and senior years, the meetings tend to be more in depth and a lot more questions about God are explored. Many more questions arise about religious life and the priesthood. The director will support the student in times of discernment in whatever way is possible.
“The most important part of life at St. Lawrence is definitely faith. The problem with faith is that it is not an easy concept to understand. Help in understanding your faith is key to becoming an adult Catholic in the world today. Spiritual direction is the most useful tool offered to every student so that he can understand the presence of God in his life. Any problem the student faces can be brought to his spiritual director for another perspective and insight into different solutions. I have personally taken advantage of this service in dealing with the difficulties of discernment. Becoming a priest or brother takes a great amount of thought and prayers. Questions constantly arise and my spiritual director has aided me through every bump in the process. I have taken his advice to heart and I know that he is simply the helping hand of God. Each meeting takes me one step closer to understanding my faith life.” Logan Swanson (’08).
“Spiritual direction is a place where I can be myself. It allows me to unwind spiritually and emotionally. It helps me to reflect and grow in my life.” Robert Draftz (’08).
While it is too early for an adolescent to make a definitive commitment to any vocation, all young Catholics have an obligation by their baptism to be open to and willing to explore what their personal calling may be, whether within the priesthood, religious life, married or committed single life.
Besides the lived example of our faculty and staff, students are provided various opportunities to discern their vocation. St. Lawrence observes the World Day of Prayer for Vocations in April and the Week of Prayer for Vocations in January. The juniors spend a discernment day at St. Joseph Seminary in Chicago. Seniors interested in the Capuchin Order are invited to spend a weekend in Chicago at St. Clare Friary.
Vocation Directors from the various dioceses, as well as the Capuchin Vocation Directors are always welcome to meet with the students and celebrate Mass with the students.