Panthers on a mission

First slide

A team of students and teachers from Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax boarded a plane to Bánica, Dominican Republic, in June on a mission to serve others. Two mission teams comprised of 25 students each were joined by faculty and parent chaperones to dig holes for latrines, lay cement floors and participate in the spiritual life of the community in Bánica.

Two Arlington diocesan priests, Father Jason Weber and Father Keith O'Hare (Paul VI '90), live in Bánica and minister to the community. They welcomed the Paul VI teams to assist with outreach efforts to local residents.

Both mission teams were unsure of what to expect from the trip but came away feeling they had changed the lives of others and also experienced a change within themselves.

"I went in expecting to have a change in perspective on the world," said senior Nation Revor. "I thought I'd leave realizing how lucky we are and how the rest of the world is so unfortunate. (But) to see that some of the happiest people on earth have some of the fewest possessions changed the way I view myself."

In addition to performing manual labor, mission participants spent time in prayer, attended daily Mass and found time for hiking and visiting the local market. Students also played sports with local young adults and games with local children.

"Going to daily Mass … just having that connection spiritually, even though there was a language barrier, was really special," said senior Madison Barnett.

During the trip, student missionaries were able to stay connected with their parents, siblings and supporters back home.

"Friends, family members, teachers and neighbors traveled with us through our posts on Facebook, our pictures, stories and the sharing of the experiences that changed us forever," said Joyce Krolicki, Paul VI coordinator of campus ministry.

Prior to their departure for Bánica, the students held fundraisers to offset the cost of travel, food and lodging and also to pay for materials they would use while working in Bánica.

"The money raised through donations at Marathon Madness was used to build a house in Bánica," said Katie Tinsley, Paul VI student life director. "Not only did PVI donate the money, but our students volunteered their time and while on the mission trip got the opportunity to build a house for a family."

The mission trip to Bánica, now almost an annual event at Paul VI, is truly a mission of mercy for the local community but also is a means of deepening faith for the students who participate.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015