Our website is made possible by displaying online ads to our visitors.
Please consider supporting us by whitelisting our site.

In service to a cloister

First slide

While many high schoolers were sitting by the pool or finishing up their summer reading, 14 students from St. Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax participated in a unique service trip to help the cloistered Carmelite Sisters in Fairfield, Pa.

Students boarded a bus Aug. 8 with Paul VI Chaplain Father Stephen Schultz and Campus Minister Joyce Krolicki. Students had been selected as individuals who would embrace the hard work of the day, be inquisitive, and appreciate the peace and tranquility of the cloistered life. To free themselves of distractions, students turned in their cellphones as they got on the bus.

The first stop for the group was the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Md. Here, they began the day with Mass, visited and prayed at the tomb of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and had the opportunity to venerate a relic of the saint.

Next they arrived at the Carmelite monastery in Fairfield, Pa. A larger monastery is being built for the sisters. In one of the big fields at the property, students moved rocks and piled them up to be used in fences or walkways on site in the future. After clearing rocks, students raked and planted grass seed.

Later that day, students had the opportunity to visit with the sisters and see their chapel. The boys and girls met separately with the nuns, who were behind a window in their cloister.

The message the sisters shared with the boys was to “be holy men.” They encouraged the boys to pray and to have a relationship with God.

The girls had even more time to visit with the sisters, about an hour. The sisters described what a typical day for them is like. They spoke with the female students about their extracurricular activities and prayer lives, and encouraged them to be especially committed to pro-life causes.

Even though they were separated by a screen, the sisters and students had a great conversation and formed a connection. A group from Paul VI plans to visit again in the fall and help the sisters get their wood set for the winter season.

“I didn’t know what to expect or anything about the Carmelites beforehand. I didn’t know how separated they were from the world. I thought it was really interesting to see people who were that dedicated to their faith. When we got to talk to the sisters they were surprisingly relatable and nice. We all really enjoyed meeting them,” shared senior Max Redmond.

According to Krolicki, “Students marveled at the complete and utter peace that surrounded the sisters that they had never experienced before, how beautiful the sisters were despite not being able to see their faces, and their deep love for creation, for both the land and people.”

“It was a really nice experience to work with the nuns and learn about their life versus how we live. It is such a different way of life. They are so dedicated to the church. I had never seen anything like it,” shared junior Caroline Powers. “The work was hard, but we all knew we were doing it for a good reason. We were tired by the end of the day, but it was a really amazing experience.”

Redmond also shared that he was inspired to incorporate a bit of what he learned from the sisters into his life back at school.

“These women have dedicated their life so that they can separate from everything. Some people may have a hard time having a strong faith when they are in the world. So all it really takes is a step back. Going up to Campus Ministry for five minutes can really help — I can try to live like them for five minutes.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019