FaithWorks Service Immersion Grows in Number, Scope
FaithWorks, Providence College’s service immersion program for incoming freshmen, has grown in size and scope in its second year.
A total of 36 students from the Class of 2017 participated in this year’s program, which was held August 24-28. Last year, 26 joined the inaugural program. This year, 10 older students also served as coordinators, four of whom had participated as freshmen.
As they did last year, the freshmen spent the five days before orientation becoming familiar with the PC campus, the surrounding community, and the ministries of the Diocese of Providence. Each night, the students had an opportunity to reflect with their group about the day’s experiences.
“It’s an opportunity for students to get to campus early and learn about the College and the broader Church,” said Sarah Attwood, campus minister, who oversees the program. “They get their hands dirty during the daytime and reflect on those events in the evening.”
The students began with a Mass and scavenger hunt on campus. They took a tour of the Smith Hill neighborhood and met community residents the next day. Then they broke into smaller groups for service. Some students went to St. Martin de Porres Center to work with senior citizens and their grandchildren. Others went to Emmanuel House, a homeless shelter with 35 beds for men, to clean up the surrounding streets and to harvest food from its community garden.
The students’ labor helps the shelter maintain good ties with its neighbors, said Dotty Perreault, site director of Emmanuel House.
The experience was “good for both of us,” she said. “The clients get to see kids giving back. And they experience somewhat what goes on here.
“It’s a lesson in itself,” she said.
On other days, participants volunteered with the Office of Life and Family and the Office of Immigration and Refugee Services and toured the Rhode Island Department of Corrections to learn about the diocese’s chaplaincy services there.
The students had plenty of opportunities for guidance. The Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, D.D., bishop of Providence, celebrated Mass for the group, and Dr. Eric L. Hirsch, professor of sociology and an expert on homelessness, addressed the group along with members of the Homeless Speakers Bureau.
In addition, this year Mark ’03 and Lizzie ’07 Kravatz, OJ Marti ’07, and Magali Garcia-Pletsch ’13 presented a panel discussion on faith and pursuing service as a vocation.
Sponsored by Campus Ministry, FaithWorks was developed by the Office of Mission and Ministry as part of the College’s Strategic Plan and embodies PC’s Catholic and Dominican tradition of fostering community, service, and solidarity among students.
Attwood said she had already heard insightful reflections on faith and service before the students had even visited any service sites, and she was eager to see the impact of this early experience on the students and their peers, as they talk to their roommates and others about what they learned and saw.
“They haven’t even been here for 48 hours and I already see the relationships forming,” Attwood said during a break at Emmanuel House.
Tiffany Devonish ’17 (Fall River, Mass.) met her roommate, Aoua Coumbassa ’17 (Pawtucket, R.I.), at an “A Night in Friartown” event, organized by the Office of Admission, and together the two decided to join FaithWorks.
“I loved the idea of going around and being thrust into the community and meeting new people,” said Devonish, a graduate of Bishop Connolly High School.
Sophia Fallon ’17 (Auburn, N.Y.) signed up for FaithWorks for reasons she said sounded selfish – to bypass the otherwise inevitable “first two months of awkwardness” and meet other students like herself at the start of her freshman year.
“That was my biggest worry – having a niche,” she said. “I wanted to find faith-minded people – people who would do things like this.”
Fallon wasn’t disappointed, describing her experience as “amazing.”
“It’s really inspiring. I couldn’t even imagine,” she said. “It went beyond my expectations.”
– Liz F. Kay
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