By GLENN RUTHERFORD
For more than three decades, students from The College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., have been visiting and working in the southern Kentucky missions each year.
There they help some of Kentucky’s poorest citizens with various projects, such as organizing a clothing exchange program, various refurbishing projects for houses and farms, and re-stocking and organizing a local thrift store.
The students also help local residents with house painting, cleaning and repair, yard work, landscaping — and they hung a new farm gate and dug holes for shrubbery during their visit.
This year the Holy Cross students —a dozen of them — visited Albany, Ky., and the Burkesville, Ky., area during the first week in March. Deacon Robert Bryant, now assigned to St. Martin of Tours Church in Louisville, thinks it’s time the students and the program received a little attention.
“It began in 1976, but students haven’t visited the state every year since then,” he explained in a recent interview. “They have been on these ‘immersion’ trips for 28 times since they started, though.”
This year’s dozen participants hail from Louisiana, Virginia, West Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, New York, Florida and Massachusetts. They attend a college that costs about $55,000 a year to attend, Deacon Bryant noted.
“This program is a chance for them to get to know, to get face-to-face, with real people in real difficult situations,” he said.
“Like other programs intended to help people who need it, the good being done in this program is a two-way street,” he said. “The young people involved — and this year’s group was outstanding, some of the best young men and women I’ve ever met — get a real benefit from the experience.”
Deacon Bryant grew familiar with the Holy Cross service program when he served in the Southern Kentucky missions at Burkesville and Albany.
“This year Father Joel Rogers (pastor of Holy Cross Church in Burkesville and Emmanuel Church in Albany) asked that the students come back, so I helped to plan and coordinate the event,” he explained. “I love doing it; love being part of a situation like this where everybody benefits.”
Deacon Bryant relayed the story of a student from India “who’d never held a mop,” let alone put one to use.
“We’d asked her to mop a front hallway,” he recalled, “and by the time she finished, she’d done the whole first floor.”
The Holy Cross program this year involved a total of 280 students, about a tenth of the school’s student population. The 12 students who came to Kentucky during the first week in March originally travelled to Roanoke, Va., where they separated from their main group and drove in two vans to Albany.
“After the day’s work, the students would spend part of each evening in discussion, prayer and reflection,” Deacon Bryant said. “I enjoyed being back in the missions and I really enjoyed getting to know this group of young people.”
Deacon Bryant will coordinate next year’s visits by Holy Cross students, too. In fact, he’s already begun planning for it.
“The archdiocese is truly blessed by the presence of these young men and women every year,” he said. “I wanted to draw some attention to their efforts, to the good things that they do.”