Making good use of a week off: Alumna gets second chance

By Johanna Church-DeSanto
March 6, 2011

As soon as I read it, I knew the email would change my life.

“Cabrini Alumni trip to Guatemala,” it read. After 20 years I’d have the opportunity to fix something that has haunted me through my adult life. I could travel to a far away place and experience a way of life very different from my own, all with the institution that was instrumental in molding and shaping my very self.

My experience at Cabrini was one of hard work. I paid for my tuition on my own and worked several jobs to do it. Trips of any sort were too frivolous, both in time and money. Still, I was drawn to the only service trip Cabrini offered, a week working in Appalachia, W.Va.  I went to the information session, checked my calendar and pondered whether I could pull it off. Turned out, I couldn’t. The cost, although I’m now sure was meager, and the time spent away from work were an insurmountable challenge for me. I was disappointed but eventually got over it and moved on with my life.

Two decades later, when I received the email, I jumped at the opportunity. When you get to be my age you begin to look back at what you’ve accomplished so far in your life, and you begin to take inventory of what you can still take care off in the time you have left.

jerry zurek and eric gibble / submitted photos

I showed the email to my husband and two daughters and explained my history with the trip to Appalachia. “You should absolutely do it,” my husband said. “This is a do-over, and you don’t get too many of those.”

In the months leading up to our departure, my anticipation grew and I began to worry if the trip to San Lucas Mission could possibly live up to my expectations. It did, and they were exceeded.

Many times during my experience in San Lucas I was overcome with emotion. “I’m really here,” I would think. I was amid the towering volcanoes and the vivid embroidered colors of the Mayan people, doing the most physically challenging, yet by far the most satisfying, work of my life.

I’ve only been home a few days now, but whenever someone asks me about my trip to Guatemala, I have an easy answer for them. “It was the most rewarding experience of my life,” I tell them. And it was.

jerry zurek and eric gibble / submitted photos

It was an experience that I will surely do again and, hopefully, have the opportunity to share with my husband and daughters in the years to come. That way, I can help them to understand how Cabrini has once again molded and shaped the person that I am.

Johanna Church-DeSanto was the Loquitur News Editor in 1989-1990. She has since worked as a journalist, editor and publisher. Subsequently she moved to public relations and sales. She currently is studying to become a nurse.

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Johanna Church-DeSanto

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