Rebuilding Hope through Mission

By Chelbi Mims
January 24, 2012

A group of 11 faculty worked on service projects in New Orleans

Showing is better than telling. Eleven faculty members lived the principles that are instilled in all Cabrini students. As a part of the newly implemented President’s Initiative for Mission Intregration set forth by President George, faculty visited New Orleans to help build homes and view the lives of people from six years after Katrina.

“I always wanted to go to New Orleans and the idea of helping to rebuild after Katrina really appealed to me and I really wanted to see Mother Cabrini’s continued legacy at Cabrini High School in New Orleans,” Colleen Lelli, assistant professor of education, said.

The Cabrini faculty spent four days in New Orleans at the Hope House, which is located in a low-income area and offers services to the people living in these areas. They also visited the St. Joseph church, ministry of outreach to the homeless. The faculty learned about the ministry to the homeless from Sister Regina Peterson, MSC, a Cabrini sister who taught at Cabrini College, and nows works with homeless people in New Orleans. Peterson explained why so many people are homeless throughout the city and the impact Katrina had on the homeless population.

“Kristen Catalanotto  ‘06 was one of the student communication department leaders her senior year.  Hurricane Katrina’s destruction meant that she lost everything,” Cathy Yungman, associate communication professor, said. “I’ll never forget when she went to New Orleans over winter break of her senior year and took the most heart-breaking pictures of her destroyed bedroom.  I had to somehow help the city that she really loved.”

That evening they visited Loyola University’s Twomey Center for Peace and Justice and talked about the problems of poverty and crime in New Orleans and what their advocacy office does.

“I was impressed by the determination of the people whom we met. They passionately respond with hope, joy and love to the many social inequalities that confront their communities,” Nicholas Rademacher, assistant professor of religious studies, said.

The group participated in a day of service at the St. Bernard Parish. The parish was completely wiped out by Hurricane Katrina and the 11 faculty members and four other colleges worked to paint and spackle in the homes in preparation for the homeowner’s arrival. There have been140 homes built in the parish since the hurricane and 70 homes are on the waiting list. The faculty also took a tour of where the levees broke and the homes in the surrounding area that were greatly affected by the destruction.

“We drove through where the destruction happened and it was really sad because some houses were rebuilt but you really just saw driveways,” Mary Harris, department chair and associate professor of economics and finance, said.


The final day of the trip, the group went to Cabrini High School and talked with the school about how Cabrini College can connect with the high schools in New Orleans and New York. They also toured the school and connected with faculty about the presence of Mother Cabrini.“My favorite part of the trip was going to Cabrini High School. When we went around and looked at the high school, we saw Mother Cabrini everywhere. It sort of was another microcosm of what it is we are doing here and how we are taking the mission of the missionary sisters and integrating it,”   Dr. Beverly Bryde, department chair and associate professor of education, said. “We can see it being actualized in another educational environment, and how they are doing it. I think we learned a lot from that but it was also very enlightening for us to see the effects from another perspective; to me that was one aspect that pulled it together for us,” Bryde said.

The trip to New Orleans was a part of the three-phase mission academy, with 21 faculty members, incorporated with the President’s Initiative for Mission Immigration. The first phase of the mission academy was a trip to Cape May last May where the faculty learned about Catholic Social Teaching and the mission. The immersion trips were the second phase. The faculty had the option of attending an immersion trip to Camden, New Orleans or Guatemala. The immersion trip came into existance in August 2010 when a group of faculty members went to Baltimore to visit CRS and started to talk about the need for an immersion experience.The final reflection phase will pull together everything they have learned to move forward and use Catholic Social Teaching in the classrooms and throughout the college.

Chelbi Mims

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