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Rockets serve with hands and hearts during Appalachia Encounter

Rockets serve with hands and hearts during Appalachia Encounter

During their six-day Appalachia Encounter Retreat, 24 seniors and four faculty members learned and served in eastern Tennessee in partnership with the Glenmary Home Missioners.

This marks the 42nd year that McNicholas has traveled to areas in Appalachia to serve the rural poor and build a community both among themselves and with the people in the Appalachian Mountains.

Rockets worked hard with their hands, clearing ruble from Terry’s fallen barn, building a ramp for Umbria who is wheelchair bound because of cerebral palsy, establishing garden beds for Vivian Ann’s greenhouse, chopping firewood to heat Dave and Tammy’s home, painting Barabara’s trailer, and helping to take care of the grounds at Kingswood Home for Children. Rockets also worked hard with their hearts, offering the ministry of presence to Terry, Umbria, Vivian Ann, Dave, Tammy, and each other.

Senior Calla Garretson said that the greatest gifts she received were from spending time with the people around her. “Talking to Umbria about her life and faith was very inspirational. She is confined to a wheelchair, but that doesn’t stop her from spreading God's love in her own special way, crocheting blankets for others to remind them that God loves them.”

Senior Remington Holder said, “Never in my life have I experienced and been able to form such deep connections with those around me, both those I served and my peers. We grew in community, friendship, and love for one another in a deeply authentic way.”

Over the decades, this service-learning retreat experience has deepened the commitment of hundreds of McNicholas students to embrace lives rooted in Christian faith and service.  

Senior Alex Smith learned about the relationship between faith and service. He said, “Faith is not just about believing in the words we speak and write, but about acting on it and the Appalachian Retreat gave me the time to do just that. I learned that, when you partake in acts of service for others, true community flourishes. In communion with the people around me, I formed bonds with others deeper than I could have imagined and was able to grow deeper in my faith.”

Remington discovered that “true happiness, love, and joy, all in abundance” came in the places he least expected. He said, “I will never forget the incredible impact that this retreat had on who I am, how I treat others, and my understanding of where happiness is found."