Stopping to enjoy the journey
McNicholas students build relationships in Nicaragua
For the past 15 years, Archbishop McNicholas High School theology teacher John Norman has coordinated the Nicaragua Immersion Experience with Immaculate Heart of Mary parishioner Sue Keefe. Over that time, more than 300 participants have experienced the love, beauty, and joy of forging relationships with the people of Nicaragua, specifically at the Cultural Center of Batahola Norte. This past June, seventeen recent graduates or rising seniors at Archbishop McNicholas High School traveled to embrace the culture, beauty, and simplicity of the people of Batahola and Ocotal.
“Why is twinning so important? Why are immersion trips so important?,” Norman said. “We are Catholics, a universal church, and all are brothers and sisters…teenagers and adults shared laughter, conversation, dance, soccer, joy, and happiness. We went to the 18th century church St. Peter the Apostle and prayed as so many Nicaraguans have over the last 200 plus years to our one Lord. For a brief moment in time, we touched the spirit of oneness that we share.”
The majority of time on the trip is spent at the Cultural Center of Batahola Norte, a community center that promotes education, arts, and holistic personal development through its programming for women, men, and children of all ages. Students spend time getting to know the people at the Center by helping with activities, playing games, and sharing meals. Senior Scott Hickman felt that being at the Center was an experience of love and community unlike anything he had ever experienced.
“The people are filled with love and the desire to make you feel welcomed and a part of their family,” Hickman said. “Everyone was nothing but kind…Not only were they loving, but they had such a large amount of gratitude that is unprecedented.”
Most of the group had recently graduated from McNicholas and appreciated the challenges in keeping the connection in relationships formed. Lisa Sandmann ’17 learned that by showing the love of Christ she could see it in others as well.
“This trip came during a time of transition in my life, but it triggered a different transition, one of deeper faith and a new dedication to serving others,” Sandmann said. “I have realized the importance of stopping to enjoy the journey and that it is okay to not know what the future brings. At the same time, I realized the importance of the question, ‘What’s next?’ God’s call to service is not over for me.”
The trip to Nicaragua caps the semester of preparation that students commit to after discerning the call to travel. For Ben Wainscott ’17, it was a journey back to God and to a simple kind of love.
“Nicaragua was an experience that we all had prepared for together, but truly had no idea what we were getting ourselves into,” Wainscott said. “The true meaning of the word hospitality was shown to me throughout our journey in Managua as well as Ocotal, a type of hospitality that seems to be pretty scarce in America. The type of hospitality and love welcomed a complete stranger into your home as you worked for 4 hours preparing a home-cooked meal and shared your life with. These host families as well as the people of Nicaragua showed us their home in all of its poverty and in all of its ‘brokenness’ and showed us the true beauty of simplicity in Christ by exemplifying the love that Jesus showed all when He walked about His earth. It’s something you don’t experience every day.”