By: Vince Marcantonio – Holy Name DRE

Bears! Salmon! A distinct lack of vegan dining options! These were just some of the things that students and monks of St. Vincent’s College were surprised by on their mission trip to Ketchikan early last month. The crew of ten (seven students, one faculty member, two monks) worked and prayed for one week at Holy Name Parish.

St. Vincent’s College is located in Latrobe, Pennsylvania – about an hour south of Pittsburgh. It is a small liberal arts college with an enrollment around 1,800 undergraduates. There is also a seminary, basilica, and monastery in the vicinity. The monks there are American-Cassinese Benedictines and have the largest monastery in the Western Hemisphere. At the invitation of Bishop Edward Burns, they began sending mission groups to our Diocese a few years ago. Students have volunteered in Ketchikan, Prince of Wales, Juneau, and Wrangell since the program began.

During this visit students spent most of their time at Holy Name Catholic School to help finish some building projects and help us get ready for the new school year. The students also helped with a special “Youth Group Bonanza” that was held to get the parish high schoolers excited for another year of youth group. This meeting included the special segments “Ask a Monk anything” and “How to make rosaries.” My regular charges had such a good time they did not want to leave. The students also helped in the construction of our rosary garden even though it was raining – they were assured this was all part of the Ketchikan experience.

Prayer was just as important for both the students and their handlers. As you may know, the Benedictines have a motto of “prayer and work.” So, too, was their time here balanced. The students were delighted to attend Mass every afternoon with their beloved Fr. Maximillian Maxwell, OSB concelebrating and they also said evening prayer as a group. On some nights the parishioners were invited to attend as well and vespers was chanted by everyone. We were also treated to a special 2nd Sunday session where we heard a panel discussion on “Being Benedictine in the Modern Times” – this was presented by both the students and the monks.

Do not worry, though. It was not all just work and prayer for the students. They had many wonderful opportunities to go and experience what Ketchikan had to offer. One rainy morning, Larry Jackson took them out for a morning of salmon fishing and they came back with ten pinks and seven silvers. They also did some unguided fishing from the Stedman Bridge and caught a couple of salmon (in the pouring rain!). They also enjoyed swimming in Carlanna Lake and hiking the Juno Mountain Trail in the early morning mist. Last, but by no means least, the students enjoyed the various dinners provided by parishioners that provided some cultural insight into our city – both on the Filipino and seafood fronts. A big thank you to all who provided food!

I hear they are already chomping at the bit to return next year. Holy Name hopes to see them soon!