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Archives Locat students prepare for mission trips

Oct. 9, 2019

By Jonathan Monfiletto
Contributing writerMission Trips

Lourdes, France may be best known for the miraculous healings that have taken place since the Virgin Mary appeared to a young girl in the town more than 150 years ago, but for Nick Lapointe, a Watertown native and Franciscan University of Steubenville sophomore preparing for a mission trip to Lourdes, the town represents an opportunity to serve people and love them.

“Really, it just kind of comes down to helping people in their time of need,” he said, adding that being humble is something he feels called to work on in his life right now. “It’s just something beautiful that I have the opportunity to be a part of.”

Abigail Robinson, a Malone native and fellow Franciscan University sophomore, recently learned she will travel to Nitra, Slovakia for a 10-day mission trip through Eastern European Mission.

“What’s really beautiful about this mission is these people might not even understand English, so it’s learning myself how to show God’s love and graces through me to other people without even being able to communicate with them verbally,” she said.

Both students currently attend Franciscan University in Austria, a study abroad center of the Ohio university. The center is located in Gaming, Austria, in the foothills of the Alps. While they are in Europe, each will be a part of a mission trip with other students and volunteers.

Lapointe will co-lead with a female student a mission of 31 other students to Lourdes to work with North American Lourdes Volunteers, an organization that brings people who are sick and disabled from across North America to the town.

“(They are) coming to experience the graces that Our Lady provides at Lourdes,” he said, noting the people stay in hospital-like settings, and the students help them throughout the day.

Students and volunteers do such tasks as helping the people get ready in the morning, serving them at mealtimes, pushing around those in wheelchairs, and “getting to know them and loving them,” Lapointe said.
Robinson doesn’t know many details of her trip yet, but she knows she will be working at an all-girls school and orphanage, where many of the girls do not know English, have never met an American and have never been introduced to the faith.

“Just showing them how much they are loved, even though they might feel lonely or desperate in their situations,” she said, noting evangelization – teaching the faith and exposing people to it – is a major focus of the mission.

Robinson will also be teaching Theology of the Body to a group of teenagers, “allowing them to understand how much they are worth, how sacred they are and their bodies are,” she said.

Lapointe and Robinson are each raising $500 for their respective mission trips through GoFundMe pages. Though they are getting close to obtaining the full amount, both students said they are asking for prayers as well as financial donations.

“I’d just really appreciate it if people would pray for everyone that’s going on these missions,” Robinson said.
Even if young people do not go on mission trips, the college sophomores said it is important for young people to be involved in their faith so they have a foundation for themselves and the people around them and can listen to God instead of the world.

“It’s important for young people, especially in this day and age, just because there are so many lies that society’s trying to sell them, about who they are and how they should just fit into the workings of the world,” Lapointe said. “It’s really important to figure out in their youth what matters and why it matters. … It’s so important to know the dignity and beauty that each and every person is as the human person that they are, that God has specially crafted them.”

Robinson remembers being young and not wanting to go to Mass, yet she sees now how one’s faith can easily slip away if he or she doesn’t understand it at a young age.

“I’m so glad that I stuck with the faith. It really carries you through some of the harder times in life. If you’re really grounded in your faith, there’s nothing you can’t do,” she said. “You can easily be pulled away from the faith through the media and society in general. It seems to pull you closer to sin. If you are rooted in your faith very young, you can start making those choices to attend Mass and to enter fully into the faith.”

Being young themselves, Lapointe and Robinson realize they have a chance – both in their respective mission trips and among their peers – to shine God’s light and point people toward Jesus.

“Being young ourselves, we have a unique opportunity to kind of reach out and show younger people the beauty and the joy that can be found through our faith,” Lapointe said. “Life is an adventure with Christ.”


Growing in faith, knowledge during semester abroad

By Jonathan Monfiletto
Contributing writer

Gaming, Austria – Growing in their faith as they learn academically.

That is how two North Country students, both sophomores at Franciscan University of Steubenville, describe their semester of studying abroad in the Ohio university’s campus in Gaming, Austria.

“It’s very easy to grow in your faith here,” said Abigail Robinson, of Malone. “It seems that even though there are so many things going on at once, life kind of slows down. It really gives you a lot of time to reflect on your spiritual life and have more time for that personal prayer and attend all of the things you want.”

Those things include Mass every day at noon, perpetual adoration of the Eucharist from Monday through Thursday, praise and worship once a week, and separate small groups for men and women.

Nick Lapointe, of Watertown, added that a Byzantine priest who is a member of the Austrian faculty delivers the Divine Liturgy.

“For me, it’s been a challenge, honestly, trying to maintain balance and everything, just because for me it feels like it’s so busy here,” Lapointe said. “It really makes you have to have priorities and just to focus on what’s important in life.”

Despite both hailing from the North Country and both attending Camp Guggenheim, Robinson and Lapointe said they didn’t meet and get to know each other until they arrived on campus in Ohio as freshmen last year. Now, they are living the experience of studying abroad in Europe together.

The students attend Franciscan University in Austria, a university completely run by the same order – the Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Penance – and administration that runs the university in Ohio. The Austrian campus is located on the Kartause, a Carthusian monastery built by a Hapsburg duke in the 1300s.

It operated as a monastery until 1782 and then fell into disrepair over the next 200 years due to neglect and damage, included from its occupation by Russian troops during World War II. It now serves as a study abroad campus for Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Robinson and Lapointe have been in Austria for about a month, and they attend classes Monday through Thursday. Their courses are largely based around a liberal arts education.

“Most of us do our core class requirements, like philosophy and theology and history and English,” Lapointe said.

With four days of classes and three-day weekends, the students are encouraged to travel. Robinson said she went on two school-planned trips to Salzburg and Vienna, two of the larger cities in Austria. Lapointe said he visited Croatia on the Adriatic Sea and also traveled to Florence, Italy and Cinque Terre, an Italian national park.

On another weekend, Robinson said she stayed in Gaming, exploring a nearby lake and a neighboring town. There are also hiking trails near the campus and a creek outside.

“There are definitely plenty of ways to grow in your faith here,” Robinson said. “If you have the opportunity to study abroad, take it. You won’t get this opportunity to do it again.”


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