It may have been God’s immaculate timing as a group of university students from all over the United States was able to visit Trinidad and Tobago as part of a FOCUS mission trip March 6–13. Group member Abbey Hugo sent us this report of their experience.
FOCUS, Fellowship of Catholic University Students, is an organisation dedicated to inviting college students into a growing relationship with Christ, equipping them for a lifetime of Christ-centred evangelisation and discipleship. More than 730 missionaries serve on 164 campuses and eight parishes across the US and Europe. In addition to continual work on campuses, FOCUS leads the world’s largest Catholic missions programme and usually hosts 140 trips to 50 countries each year.
This year, however, many trips were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The start of March marked the first week FOCUS offered mission trips, then all subsequent trips were cancelled. The group that visited Trinidad and Tobago was one of the few able to complete their mission as planned, something mission leader Kaiti Lewing credits to the hand of God.
“The Lord is more faithful than we realise, just by the mere fact we were actually able to go on this trip before things got too crazy,” Lewing said. “The fact that we were able to do as much as we were the week that we were there, despite this pandemic spreading and causing fear and anxiety among people throughout the world, is kind of unbelievable.”
The group stayed at the Rosary Monastery, under the care of the cloistered Dominican Sisters. They worked closely with St Ann’s RC Church alongside its ministry group, Oneness, to determine and serve the greatest needs of the community.
Following daily Mass, mission trip participants would share what Fr Alan Mohammed OP called “life-changing testimonies” with the congregation. These testimonials were intended to inspire parishioners but sharing stories was eye-opening for the students presenting as well.
“It was so cool to have people come up to me after Mass and say that they feel the same way as I do,” Western Kentucky University student Katelyn Noll said. “It just showed me how we are all so similar even throughout different parts of the world.”
The group hosted a retreat for St Ann’s confirmation students and a retreat for the young women of Holy Name Convent Secondary. They visited St Ann’s RC Primary, the Princess Elizabeth Home and St Bernadette’s Preparatory School over the course of the week.
It was through the hospitality of the people of Trinidad and Tobago that the students and missionaries were able to most visibly experience the love of the Lord.
“I learned more about the true universality of our faith and was ecstatic to see it so beautifully alive in St Ann’s and the schools we visited,” FOCUS mission trip participant Saul Martinez said.
These people came to serve on mission but ended up being served as well, being shown the beauty of Trinidad through music, food, places like Mt St Benedict Abbey, La Vega Estate, Carmel Valley Estate and Maracas Beach, and its inhabitants.
“I enjoy mission because I enjoy being able to walk in Christ’s shoes and see not only how He desires to serve the people but how the people desire to serve Him and to serve us in return,” Northwest Missouri State University student Mikayla Olson said. “I was able to see how much Jesus delights in His people and how full His heart is when these people go out of their way to serve and take pride in their culture.”