Students ‘plant seeds of hope’ in Ireland mission


Franciscan University of Steubenville students attending the Austria Program in spring 2014 can participate in a mission trip to Ireland before the semester begins. The trip is not an official mission of Franciscan University, and is not sponsored by Missions of Peace. Instead, students themselves run the service outreach. Those on the mission trip seek to evangelize and show love to the people in Ireland.

Begun by student David Leija, the first mission took place in January 2012. Last year, in January 2013, the team of students was co-led by Mallory Garthwaite and Kevin Weiss, who are both currently seniors at Franciscan.

“Although Ireland is a very Catholic country, the suicide rates, the alcoholism and the depression are astronomical,” said Weiss. “The people there are very downtrodden. Our mission tries to go in and plant the seeds of hope.”

According to their mission statement, students give witness “through cordiality, purity, and charity.” During the trip they meet the Irish people wherever they may be, spending time with the community and with different age groups.

In youth ministry, they work with local schools and classes and are involved in catechesis. In bar ministry, one of the primary focuses of the mission trip, the students visit pubs and spend time with the people there. They continue this practice in “compulsory evangelization,” witnessing to anyone they meet.

“It’s spiritual works more than corporal works,” said Weiss. “If we’re getting on a bus, we evangelize on a bus. We’re just trying to evangelize by presence.”

The participating students prepare extensively for the mission, and people with strong leadership qualities are chosen to head the team. Weiss’s co-leader, Garthwaite, estimated the size of last year’s group to be about 14 students.

The mission also offers a chance for students to experience the culture of Ireland and the busy city of Galway.

“I had heard about the mission because I was going to Austria,” said Garthwaite. “Ireland really jumped out at me. I had worked as a summer LifeTeen missionary and that involved a lot of relational ministry.”

The students primarily minister to people living in Galway. One of the places they visit, among other schools, is the campus of the National University of Ireland. There the Franciscan students can meet and pray with its Catholic community, Youth 2000, during its weekly prayer groups.

“The mission trip is 10 days long,” said Garthwaite. “The first day or two is spent just getting the team ready and acclimated to the area. That leaves us seven to eight days of ministry.”

Despite the fear that may come with entering unknown situations and a strange country, Garthwaite described the experience and the opportunity to evangelize to the Irish people as unlike any other.

“We just wanted to go in and love them and listen to them,” she said.

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