Students spend spring break helping southern Texans in need

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by Josh Bannon
Eagle Editorial Board

This March, Spring Break was anything but that for a group of thirteen Eagles and the twelve young ladies from Incarnate Word Academy that accompanied them to the city of Weslaco, Texas for the school’s annual Spring Break Mission Trip.

The students, along with their supervisors, which included several parents, emerged exhausted but very satisfied from their week spent doing construction and missionary work in the small, South Texas border-city, a week that the majority of their fellow students spent vacationing and enjoying the much needed respite from the daily grind of high school.

Martin Matulia, Director of Campus Ministry and the man who heads up the mission trip each year, said, “I thought it went extremely well. I thought the projects we had were very worthwhile, very fulfilling, and the people we helped were very much in need and very much appreciated our help.”

Matulia coordinated extensively with several groups and organizations, well before many students even heard about the trip, in order to secure lodgings, food and jobs for the missionaries.

While in Weslaco, the students from St. Thomas and Incarnate Word were welcomed by the community from a local Baptist church, which provided a place for the missionary group to live for the week as well as local students who helped out on the construction sites. The group also received a warm welcome from a local Catholic church as well, as the students spent their first night in Weslaco being the guests of honor at a Life Teen fiesta, complete with live bands and a Mass.

Sarah Bannon, a sophomore at Incarnate Word, said, “All of the people we met in Weslaco were so nice to us. I knew I would meet other students from home, but I didn’t really expect to make so many friends among the people we were there to help.”

During the week, Matulia, along with Incarnate Word’s Director of Campus Ministry, Gina Galassi, organized the students into three groups in order to maximize the amount of work they could get done.

One group spent most of the week in the neighboring town of Progreso, and did construction work on a house that the father of one family had built himself, but could not find the time or funds to finish himself, due to his job as a cook.

Junior Ryan Manley said, “Despite all of the fiberglass insulation and sheet rock we had to handle at the site, it was definitely time and efforts well-spent, and a job that I would do again if it could mean having the same impact we were able to make.”

Another group spent the week in the town of Mercedes, not building a home, but doing extensive repair work on the floors and roofs of a small house, and the neighboring trailer home.

The final group, spearheaded by a dedicated group from Incarnate Word and assisted by a few Eagles, planned and executed a three day long Vacation Bible School, open to any parents wwho wanted to let their children participate.

Maria Easton, the only senior from Incarnate Word to go on the mission trip, said, “I wasn’t one of the girls who planned the Bible school out, but it was so much fun. I was hesitant at first, but I’m just really glad I decided to go on the trip.”

The entire group concluded their final night in Weslaco with a celebration of all the efforts put into the week, both from individuals as well as the different organizations that lent a helping hand. Everyone from the week was invited and broke bread with the students from Houston, including all of the families who lived in the homes which were worked on.

The students made the bus ride home, some excited, even in their exhaustion, to make the return trip next year, and some with the sad knowledge that this was the last year they could participate.

Reflecting back on the week, Matulia said, “It’s always about the relationships that we build in the community, and that was tremendous this year. All in all, it was just great.”

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