UGA Students Travel Locally and Abroad to Expand Horizons

David Briones Around the Province

Fr. John Couglin and University of Georgia students on spring break service trip

Fr. John Coughlin, left, and a group of UGA students on a spring break service trip in El Salvador. (Photo courtesy of David Briones)

The report below is about one of several colleges — in addition to the two that are sponsored by Holy Name College — where the friars serve in campus ministry

ATHENS, Ga. — Every year, the Catholic Center at the University of Georgia offers an opportunity for students to take an alternative spring break trip. “It’s one of the events we do to expand the horizon of our students and to increase their knowledge of a living faith,” said Thomas Vigliotta, OFM, director of the Catholic Center.

This year, between March 7 and 14, students had the option to travel to one of three places. They served meals at St. Francis Inn in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, worked with the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart in San Salvador, El Salvador, and learned first-hand about immigration by going to Nogales, Mexico.

John C. Coughlin, OFM, campus minister of the Catholic Center, accompanied the group of students who traveled to San Salvador. Participants worked in the orphanage, built a house, helped in the local school and learned about the history of the Civil War and the soon-to-be canonized Archbishop Oscar Romero. “Above all else, the trip for our students and me was an experience of forming relationships with people, young and old, and deepening our relationship with God,” said John.

University of Georgia students volunteer at the Arizona-Mexico border

University of Georgia students volunteer at the Arizona-Mexico border during their spring break. (Photo courtesy of David Briones)

The students who went to the Arizona-Mexico border had the opportunity to see where Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap., and other U.S. bishops offered Mass last year. In addition, students worked with Br. David Buer, OFM, and the Ajo Samaritan group, placing gallon jugs of water on the migrant trail in Ajo, Ariz. Students also spent time in the border town of Nogales with HEPAC, a grassroots community in an impoverished neighborhood, and with Kino immersion groups, meeting recently deported migrants.

Thomas believes this type of evangelization and these missionary trips “are one of the best things we do for our students.”

This year’s group of students was the largest we have been able to ever take on our trips. Thanks to the support of Fr. Tom, Fr. John and our community, we have already begun to plan for spring 2016.

— David Briones is director of religious education and coordinator of collegiate activities at UGA’s Catholic Center, which friars of the Province have operated for more than 40 years.