On the Wednesday before Easter, a group of students from Marist High School in Bayonne, Mount St. Michael Academy, and Roselle Catholic High School joined Br. Dan O’Riordan, Maureen Hagan, Pat Hagan, Tim Hagan, Nina Lokar, Miriam Eisenmenger, and RC Alums’ John Allen, Mark O’Grady, and Kim Aldridge on a week-long Mission trip to Jackson, Kentucky.
Ellen Salmi, a graduate of Roselle Catholic High School in 2008 and a 2-year volunteer with the Marist Missionary Sisters in Senegal (2012-14) is living in Jackson with her husband, Josh van Cleef, where they are the Parish Life Co-Directors of Holy Cross Catholic Parish. It is located in rural eastern Kentucky in Breathitt County, one of the poorest counties in Appalachia which has a total Catholic population of only 25 persons. During the trip, the group gathered daily for morning and evening prayers as well as celebrated each of the Triduum services with the locals of Holy Cross Parish.
The group rotated within three distinct work projects during the week. Each day a group worked at the home of Vikki and her family. The front porch of their home was in shambles and needed to be removed and a new one was built to replace it.
A second group worked at Magnificant Farm. It is a beautiful 50-acre property with a log cabin and a large barn on the property with numerous hiking trails and ponds. The property is owned by Ellen and Josh and they are converting it into a Catholic Worker Farm. New doors and new windows were added to the barn which they hope will be able to soon host both a weekly hot meal as well as house a family in need on the second floor. Breathitt County currently has no services that provide temporary shelter for families or a place that serves a hot meal for the many needy of the county.
A third group joined Ellen on home visits to meet some of the grandmothers of the county and learn the wisdom of these lifelong Appalachian residents.
It was an amazing week of living as an extended Marist community, and while a significant amount of work was accomplished, the real joy and blessing of the week was the gift that each person received by being so richly welcomed and cared for during their visit to the Bluegrass state.
Brother Dan O’Riordan
Vice Provincial, USA Province