By Hope Thompson, The Circuit.
Seventeen men and women from Benedictine College traded their swimsuits for saris this spring break and spent the week with the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India. Junior Olivia Hoopes, sophomore Rebecca Loew and Father Jay led the group.
Hoopes said initially her decision to lead the trip did not come easy. “I was planning on going to Ghana, and I didn’t think I could lead a mission trip, but something wasn’t sitting right with me,” she said. “I saw they needed a leader and thought ‘hey, it might as well be me.’ I actually came to my decision on Mother Teresa’s feast day.”
Deciding to lead was not the only obstacle Hoopes and the others had to face.
“The process of getting a visa was very long and drawn-out because there isn’t any proselytizing allowed in India,” Hoopes said. “We couldn’t make it known that we were missionaries or else we could have gotten deported. It can be pretty dangerous for missionaries there so we had to be very careful.”
Rather than letting that danger stand in her way, junior Shelly Loosbrock embraced the heart of the mission.
“I really didn’t have any expectations, so I didn’t have much to worry about,” she said. “I put my trust in God that He’d guide us in doing His works of mercy and I was mostly excited to be able to try to do what Mother Teresa did every day of her life – serving the poor.”
The group arrived at the house for the Missionaries of Charity on March 4 without any specifics as to what type of work they would be doing.
“We just showed up and [the missionaries] assigned us jobs,” Hoopes said. “We knew we’d be working in the houses that Mother Teresa created for the poor.”
Loosbrock was assigned work in an orphanage for toddlers and in the evenings, a house for sick and dying women.
“I would help in the orphanage with laundry, teaching them English, giving them baths and feeding them,” she said. “When I was with the women I would help them with their physical therapy along with just feeding and talking to them.”
The last few days, the group traveled by train to Bagdogra, a town in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, to help with a retreat led by Emmaus Catholic Volunteers.
“The trip over all was a wonderful memory in itself,” Loosbrock said. “I had always been interested in visiting [Calcutta] and I’m really glad I was able to experience it.”