Dominican’s mission trip fosters authentic happiness

They may seem to have nothing, yet they have everything. This became noticeable to me after encountering the people of Bani.

In the second week of February, 22 members of St. Mary’s Dominican High School – students, alumna, faculty and parents – embarked on a journey to Bani in the Dominican Republic. There, my perspective on life changed drastically. The trivial and miniscule items of life suddenly became unimportant as I witnessed what little material wants the Bani people had. However, they were rich in faith, study and community. These are three of the four pillars of our school’s foundation. The fourth – service – was our mission.

We were in Bani to help preschool to high school students of Espíritu Santo School. They immediately cherished our presence, as we did theirs, and bonds quickly formed. We were able to share our contrasting cultures and also our surprisingly similar teenage interests, such as favorite songs. We bonded with the grammar school children through sports. In the preschool, we sang, danced and led crafts with children. We introduced students to English by matching English words to Spanish words. The students’ enthusiasm toward learning showed their appreciation for education. This gave me a new appreciation for my own education.

We visited the neighborhoods of Bani and the sick. These outings truly touched me as I understood more deeply suffering with Christ. They were grateful when we listened to their stories. They embraced each other and us with open arms. Community was apparent through small things like friends dancing the Bachata at school or neighborhood residents playing nightly after dinner. They value friendship, which often is overlooked due to the material things in life.

This mission trip helped strengthen my relationship with God, others and myself. I quickly learned that giving up my Mardi Gras break was worth the feeling of authentic happiness and appreciation I have gained. This is just my first step of serving others, and therefore God. The people of Bani impacted me more than I ever could have dreamed of impacting them.

Jeanne Lassere is a junior at St. Mary’s Dominican High School in New Orleans.

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