Students and staff from St. Joseph’s University, New York’s Long Island Campus participated in sustainability service efforts both with and for the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood during Campus Ministry’s inaugural Mission Day on Wednesday, March 16.
“I never had the chance to do something with the Sisters of St. Joseph, so I wanted to take this opportunity to volunteer, help clean up and just experience what it’s like being with the Sisters,” said Emma Tennaro, a sophomore nursing major and president of Students Taking an Active Role in Society (STARS).
Mission Day was held in lieu of the University’s annual Mission Trip, formerly known as Alternative Spring Break, which is held each year during spring break and encourages students to live out three of the University’s five pillars — service, social responsibility and spiritual depth.
“I decided to participate because I felt like I could be a part of something bigger than me,” student John Honahan said.
Service for the Sisters
During this year’s Mission Day, students toured the Sisters of St. Joseph property in Brentwood; engaged in sustainability service projects, such as collecting waste around the grounds and in the garden ministry, and cleaning Sisters’ tombstones in the Calvary Cemetery; dined with some of the Sisters at lunch; and shared experience reflection opportunities with the Sisters.
“We ask for the ability to feel the energy that is in this space, the history that is in the ground beneath us — the love, the years of service, the years of charity,” Cristian Murphy ’14, director of Campus Ministry, said in a prayer before the participants cleaned the tombstones. “Let it not be lost on us what we are encountering.”
In addition to learning a lot about ecology and the land at the congregation in Brentwood, students Dominique Brutus ’22 and Danielle Saint Laurent ’23 said they also learned about the Sisters.
“It’s really special to be able to come here and clean these (tombstones) for the people,” Brutus, a biology major, said. “Before we do it, we read the names and figure out who they are.”
Service with the Sisters
Throughout the day, landscape ecologist Amanda Furcall explained the importance of the work to protect, grow and nurture the land there.
“Engaging college students with the sustainability work at Brentwood is critical,” explained Furcall, who has worked at the 212-acre property in Brentwood since 2019. “I believe that humans can have a positive, reciprocal relationship with the Earth, but in our busy lives, it can be hard to make time to build this fundamental relationship. Retreat days like this one give students a chance to tune into nature, to help heal her and be healed by her.”
Some of the sustainability work taking place at the Brentwood campus includes preserving 40 acres of woodlands where wildlife and native plants thrive; maintaining five acres of solar panels for reusable, non-polluting energy; managing 28 acres of working farmland strictly for organic fruits and vegetables; and developing a new industrial-sized constructed wetland that help filter out and improve water quality.
“We are focused on the sustainability of our earth,” said S. Karen Donohue, a beloved member of the University community who visited the students and staff during lunch. “There are three things we care about in the work we’re doing: the food, waterways and climate change. We’re also committed to erasing racism and have recently opened an Immigration Clinic for those in need of help.
“I hope these things are part of the legacy that we Sisters leave behind,” S. Karen continued.
S. Mary Ann Cashin, another beloved member of the St. Joseph’s University community, also visited with the students and staff during lunch, and then joined them as they began working in the garden ministry.
“Our students are our partners in the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph,” S. Mary Ann said. “It lives in them as it lives in us, it’s growing in them as it’s growing in all of us, to realize that we’re all connected; everything is one. And so to come here and spend time in the natural world is to experience the truth of that — that we are all working together to nurture life, to make sure life flourishes. We all have a part to play.”
Watch the Video
See students in action, hear from a Sister, and enjoy the tranquility of the Sisters of St. Joseph property in Brentwood below: