Spring break missions are a unique part of Franciscan University of Steubenville’s culture and provide students an opportunity to grow in selflessness and charity. Missions are a staple of Franciscan, and not even a global pandemic can stop them from continuing.
Senior education major Jessica Marter is student coordinator of missions, and works alongside junior theology major Katy Parrish in assisting the mission teams.
Marter started working with the mission office this past summer and has led the LA mission in the past, so stepping into this new role was not a hard transition. Marter said that the planning for spring missions has not been impacted badly by COVID-19, and that all missions are still planning to happen on schedule.
“We are just realizing this year (that missions) are going to be different because of COVID,” said Marter. “Depending on how things are in the spring, masks and social distancing are all going to be a part of mission, but it’s not going to change the fundamental part of just loving people and serving them. People are still going into schools to give retreats and working with the homeless, just with all the added precautions.”
A new mission has been added this year, headed to Denver, Colorado. This new mission is replacing Chicago mission, which has ended because of changes made to the destination ministry in Chicago.
A group of students had been going to do mission in Denver unofficially for a few years, when one of the students approached the mission office and asked for it to be made official.
“Since we are no longer doing Chicago mission, we had an opening,” said Marter. “(Denver) is now an official mission! They basically go and live in community and serve the homeless, all day, every day, while they’re in Denver. It’s a pretty cool new thing.”
Spring break missions have not had extra trouble recruiting team members, according to Marter, who said that this year recruitment was “pretty average.”
“For some of the international missions, it has been harder to get,” said Marter. “Especially guys, just because of the possibility that missions could be canceled. … But all the rest of the missions are full or being close to full, so it’s pretty good!”
When it comes to international missions, Marter said the mission teams are hopeful that they will be happening.
“Most airports are open; you just have to come with a negative COVID test,” said Marter. “There are some countries that are still iffy right now, but we’re hoping that in seven months, everything will be open for traveling. We just have (to) wait and trust, and play it by ear.”
The biggest changes made to the spring missions is that all fundraising has now been made refundable.
“Before, you could not get a refund if you didn’t go on mission,” said Marter. “But now, because of COVID, it’s refundable. So, just to make it less risky for students to go on mission. But the missions themselves have not been highly affected. People still want us to come and do ministry.”
Another recent change is that the SONLIFE mission’s name has been changed to Panama City Beach mission. Marter says that it is still the same mission, just a new name.
There is still a lot of motivation to keep the missions going, as both staff and teams have worked hard to keep them afloat.
“I’ve seen how mission has made a huge impact on my life,” said Marter, “and it’s really changed my life in a lot of ways. I’ve seen how it’s really transformed other people, and I want to keep that going, so as many people as possible can be transformed by the way God uses missions.”
The spring break missions are composed of 16 missions, six international and 10 domestic. This pandemic has not stopped them from continuing and may even be a reason for them to carry on.