College students put their faith into action

.- While most college students are enjoying the final days of summer with family and friends, a group of Providence College students arrived early on campus to put their faith into action.

The 26 new students and seven student coordinators participated in Faith Works, a pilot program developed to increase service opportunities available to incoming freshmen and to augment the number of faith formation programs available to the college’s students.

The energetic students served at diocesan sites such as Emmanuel House, the St. Martin de Porres Center, and the Office of Life and Family and Office of Immigration and Refugee Services.

As students learn more about the relationship between the college, diocese and the community, the program allows them to establish connections with Catholic agencies that offer numerous opportunities for service.

Troy Valdevia, a recent graduate of St. Raphael Academy, Pawtucket, R.I. and parishioner of Holy Spirit Parish, Central Falls, R.I. said he was amazed to learn about the large number of volunteer opportunities that exist in the diocese. He hopes to volunteer with the Gabriel Project, helping to collect supplies for families of newborns.

“I live here and didn’t know about the programs that are offered at my very doorstep and that I could take part in,” said Valdevia, who will live on campus during his freshman year to better experience college life.

“This has been a real eye-opener,” he continued, adding that while attending St. Raphael Academy, he volunteered at the Rejoice in Hope Center in Cranston, R.I. and assisted with several student retreats.

For Gabrielle Barbera of Montrose, N.Y., the program allowed her to continue an interest in public service, and provided a “feeling of being more connected” with her peers and the community.

“I am starting off with a good group of people, “ said Barbera, as she took a break from painting at the diocesan emergency overnight shelter.

The Honors Biology major said that one of the reasons she chose to attend Providence College was the school’s strong emphasis on community service and spiritual growth.

Adam Comeaux, an engineering student from Columbia, Md., said he volunteered for Faith Works because of the good experiences he had performing community service with his parish youth group. He served in a community soup kitchen and helped renovate several homes being repaired by Habitat for Humanity in Delaware.

“I really enjoy it, I like the interaction with other people,” Comeaux added.

According to Richard Lumley, campus minister, one goal of the five-day immersion program is to create opportunities for students to engage in community service at the beginning of their Providence College experience, thus forging positive relationships with their peers, the community and the diocese.

“This is their first college experience,” Lumley emphasized. “It’s been great to connect with the Diocese of Providence.”

“The program encourages them to be leaders,” Lumley added, noting that the students also toured the facilities at the Adult Correctional Institute to learn about chaplaincy services and also took a walking tour of Smith Hill, where they learned about the neighborhood’s ethnic diversity and cultural history.

Posted with permission from The Rhode Island Catholic, official newspaper for the Diocese of Providence.