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Holy Cross Students Take Advantage of Fall Break

November 6th, 2013 by 

Whether the opportunity is sponsored through the chaplains’ office, the pre-business program, or the theatre department, many students across class years and academic interests spent their fall breaks taking part in more than the usual rest and relaxation.

L’Arche Community Immersion

The L’Arche community is an international network of homes where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together in a community of faith and friendship. Students had the opportunity to share daily life and build relationships through work, prayer, and celebration.

Vanessa Moscatello ’15 led the group to Haverhill, Mass., after spending a week there during her 2013 Spring Break Immersion experience, and she believes that  her history with the community contributed to her role as a leader.

“I think that I was a helpful resource for my group by having experienced L’Arche before and made my group feel comfortable to ask me questions and advice when it came to interacting and building relationships with those that we met,” said Moscatello.

Being a leader also provided a new experience for Moscatello. “I was responsible for leading reflection at the end of our days,” she shared. “This aspect changed my perspective of the immersion a bit. I tried to be more conscious of what was going on with myself and the group in order to lead reflection based off of what we had done and experienced that day.”

Rural Immersion at the Agape Community

The rural immersion trip to the Agape Community in Hardwick, Mass. focused on environment and sustainable living with integrated periods of prayer and reflection. Brayden and Suzanne Shanley, founders of the Agape Community, led students in planting, gardening, stacking wood, and preparing meals together while learning about how to live an eco-conscious and contemplative lifestyle.

Anthony Yakely ’16   found this trip to be unique in the fact that it focused on reflection and dialogue of special topics, such as nonviolence. He said, “I found on this immersion there was more discussion of topics, both in terms of the theory and the practice, such as simple living. These conversations carried on into dinner and later night activities. Our time was very structured, but there was still plenty of time for bonding and reflection.”
The group chopped wood, tended to the garden, harvested vegetables, constructed compost bins, and helped out around the farm wherever they were needed. During the entire week, we lived a simple, vegetarian lifestyle in order to learn to survive sustainably.

Spiritual Exercises

Twenty-eight students took part in the spiritual exercises, a five-day silent retreat which models the 30-day exercises that Jesuits take part in, at the Campion Retreat Center in Weston, Mass.

The spiritual exercises offer participants an especially unique challenge. Sam Zurn ’15 explained how his time at Holy Cross prepared him mentally and spiritually to open himself up to a week filled with masses, input sessions, daily conversations with a spiritual director, and silent reflection.

“Since freshman year,” said Zurn, “Holy Cross has encouraged myself and all students to connect and develop a sense of spirituality. I had begun to explore this with various types of retreats and immersion programs, and I felt that this year I was ready to take a larger leap into discerning my spiritual identity. I thought the length of the program and the focus on the self through the silence would really enable me a rare time to think about if I want a God in my life and if so, who will this God be to me.”

Although this term’s spiritual exercises group had at least one student from each class year, Rachel Gannon ’14 expressed particular appreciation for the opportunity as a senior.

“I went on the spiritual exercises because I was looking for clarity,” she explained. “As a senior, I wanted time to be in silence, without technology and pressing academic demands, and think about my time at Holy Cross and my plans after graduation. I would not say that it has explicitly changed my plans for my future, but it has definitely helped me understand better what I am looking for.”

The chaplains’ office also offers the spiritual exercises in January, March, and May.


The chaplains’ office sponsored a Worcester Immersion Program for the third year in a row during fall break. The experience, dubbed “Woomersion,” was designed to allow students to engage in the City of Worcester and with its residents during their time at Holy Cross.

Aidan Camas and Grace McNally, both seniors returning to the Hill after a year abroad in Ireland and Italy, led the retreat.

“I decided to lead this retreat because, as a senior, I was disappointed by how unfamiliar I was with Worcester,” said McNally. “Aidan and I had both studied abroad and had made a really conscious effort to get to know the cities we studied abroad in. We realized we hadn’t given Worcester that same attention, so we saw this a an opportunity to make up for lost time.”

The group took part in numerous activities, including volunteer work, visits to places of worship, a stop at City Hall, a look around the Worcester Art Museum, and dinners at local Worcester restaurants.  At each site, the students met community leaders, including volunteer coordinators, religious leaders, and community organizers. They also spent a lot of time with kids at the Lutheran Church, in which the group stayed for the week. Although the group traveled only minutes away from their residence halls at Holy Cross, the new conversations with Worcester natives and the opportunity to visit unfamiliar areas of the city provided a new perspective like any other immersion program.

As a veteran of Holy Cross immersion trips, McNally shared, “I found that immersing myself in Worcester felt a lot like all the other immersion experiences I have had further away from home. I think this is partially because when you’re on an immersion, no matter how far away, you bring a certain attention to the experience.”

Finance Boot Camp

Twenty-four students took part in Finance Boot Camp, a four-day immersion in understanding the institutional framework and career specializations of Wall Street, offered through the Ciocca Office of Entrepreneurial Studies.

The rigorous program, conducted entirely by Holy Cross alumni executives from various fields, covered an array of topics including “Wall Street Overview: Buy Side & Sell Side,” “Sales & Trading and Investment Banking,” an overview of the Wall Street Journal and current events, and interview preparation.

Students also took a day trip to New York to visit Cutwater Asset Management and J.P. Morgan, which was led by Charlie Hannigan ’88.

Brett Gardocki ’14, was pleased with the experience and the skills he learned, “I applied because I wanted to learn specifically about the different areas of finance and where the job opportunities were. It was nice to hear alumni outlooks on the market as well as their mindset when talking about their own career paths.”

He also shared that as a senior, he hopes to work at a financial firm and trusts that the program’s opportunity to network with alumni will help him achieve his goal.

“The London Merchant” Rehearsals

The theatre department will be performing “The London Merchant” as the fall program, and to prepare for the production, student actors stayed on the Hill over their fall break to rehearse. The cast rehearsed from 12-5 p.m. every day.

Cecilia Wolfe ’15, an actress with a main role in the play, shared, “Being on campus for fall break was surprisingly enjoyable. It was a lot of work, especially finishing the set, trying on costumes, and for the girls, lacing up into corsets everyday.”

However, preparation for the show did not consist only of reciting lines. It was also about the cast becoming one unit, a close-knit community.

“One night we made pizza and played board games and video games, another night we turned the theater space in the basement of O’Kane into a dance party, and on Friday we all got together and watched horror movies in the senior apartments,” said Wolfe. “We made a lot of progress on the show, but this week was also a great opportunity for the upper classmen and the younger classmen to become closer friends.”

The cast of “The London Merchant” will be on stage Nov. 7-9. Read more about the show’s background, showtimes and ticket prices.

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