Urban Immersions goes ‘rural’: students serve Agape Community


Courtesy\April Federico

Front Row: Jacqueline Parece ’17, Emily Alexander ’17, Jordan Ezekiel ’19, and April Federico ’19. Back Row: Hannah Miles ’19, Carina Pearson ’17, Katherine Duane ’17, Zachary Horton ’18, Haley Wayne ’19, Adrianna Manzi ’18, and Michael DiCalogero ’18. All gather for a group picture at Hardwick’s Quabbin on their last day at Agape Community.

April Federico, Crier Staff

Four times a year, Campus Ministry provides opportunities for students of all years to serve populations in urban settings. For their second trip, however, leaders Hannah Miles ’19 and Mike DiCalogero ’18 decided to go rural. The two recruited nine other Saint Anselm students to serve the Agape Community.

Agape Community is a retreat center located in Ware, Massachusetts. Agape seeks to create a preserve a morally coherent lifestyle through faith and sustainability. While grounded in the practice of Catholic Christianity, the organization experiences an affinity and connectedness with sisters and brothers from other faith traditions, and those who follow no particular faith tradition, learning from them and pursuing harmony with them.

On Saturday, the group was divided into smaller groups to garden, gather, haul and split wood, garden, pick and peel Brussel sprouts, gather kale for dinner, and turn over compost. When the group was not working and engaging in playful conversation, founders Brayton Shanley and wife Suzanne engaged the students in prayer circles, singing popular Christian songs (like the famous ‘Saints Go Marching’ In in honor of SAINT A’s, get it?), deep reflection and meditation, and talks on non-violence, eco-theology, and feminism.

Agape Community’s co-founders, the Shanleys, consider themselves to be pacifists; therefore, they live below taxable income to withdraw support of taxes for war. According to Brayton Shanley, “Resistance to violence is part of our lives when called to resist war, pollution of our planet, nuclear energy and weapons, and the death penalty.”

In terms of eco-theology and organic homesteading, Agape believes reverencing the Earth is the art and practice of living as devoted stewards of God’s Earth. The Community grows and harvests their food. In endeavoring to find a sustainable way to live on this planet, Shanley also says, “We humans must look to invest ourselves in the fullness of life by giving back to the earth and her creatures more than we take from them.”

The group learned this first-hand by following a vegan diet for the three days and living without their cell phones – it was not only because there was no service! The goal of Agape Community and what the entire group has gotten out of this unique experience is to not only appreciate the earth, but to treat the earth as if you were to treat yourself, a friend, your family, a significant other, etc. No matter what your major is, Campus Ministry encourages all to apply for an Urban Immersions trip next semester, or even a Rural Immersions trip the following year.