Lessons and Advice to First-Year Students from a Road for Hope Participant


Tom Canuel

Saint Anselm Road For Hope walkers return to the Hilltop on Saturday, August 27

Tom Canuel, Crier Staff

When I applied to walk the Road for Hope one year ago, I went in with little to no expectations. I had done hiking in the past but never walked more than 6 miles in one day. I had volunteered at local charities in my hometown, but hadn’t done much in helping out the Manchester community and beyond. I had never been on a pilgrimage, never branched far out of my comfort zone, and I thought I knew what community meant. That is, at least, until I walked the Road for Hope.

For those of you who might not know what the Road for Hope is, the Road for Hope is a program sponsored by the Office of Campus Ministry. As stated in its mission statement, the Road for Hope, “seeks to provide funds for the needy, strengthen the bonds in our communities, and rekindle the belief that every footstep makes a difference.” A group of about 46 participants walks 130 miles from Lewiston, Maine to the campus of Saint Anselm College. Each walker raises around $500 to benefit nine different charities, some of which rely almost completely on funds raised from the program.

RFH walkers at Basilica in Lewiston praying before going on the walk

To be honest, the first day of my Road for Hope experience was a blur. In fact, most individual days are a blur because they all blend into one day. However, what I can remember about my first day of walking is the repetition in my head of the words of a former Road for Hope walker from 2021:

“If you’re reading this, you are about to embark on one of the most incredible journeys you will ever experience. Take a look around and let it all soak in. You are exactly where you are meant to be, and you were placed here for a reason.”

Throughout my first day of walking, I never fully realized what I was doing. I was walking, but I wasn’t thinking. I was just happy to be with a new community of people and felt myself growing with every footstep and hill. Yet, by the time day two came, I came to a new understanding of what I was doing. My feet became tired. My body began to ache, I felt exhausted, and I already felt smelly. Yet, I continued to develop new connections to the Anselmian community and felt excited to bond with my new family. Every step for me became a reason to be joyful, and every conversation with a new friend gave me the strength to keep walking. This attitude remained with me throughout the rest of my time walking.

Although I cannot remember every second of every conversation I had on the Road, I can remember how inspired I felt, and continue to feel, by the Road for Hope community. Whether that inspiration came from a member of the ROTC program seeking to push the boundaries of his social circle on-campus, a senior extremely interested in learning about faith at 6:30 am, a leader fascinated in learning more about me, a few close friends who wanted to pray the rosary on the Road, an eye-opening conversation with people I barely knew about growth and faith, or simply the perseverance of a struggling walker, it didn’t matter. Every story I heard on the Road was inspiring, and every footstep we took made a difference in the community.

RFH walkers gather in front of Alumni before embarking on their pilgrimage

The focus of the Road for Hope is to walk to help the nine charities we benefit. However, it also taught me a significant number of lessons. I want to share a few here, especially for any first-year students of transfer students navigating their first few weeks on campus.

1.) Get out of your comfort zone! There will be times when doing something new feels difficult, confusing, or overwhelming. However, when I moved out of my comfort zone on Road for Hope and started walking with people I barely knew, it made the Road for Hope one of the greatest experiences of my life.

2.) Make friends! Humanity was never meant to be alone. We are meant for community, for fellowship, for love, joy, and friendship. Don’t be afraid to talk to new people, to be vulnerable with someone new, or sit next to someone by themselves at the lunch table. Meet new people you wouldn’t normally interact with and let that transform your life.

3.) Every moment is a blessing! The Road for Hope went by so fast, and now since it’s done, I and most of our community wish we could have one more day on the Road. Live in the present moment, and don’t think too far into the future. Live each day to the fullest, and God will give you the graces you need to keep going.

I cannot tell you if I will walk the Road again, but I know one thing: the Road for Hope changes lives. It makes an impact in the community and it gives walkers an opportunity to grow. My life has forever been changed by my Road for Hope family and experience. Thank you to my Road for Hope family, and I hope all of you reading this article have a great start to the year!