Andrea Swiedom Staff Reporter
As the third week of quarantine approaches, UMF students and faculty have had to adapt numerous aspects of their lives including their faith practices. For many Christians, Easter Sunday was a televised celebration this year as were many of the Catholic Holy Week traditions. Similar alterations to practicing the month-long Muslim tradition of Ramadan starting April 23 will also be made due to quarantine.
Sophomore Abbie Hunt typically spends Easter Sunday watching the sunrise over Sabattus Pond at Martin’s Point in Sabattus with her family and friends before attending a service at Community Baptist Church in Sabattus.
“My family still got up early– around six– to watch the sun rise from our house. Then we had our own breakfast together. Since my dad is the associate pastor and my mom is one of the worship leaders, they went to my church to put on our live stream service,” Hunt said in an email. “My siblings and I watched the church service on Youtube Live from our couch.”
To maintain a semblance of normality, Hunt and her sisters dressed up for the live streamed service and texted friends from church during the sermon.
For creative writing professor Patricia O’Donnell, who practices Catholicism, the week leading up to Easter Sunday is filled with numerous opportunities to attend special mass services. “I would usually go to at least one other service that week, like Good Friday; that’s the service that I would often go to. So it was kind of hard to get into the feeling of Easter,” she said over video chat from her Farmington home.
Instead, O’Donnell live streamed an Easter mass from Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. “I have been there before and it’s beautiful! It’s like I can go visit another church!”
She was surprised to see how the service was conducted in the midst of the pandemic. “They had 15 to 20 people conducting the service, and they weren’t doing a lot of social distancing. They gave communion to the attendants. The priest put it in his hands as he usually did and some of the people had him put his fingers right in their mouths!”
Freshman Yusuf Mohamed who practices Islam, can only anticipate how his upcoming Ramadan practices–a daily sunrise to sundown fast, keeping up with praying five times a day, acts of charity and attending Jummah; a Friday prayer service held at a mosque–will be altered to adhere to the stay-at-home order.
“Actually, quarantine makes it hard because you usually try to stay productive because if you just lay down, your body gets lazy and you’re not even gonna want to pray,” Mohamed said over video chat.
Mohamed relies on soccer to keep himself energized during Ramadan even though he is prohibited from food and water during the day. “We usually have a Ramadan soccer tournament. And even though we can’t drink water, I’m used to it. I’ve been fasting since I was 8 years old.”
He also anticipated quarantine interfering with a sacrifice that his family makes every year. “At the end of Ramadan, my family usually slaughters a goat for a sacrifice and eats it as a way of saying thank you to Allah. I think that might be difficult because we usually go to a farm in Green and pay the place to kill it.”
O’Donnell also reminisced about her typical holiday non-quarantine traditions which always includes a big family dinner. “Sometimes my grandchildren would come up and we would have an Easter egg hunt here and they would go to mass with me, the two little girls. They can’t say no, only the adult children can say no,” she said laughing.
Instead, the granddaughters, O’Donnell’s three children and their partners visited each other for Easter Sunday over a Zoom chat and then O’Donnell had a quiet dinner with her husband. “Our special dinner was that we ordered a dinner from Harry and David. We ordered two lobster pot pies and it was sort of like eating out, and it cost about as much as eating out!”
Despite quarantine restricting certain traditions, faith communities have found ways to keep people connected and practicing their religion. Hunt is part of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IV), a bible study group that hosts weekly fellowship, worship and games at the UMF campus.
“Now, we are pretty much doing that same thing, but we’re doing it over Zoom,” Hunt said over a video chat from her family home in Monmouth. “Our leader shares his screen over Zoom and he plays a worship song on Youtube. So that has actually worked pretty well.”
O’Donnell attends Saint Joseph’s Church in Farmington which is remaining connected with congregants in a variety of ways. “Our priest is good at keeping in touch through the Facebook page. He did a drive up confession. I’m not gonna do it,” she said smiling with her hand over her chest. “He let people drive up to the church hall and they have a confession there and then they drive away.”
For Mohammed, remaining connected with his faith community during quarantine will mean spending more time with his siblings and his mother, watching Islamic lectures and leaning in even more to the purpose of Ramadan.
“I believe quarantine will get people closer to Allah because they won’t be distracted. They’ll practice Ramadan more. It’ll make us grateful for what we have for sure,” Mohammed said. “Every year, Ramadan just brings me feelings of being grateful.”
Alexis Wyman-LaBelle Staff Reporter
Students Jessica Doyon and Katie Franke working at the bake sale to earn money for the Puerto Rico trip in March. (Photo courtesy of Alexis Wyman-Labelle)
The Intervarsity fellowship is preparing to go to Puerto Rico to help rebuild after the destruction after Hurricane Maria. The hurricane left the island without power and with an estimate over $8 million in damage.
Intervarsity is a Christian fellowship on campus that partnered with ServeUp, a national organization that sets up missions trips, to make this trip happen. 20 students plan on attending this trip to Puerto Rico during spring break. Each of the attendees needs approximately $800 to attend. The plane tickets have been purchased by Intervarsity already so the students are hard at work trying to make enough money.
Emily Murphy, a junior, is a participant who’s been actively involved with planning the trip is excited to attend. Murphy has been taking trips like these since her Freshman year, when a trip to New Orleans was offered.
The goals of the trips taken are often to rebuild communities that have been destroyed by natural disasters. Intervarsity has never traveled to Puerto Rico before. Prior to this, they’ve traveled to New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Murphy says these trips are the best weeks of her life.
“Doing something meaningful for other people,” Murphy exclaimed, “is a great way to spend spring break.”
The trip is currently being funded by the students who are participating. Funding opportunities such as a bake sale and bottle drive have been executed. The members and participants of the trip have also discussed holding a community dinner to help with the overall cost.
Another attendee, Jessica Doyon, a junior, is an Intervarsity member who is attending the trip, thinks this will be a meaningful experience. “The goal is to take what we hear from the news and experience it ourselves,” Doyon said. Doyon is also excited about meeting new people, and forming new relationships with other students.
Doyon is an education major who is currently focusing on age groups birth to 5-years-old and kindergarten to third grade.
“This trip will be a great way to connect,” Doyon said. “It’s a great way for people you see everyday to get closer with them. I can’t wait to spend my time helping people.”
During the week the students are down there, the opportunity to interact with the community is available to them. They are able to play with the local children which will be especially fun for Doyon and Shaoning Gu.
Shaoning Gu, an exchange student from Shijiazhuang, China is also attending the trip.
“I know there are many homeless people there, I am hoping to build houses and play with the kids,” Gu said in an online interview. Gu is hoping to bring awareness of the people in Puerto Rico who need prayers and care to UMF. Gu is hoping by going on this trip, she’ll make friends and understand Christianity.
The goal of the trip is to take what the students have heard in the news about the devastating hurricane and bring the experience back to Farmington, and how they can use it to benefit themselves and others. Students will learn about the different community style in Puerto Rico and how it differs from the United States.
By Vincent St. Jean, as told to Emily Mokler Contributing Writer and Assistant Editor
InterVarsity, the on campus Christian fellowship group, volunteered at ServeUp during Spring Break, arriving in Baton Rouge, Louisiana after a 30-hour bus ride. We were just some of the hundreds of college students from around the country to help communities rebuild after extensive flooding back in 2016.
Our group from UMF were split into two task groups. My group helped rebuild a man’s house. Drywall, putting in new flooring, painting so he can move back in. The water damage was very evident, very significant. You don’t get a sense of what it’s like until you see it in person.
The other group built a wheelchair ramp for an elderly man who was a recent double amputee. His son had to carry him up and down the stairs for doctors appointments. The people we helped are poor, they lost everything to the floods and they couldn’t afford to replace what they lost.
One of the guys we worked with named Saul, he lived in a garage. He couldn’t sleep in his
The InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. (Photo by Vincent St. Jean)
own room because of expansive damage.
I felt pulled to go to Baton Rouge. I prayed a lot and was strongly pulled to do it, something wanted me to go. I realized that I should do this. There are people who don’t have houses after the flooding. We were there to share Jesus’s love to others, and let it shine through us.
When we weren’t helping with the construction work, we had a lot of community time. We’d catch up with each other and talk about the day. We had the opportunity to go to New Orleans, wander around the French Quarter. There were Jazz musicians walking around, buildings that had no doors, it’s so different from Maine.
We got together as a group and read the story Lazarus. We talked about how characters in the story coped with stress and loss. We read the same passage every day and I saw something new each time. We talked about how we cope with loss. It got emotional very fast.
Before we left, we gave the homeowner a piece of drywall with our signatures on it. When we were leaving, he was waving. He was really shy, didn’t talk to us much, but he opened up to us by the end and was beaming as we left. Genuine happiness.
We were there during the second week of ServeUp, there’s another group down there now. We didn’t finish the house in the week we were there, but the next group will, and that’s reassuring.
We were all there for the same purpose, it’s a little sad to leave it. I’ve been adding so many people on Facebook since I got back.
I want people to know that if you want to volunteer next year, anyone can come along and help.
By Haiyu Zheng – Contributing Writer
Seven UMF InterVarsity Christian Fellowship members were refreshed both physically and spiritually after a three-day fall retreat in Toah Nipi Retreat and Training Center in New Hampshire. Including students from 13 other campuses in Northern New England, there were over 100 students attending this fall conference.
Students attending the UMF InterVarsity in fall conference. (Back row, l to r: Haiyu Zheng, Darci Goslin, Jacob Marcoux, Ben Daly-LaBelle, Abdi Hassan, Lillian Hunt) (front row, l to r: Armando Jaku, Yamah Dolo and Lindsay Marcoux)
Photo Courtesy of Jacob Marcoux
For Christians, a retreat is a quintessential time away from daily activities which distract them from going deeper in their faith and spending time getting reacquainted with God. Combined with conferences and activities, it offers people a quiet place to find peace and experience renewal.
The woods outside and the woody décor inside, along with little lights hanging on the wall, created a relaxing atmosphere. In the biggest meeting room of Toah Nipi Hebron, students from different cultural backgrounds converged to worship God in one voice and pray earnestly for each other as a community. Their faith affirmed the beauty of the unity beyond all ethnicity in Christ.
With the theme of “Hope and Healing in a Broken world: Find a way forward,” powerful testimonies and sermons were shared by different speakers, followed by small group discussions and prayer time. The reflection gave students encouragement and inspiration, leaving them with a new perspective in their walk with Christ.
UMF freshman Lillian Hunt found strength and hope in other people’s stories.“It made me feel like more comforted to know that I’m not alone and there are a bunch of people going through what I’m going through,” she said.
Annie Ahn, a sophomore from Colby College noted that the “silent time” with God was another indispensable part of this retreat.
“I really enjoyed the silent time when I spent an hour and a half away from the noise just concentrating on reflecting on God and talking to Him individually.” Taking a sip of coffee, Ahn smiled, the overflowing joy in her heart written all over her face.
Ahn was not the only person who felt reenergized during the silent time. Toah Nipi provides students numerous areas to sit, wander and pray. Scattering in different directions, some students chose to stay in their room reading the Bible, some sat at the picnic table outside praying while enjoying an incredible view of surrounding hills, and some lay on the grass meditating in the pleasant fall weather.
In addition to the spiritual growth, recreation including sports, boating and board games also provided students with chances to make friends across schools and get to know people from their own schools better.
Jake Marcoux, the leader of UMF InterVarsity group, expressed his willingness to include everyone in the group no matter what background they come from.
“We have to relate to people in the group differently, to be intuitive and think about what they are thinking about, such as someone who came from International settings or someone who’s not a believer, ”said Marcoux.
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is an interdenominational, evangelical Christian campus ministry founded in 1941, working with students and faculty on U.S. college and university campuses. Retreats and mission trips are held all year round.
There will be a Serve-Up trip intended to help with the recovery effort in places that were affected by the hurricane during spring break next year. More information can be found on InterVarsity website at: https://intervarsity.org