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St. John's/SCN Mission Partnership: Overview - Read this post first!

Sisters of Charity of Nazareth History & Mission

The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (SCNs) were founded in 1812 by Mother Catherine Spalding (originally from Charles County, MD) and Bishop David. The SCNs reported to St. John's School in a teaching capacity at its opening in 1923 and remained at St. John's through 1988. To learn more about the SCNs, you can visit their website at

Today, the SCNs minister in many additional areas: health care, education, social services, and pastoral ministries and advocacy in many countries, including the US, India, Nepal, Belize, and Botswana. Over the years there has continued to be a close connection between many of our parishioners and the SCNs because they were such a major element in the foundation of St. John's School. This was quite evident as two of the beloved SCNs who had taught at our school, Mary Reisz and Dorothy Gerlica, were recognized during the capital campaign "Name a Door" competition when the school was rebuilt after the roof collapse.

St. John's Partnership with the SCNs

In August 2012, St. John's collected $5,386 for the missions in honor of the SCN's 200th anniversary. Luke Boiarski, SCN (pictured above), the Director of SCN Lay Mission Volunteer Programs, announced this was enough to build a house in Belize. She also suggested we might want to build the house as a parish undertaking.

We currently have archdiocesan approval to do an annual collection for mission efforts. It currently costs approximately $6,900 for a 16' by 20' house with plumbing, electricity, and aluminum shutters. (A small model of the style of house may be seen above in the image gallery.) A mission team consists of approximately 10 persons, who each pay their own costs.

St. John's is deeply grateful for our community partnership with J. F. Taylor and Tom Hodges Auto, who have generously provided transportation to and from the airport for St. John's volunteers on several of our past mission trips.

Mission Trip Immersion Experience

On mission trips, volunteers focus on meeting people, learning about other cultures, making friends, and sharing faith while working side-by-side with people in need. Our mission teams in Belize partner with Hand in Hand Ministries (HIHM), an organization that works in collaboration with the SCNs in Belize City.

A valid passport and the ability to walk some distance and handle your own luggage are required to participate in a mission trip. No special experience or skills are needed other than a humble spirit and willingness to help. On a mission, you find yourself walking with God during the experience, and if you speak with any of the volunteers who have gone on an SCN mission trip in the past, you will hear repeatedly that the volunteers are as moved by the experience as the recipients of our parish's generosity and assistance.

Safety is the number-one concern of the SCNs and HIHM. For example, on mission trips to Belize, all meals are prepared for the volunteers by a hired cook dedicated to providing meals for the volunteers. The cook becomes part of our volunteer family, and we get to know her, as Jesus did his disciples, by breaking bread and sharing our meals together. Clean water is provided to the volunteers for drinking.

During the immersion trip, volunteers experience the local culture not only to better understand the people they are supporting, but also to get a better appreciation for the diversity that makes up our world. Experiencing these cultural differences can be wonderful and enriching as volunteers and recipients work together to change prejudices that create discord in the world.

You can see the poverty that exists in Belize in the "before" picture in the gallery above. You can also see what a big difference your generosity and hard work can make in the "after" picture.

During building experiences, before the house is turned over to the homeowner, there is a house blessing ceremony. During this ceremony, which is one of the most moving experiences of the trip, the recipient is not only formally gifted with the keys to the house, but also with other meaningful housewarming gifts, such as a family Bible, a sign to dedicate the house, a wooden crucifix, games for the children, a welcome mat, and other small gifts that turn a house into a home.

A trip to Belize is never complete without a visit to the SCN House (pictured in the gallery) for fellowship.

As you read through our mission journeys to date, if you feel God might be calling you to be a part of this richly rewarding experience, please watch the bulletin for the announcement of the parish's next SCN mission trip.

For questions or comments, contact:

Laverne Schaefer, St. John's/SCN Mission Coordinator

(240) 298-2235

Alicia Murphy, Communications

(240) 298-7089

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