Senior mission trip leaders reflect on cancellation

Several students were ready to go on their fourth excursion


Caroline Steiger

Students participated in last year’s spring break mission trip to South Carolina.

Liam Eifert, Reporter

The global coronavirus outbreak required a dramatic response from individuals from all corners of the globe. For Americans, the virus brought about school closures, social distancing and official quarantines.

Scheduled trips of all kinds, including many spring break vacations, were unexpectedly ended. Included in the massive cancellations was the school’s annual spring break mission trip to South Carolina. Christian Service Administrator Mrs. Shannon Fox ‘80 on March 12, the same day that the campus was closed.

Just five minutes before the wider announcement of the cancellation of the spring mission trip, Fox emailed the spring mission trip’s senior leaders, Jack Lindner, Anne Getz, Katie Darragh, Caroline Steiger and Joseph Khonwai. In an email, Fox wrote, “This would have been the fourth mission trip they attended.”

In lieu of a traditional interview to maintain social distancing, Getz, Darragh, Steiger and Khonwai shared their thoughts through email.

Many of the senior leaders reported that they realized that the trip would be canceled before they received any official notice. Getz wrote, “The email didn’t come as a surprise; we knew as the COVID-19 situation worsened that the trip would have to be canceled for the safety of the students and communities we would have interacted with.”

Getz included that she “appreciated Mrs. Fox’s respect for notifying us leaders first since she knew the trip mattered so much to us.”

Steiger recounted that she “realized it was going to be canceled as soon as they shut down the school and canceled all events.”

The leaders relayed their immense disappointment, recalling their hopes and dreams for this year’s trip. Getz wrote, “Our senior year SBMT (spring beach mission trip) was something we had talked about for years, and it was really difficult to accept that we wouldn’t have our chance to lead like we always thought we would.”

Darragh reminisced that “Since (freshman year) we have been coming up with ideas for what we were going to do when it was our turn to lead. We had plans of new songs and new activities.”

There was some confusion about how service hours would now be handled. Traditionally, a mission trip would completely replace a participant’s required hours for the year. A few reported already having completed their service hours, but others, and likely many of those who had planned to go on trip, are left in a limbo of sorts.

Khonwai, who responded before lockdowns had been put in place, wrote, “There’s been a lot of talk about how to get service hours and the option that keeps coming up is food banks.” He brought up that “cleaners and other organizations like it are still accepting volunteers to help package food for those in need.”

Darragh, who responded later said, “My hope is that (the service hour requirements) are waived.” She argued that “it doesn’t seem fair for the people who were depending on the mission trip to have to suddenly make them up.”

Another result of the cancellation is that there is now an entire week freed from the leaders’ schedules. Many of the senior leaders still feel unsure how they’re going to spend it.

With the coronavirus currently ravaging communities all over the United States, Khonwai wrote, “I don’t even know if I’ll be able to leave the house, but Netflix is always my old faithful for wasting time.”

Darragh said she “made sure to stock up on books to read and movies to watch.”

Getz plans to stay at home with her family. She said, “It seems like the safest and most responsible place to be right now.”

As one of the first to respond, when the true magnitude of the pandemic was not yet known, Steiger was “hoping to go to a friend’s house to make edible cookie dough.” There is a good chance now that the cookie dough will have to wait.

The spring mission trip leaders also wrote about how the coronavirus outbreak had impacted more in their lives than just the spring mission trip. There was near universal disappointment in the loss of their senior year.

Khonwai said, “I wish I would’ve know that this is how it would end because there are a lot of people I’m going to miss and a lot of people I never got to meet.”

Getz likely spoke for much of the Senior Class when she explained that “fourth quarter senior year is a really special part of the Cathedral experience, and while we are excited for college, it hurts to see our time taken away so unexpectedly.”

Darragh looked on the bright side. She said, “Our generation is very lucky to have the technology that we do.”

Khonwai said, “There’s some shots I should’ve taken before everything went down, but what can I say?” He realized that, especially this year, “Hindsight is always 20/20.”