Benedictine Volunteer Corps selects 24-member 2020-21 cohort

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January 13, 2020

group of volunteers

The 2020-21 Benedictine Volunteer Corps members.

In a way, the mission Alex Modeas is about to undertake began when the Saint John’s University senior was still in high school.

That’s when he saw a “60 Minutes” profile of Saint Benedict’s Prep School, a secondary school in Newark, New Jersey, established in 1868 by the Benedictine Monks of Newark Abbey.

The school has achieved nationwide acclaim for its academic success amidst challenging conditions in Newark.

“That really stuck with me,” said Modeas, a double major in political science and peace studies who is serving as the Vice President of the SJU Student Senate this school year.

“And it turns out that some of the students involved in that story ended up coming here to Saint John’s. Over my time here, I’ve befriended them. I’ve learned more about their experiences and, year after year, my interest (in Saint Benedict’s Prep) has grown.

“Some of those students have put in their plug and said they thought I’d make a great volunteer at their high school.”

Now Modeas will get the chance to do just that. The Eden Prairie (Minnesota) High School graduate is one of 24 Johnnies seniors selected to take part in the 2020-21 Benedictine Volunteer Corps.

The BVC is a service opportunity offered to recent graduates of SJU. According to its mission, “grounded in Benedictine values and spirituality, the BVC provides a unique encounter with the Catholic monastic tradition, the multitude of needs expressed in religious communities around the world and the challenge to commit one’s talents to meeting those needs.”

Since it was founded in 2003, the BVC has sent over 240 volunteers to Benedictine monasteries around the world. Participants spend 10 months to a year supporting those communities in their work, prayer and common life.

Modeas is one of three volunteers who will be assigned to the Newark Abbey working at Saint Benedict’s Prep School.

“My No. 1 expectation is growth … growth of the community first and foremost,” he said. “In my service experience, I’ve learned that it’s not about you, but about the people who you’re serving. I just want to go into the experience with a level mind and make sure that whatever needs to get done does.”

The cohort will eventually number 27 with three spots yet to be filled over the course of this semester.

The Newark Abbey Posting is the only one in this year’s group of assignments located in the U.S. But Modeas, who previously studied abroad in South Africa, said helping out in a domestic community is part of what drew him to the program.

“When I studied abroad in South Africa, I was able to help tutor in schools,” he said. “So I’ve had that international experience. But it really appealed to me to have the chance to make a difference at the local level in a community in this country. So many things start out at the local level and can grow from there.”

Here is a list of this year’s group of volunteers so far and their assignments:

Alex Modeas, Nick Swanson, Josh Aune – Newark Abbey/Saint Benedict’s Prep School (Newark, New Jersey).

Jack Cassidy, Drew Lodermeier – Santa Maria de Montserrat (Montserrat, Spain).

Andrew Ellingson, Young Cardinals – Colegio Sant Anselmo (Rome, Italy).

Owyn Ferguson, Leo Cumplido – Benedictine Monastery of Tabgha (Tabgha, Israel).

Terran Ferguson, Jack Colleran – Tibati Monastery (Bogota, Columbia).

Bardia Bijani Aval, Ben Vogel – Abadia de Jesucristo Crucificado (Esquipulas, Guatemala)

Logan Spitzer, Dan Gehrz – Our Lady of Angels Priory (Cernavaca, Mexico).

Andrew Scherer, Cameron Swanson – Saint Maur’s Hanga Abbey (Hanga, Tanzania).

Noah Becker, Gabe Johnson – Saint Gertrude Convent of Imiliwaha (Imiliwaha, Tanzania).

Keegan Odell – Christ the King Priory (Tororo, Uganda).

Ethan Ploeger – Monastery of Saint Benedict of the Copts (Cairo, Egypt).

Gabe Lovejoy, Joe Bello – Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat (Manila, Philipines).

Sam Truhler – India/Sri Lanka.