The Arrival of Spring & Other Merry Things!

Hello everyone! Happy Spring! Spring is my favorite season, mostly because the weather finally starts to get less harsh (because after a while, us New Englanders start to get very sick of snow) and now we get to embrace the blossoming of all the plants and flowers! Although nothing is in full bloom just yet, and I’m still waiting for the vines on Fenwick to grow back and regain its color, the warmer weather has definitely invited the campus community to ditch the winter jackets and spend some time outside! There are countless places to work outside when it’s nice- benches are scattered all around campus and outside almost every building, and Memorial Plaza, which is located in between Fenwick and O’Kane Halls, has plenty of tables to work at as well. However, my favorite place to do work recently, which I’ve selfishly labeled as ‘my bench’ over the past week (and is the place I am sitting writing this blog post right now!) is located in the middle of the staircase leading up from Memorial Plaza to Hogan Campus Center, right above the statue of St. Thérèse of Lisieux (who happens to be my Confirmation saint, which makes it all the more special 🙂 ). The location of the bench presents a nice view of Memorial Plaza, and is located in an area that is not overly congested with students nor is completely in the sun. Here is a photo I took from the bench earlier this afternoon- you can see how the greenery hasn’t fully formed yet, but the view of the plaza is still great! (Unfortunately, though, you can’t see St. Therese from here. 🙁 )

Brick building in the distance covered in naked vines, taken from what appears to be a higher ledge with a glimpse of a computer on the bottom left corner.

This spring also welcomes the chaos surrounding enrollment for the fall semester, which, although doesn’t officially start until around April, becomes the talk of the town around campus rather quickly. Having already declared my English major and creative writing concentration, the road ahead doesn’t look too blurry in terms of figuring out what English classes I have to take, but I still have to find the ideal balance for the remaining 3 classes between taking classes I have to take for common area requirements and classes that interest me. Holy Cross places an enormous emphasis on the importance of exploring all that the College has to offer, regardless of what fits in your major, through its Jesuit philosophy of cura personalis, or care for the whole person. For me, I’m excited to take classes in religion, education, theatre and history during my time at Holy Cross, just to name a few, and although the content of these classes may not directly pertain to the English major, they will give me the skills and well-roundedness that will allow me to succeed regardless- the beauty of a Jesuit education at Holy Cross!

Thank you, as always, for reading- wishing you an awesome weekend and continued spring weather, wherever you are! See you next week!

What Makes Spring Break Immersion So Special?

Hello all! I apologize for the slight break in posting- I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous entries how the spring semester picks up quite fast, and while there were definitely some hurdles along the way, I’ve also taken many great experiences from it all! And I don’t think anything fits that description better than my week spent on an immersion trip through Holy Cross’ Spring Break Immersion Program. With our original trip destination getting switched last minute because of COVID, sending us on a surprise flight that was actually my first flight EVER (thankfully, all went well and I enjoyed it very much), which later led to further complicating sleeping arrangements and Uber rides, adjusting to the unprecedented became a commonality for the early stages of the trip. I traveled to a L’Arche site, which is where people with and without intellectual disabilities live together in community and “make known the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities… through mutually transforming relationships” (taken from the mission of their website). L’Arche sites are located all across the globe, but my site specifically was in the Washington, DC area. I stayed in one of the four L’Arche GWDC homes with eight other Holy Cross students, and we spent the week helping with household tasks and fostering bonds with the core members that live there. Tasks included organizing and cleaning out various corners of the houses and cooking meals, but we obviously made sure to set aside time for Uno games, Wii Bowling, Gilmore Girls and casual conversation too. 🙂 It was so special to hear each core member’s unique story and watch the friendships form over the course of the week. I think one of my favorite parts of the whole trip was the Prayer Night held on Zoom for the entire L’Arche DC community, where everyone came together to sing, reflect, pray, and most of all, celebrate. It was so moving to see how everyone cherished their faith so strongly, and to be so effortlessly welcomed into this circle of friendship really emphasized how well L’Arche does what it sought out to do.

At the end of the day, though, I can’t say that my spring break immersion trip was easy. Paired with all the obstacles from the start of the week, I struggled with integrating myself into a brand-new community and getting to know the people I was working with, and the work itself was a consistently exhausting effort. However, it wasn’t a sense of tiredness I’d exchange for anything in the world; it was an accomplished sort of tired, knowing that I gave it my all every single day, despite it not always being easy. And that’s the beauty of SBIP- it is difficult and humbling in the most beautiful way, revealed to you through the most extraordinary experiences. I can say with full confidence that this is not my last visit to L’Arche, and I’m already looking forward to the new memories and friendships that will be formed in the upcoming years. Thank you to all, both in the Holy Cross Chaplain’s Office (who worked TIRELESSLY to ensure all groups were sent off to their destinations safely, even in the midst of a snowstorm!) and at L’Arche GWDC, for making this so unbelievably special!

If you are passionate about working with people with intellectual disabilities and advocating for disability rights, I could not recommend L’Arche more! They are always in need of more help and is home to such a joyful and blessed community that was so gracious and thankful for even what appeared to be the smallest task. So much light and love is shared in a L’Arche community and it deserves to be spread to as many as possible.

Thanks for reading- until next time! Remember, in the spirit of L’Arche, and in the words of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, to always do “small things with great love.”

Nine girls standing together in front of the Washington Monument in Washington, DC, under a clear blue sky with two American flags on either side in the background.
We even had some time to explore the city- here is our group at the WW2 Memorial (and you can even see some of the Washington Monument in the background!)
Nine girls, all wearing the same blue shirt, posing with three other older individuals, two of which are seated one in a wheelchair) and the third on the far left.
Here we are with some of the core members at one of the houses we worked in! We even got to take home some awesome L’Arche GWDC t-shirts (worn in this picture!)

Hockey, Company & A Spotlight on Montserrat

Hello Holy Cross community! I hope everyone has had a great week! This week was filled with lots of new adventures and exciting experiences as always, namely attending the Holy Cross Department of Theatre & Dance production of Company, which was held at the new Prior Performing Arts Center, as well as the two Holy Cross Men’s Hockey games against Niagara University at the Hart Center at the Luth Athletic Complex.

If I haven’t mentioned this before, I am a HUGE fan of theatre- I participated in theatre all throughout high school and found the most loving and supportive community there, and am a firm believer in the fact that the magic of live theatre is simply irreplaceable. So I was thrilled, to say the least, to see Company last weekend at Holy Cross, especially when I had two friends in the ensemble, one friend in the main cast and even one friend in the band! They all did a FANTASTIC job, to no one’s surprise, and being able to see Holy Cross’ rendition of a Sondheim classic was such a joyous event for all involved. Congratulations to the cast & crew for two wildly successful weekends of shows!

Additionally, this week I checked off another Holy Cross bucket list item and attended my first hockey game on campus! The men’s team played Niagara University on both Thursday (the Cousy Cup game) and Friday, and my dad, who is a Niagara alum, came up to Worcester on Thursday to see them play! Similarly to my experience with football last semester, I knew close to nothing about hockey coming into the game (other than the basic objectives), but I still had such a blast cheering on the Crusaders, so much so that I went back the next night to see them play (and win!) again with friends! Will “Hockey Marie” be the new title for this semester? It’s hard to say, but as of now I can happily say that my excitement towards the game is far from being extinguished.

Finally, I’d like to do something a little different in this post and cast a spotlight on one of the most memorable aspects of my freshman year thus far- my Montserrat seminar. Every first-year student at Holy Cross is required to participate in a Montserrat seminar, which is one of the earliest community building blocks for first-years. Each Montserrat course falls under one of the six ‘clusters’ – Self, Contemporary Challenges, Global Society (my cluster), Natural World, Divine and Core Human Questions, and the people that live in the same hall as you are almost always in your same cluster. The class runs for a full year, allowing students to form longstanding connections with both the students and the professor in the class, with each semester’s course focusing on a different idea under a larger thematic umbrella. For example, last semester my Montserrat was called “Love, Text & Performance” while this semester it’s called “War and the Quest for Identity” under the overarching title of “Love & War.” In my class, we’ve developed our public speaking skills, written and performed monologues (and cheered our classmates on, of course), read numerous plays, poems and novels (currently we are in the midst of tackling Don Quixote), gave presentations, and had countless discussions on all of the above- and more. All Montserrat seminars are different, so there is a lot of variety in terms of content and class structure, aside from a collaborative and supportive first-year environment. On top of attending class every day, Montserrat students are also required to attend 2-4 events within their cluster per semester as a way to form connections with students in their cluster that might not be in their exact seminar. Last semester, for example, we went to the stART on the Street Art Festival in Worcester, among other events, and this semester we were fortunate enough to spend an evening at the stunning Joyce Contemplative Center (located about 20 minutes off-campus) for some Ignatian spirituality, yoga and dinner. I am looking forward to more Montserrat events later this semester, as I’ve really grown to cherish the community formed within my Montserrat and it has been a staple of the first-year experience for sure.

New Semester, New Me?!?

Greetings Holy Cross community!!! I apologize for the slight delay in posting- I’ve been busy with schoolwork, extracurriculars and other commitments (the semester definitely picks up quickly but it’s nothing we can’t handle!), and haven’t found the time to update you all on my recent life adventures. However, I do have some very exciting news to share: I officially declared an English major (with a Creative Writing Concentration) last week!

Holy Cross invites its students to take full advantage of the liberal arts education and explore subjects they wouldn’t have otherwise, so that’s why first-year students come into Holy Cross undeclared and cannot declare any academic programs (major, minor, or concentration) until February 1st. Many students are still trying to figure out what they’d like to pursue- which is okay!! -and have until second semester of their sophomore year to do so, but for me personally, I knew I wanted to study English for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved reading and writing- it’s always been a subject I’ve shone in at school, and after taking Poetry & Poetics (the first step of the English major) last semester at Holy Cross, I knew for sure this was what I wanted to do. This semester, I am enrolled in two English classes- Touchstones 1: Early British Literature (the second step after P&P) and Intro to Creative Writing: Poetry (in order to get started with the Creative Writing concentration), and both of those have also been a blast. So far, I’ve learned the oddities and complexities of Middle English as we read The Canterbury Tales, and I’ve studied what makes up a poem, including writing one of my own! (And of course, if you have any further questions about the English major, etc. at Holy Cross, I’m open to questions- there should be a space to leave comments at the bottom of the page! The English department itself is also an incredibly skilled group of professors that would love to hear your questions.)

Additionally, this semester I’ve dedicated more time to getting exercise, whether it be through free pilates classes offered at the Jo, ‘casual yoga turned impromptu ballet lessons’ with friends (I’m just as confused as you are on this one), and, as the weather gets nicer, running outside, most notably on the scenic trails at the Blackstone Gateway Park just minutes away from campus. Obviously, last weekend’s record-breaking temperatures prevented anyone from getting any exercise outdoors, but being able to bundle up in my warmest boots and comfiest sweaters with some hot chocolate wasn’t too bad either 🙂

Finally, this spring I’ll be embarking on a totally new experience, thanks to the Holy Cross Chaplain’s Office’s Spring Break Immersion Program! During the week of spring break, students involved with SBIP travel to various sites around the country and carry out a service trip that invites them to form connections with others and deepen their faith. The program places an emphasis on the “with others” portion of the Jesuit motto of “being people for and with others,” and is a beloved aspect of the Holy Cross experience that I am eager to participate in myself. This year, I have the pleasure of traveling to a L’Arche site, which is where adults with and without intellectual disabilities live together in community, and I even got a sneak peek of what this joyful and loving environment looks like through a fantastic L’Arche dinner earlier this week. Though SBIP won’t officially begin for another month, I am so grateful to all who made this trip possible, and for all of the blessings that are to come.

Thanks again for reading- until next week!

Advice & Adventures from the Start of Second Semester

Welcome back! A new semester at Holy Cross means continued weekly posts filled with updates about my life on the Hill, and though I’ve only been back for a week, what a whirlwind of a week it has been! Obviously, the talk of the town  has been the mixed feelings of uneasiness and excitement over new classes starting, but for me, I’m personally leaning more on the optimistic side. All of my classes are in areas I’m passionate about and interested in studying further (English, creative writing, education), and I even have some friends in my classes, which is a HUGE sigh of relief! To help prepare for the semester, I took a peek at my class syllabi ahead of time and organized all of my due dates into a massive color-coded spreadsheet (I am a big fan of color-coding anything and everything I can), which was enormously helpful. For one, it was great to get a glimpse of what my semester would look like before it actually started, and as life got busier it was extremely beneficial to have the document always open on my computer to keep me organized and grounded.

Speaking of things that keep me grounded, reconnecting with my friends and spending time with them has also been quite the gift this past week. Hectic game nights, afternoons at the Jo, long dinners at Kimball and CAB-sponsored song trivia made it feel like no time had passed at all, reminding us that Holy Cross is truly our second home. I am very thankful for the time we were able to spend together, and I’m looking forward to creating more memories as the semester progresses.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a New England winter without mentioning the snow that coated the hills of Worcester this past week. I was thrilled to check off a Holy Cross bucket list item earlier this week: sledding down Freshman Field (no injuries today!), and what better way to end the week than going ice skating with a bunch of Holy Cross students at the Worcester Common Oval! (shoutout to SGA for organizing the event!) I will admit- I was far from the best ice skater around, but being able to laugh at every stumble alongside my friends, surrounded by the loving support of the Holy Cross community, ensured the smile stayed on my face.

Stay tuned for a similar summary of next week’s adventures- thank you always for reading!

Studying, School Spirit, and Singing!

Hello again! I hope everyone had a blessed and exciting week. I, for one, have definitely had quite the week-  from beginning the cram for finals and wrapping up all my classes to a continued celebration of Advent as Christmas approaches.

I’m someone that can never concentrate while working in the same space for too long otherwise I’ll get too comfortable, so my nights this week were spent hopping from study spot to study spot with my friends in an attempt to tie the final bow on all my projects and papers due. There are countless spaces in Dinand Library where you can study for hours (which is my personal favorite of the many libraries on campus), and I have grown fond of the various nooks and crannies scattered around Holy Cross as well, where I can work for shorter intervals of time. Some other study strategies I’ve found to be effective are studying with friends, as they keep me accountable, and putting my phone far from reach so I am not distracted. Finally, the most important study suggestion I have is to prioritize YOU! Whether it be taking breaks to walk around and clear your mind, getting to bed earlier, setting aside time to eat, or simply remembering to “breathe in, breathe through, breathe deep, breathe out” in the words of Taylor Swift, your body will definitely thank you in the end.

On the other hand, I’ve also made sure to take the time to hang out and unwind with friends during these final few weeks, as our days together on the Hill are limited (!!). We cheered along with the rest of the community during the football games against UNH and South Dakota, sporting our best Purple Pride whether we were watching in the pouring rain or in the comforts of a dorm. I didn’t have much of an interest in football prior to coming to college, but it is safe to say that through the strong Crusader spirit of Holy Cross, “Football Marie” is in full force.

In addition, I was able to celebrate the Christmas spirit through a continued presence at Mass, occasionally serving as an altar server or greeter, Secret Santa exchanges with my friends and finally, Holy Cross’ beloved Lessons & Carols. I served as a greeter for the event, where I enthusiastically welcomed students, alumni and families to St. Joseph’s Memorial Chapel for a truly spectacular arrangement of performances by the Holy Cross College Choir, Chamber Singers and Orchestra, accompanied by readings of lessons from various faculty members. I was amazed at how so many members of the community were in attendance, and I was so proud of all the outstanding talents my friends were able to showcase. Lessons & Carols is a shining example of how the magic of Holy Cross is epitomized through the holiday season, and to say I am looking forward to next year’s Lessons & Carols would be an understatement.

That’s all I have for you this week- this will be my final entry of the semester seeing as I must focus on my finals this upcoming week, but I wanted to send out a huge THANK YOU to all who have taken the time to read my blog these past few weeks! I will be resuming my blogging schedule next semester, and I’m looking forward to sharing more experiences on the Hill with you! Best of luck to all students, and congratulations on finishing a fantastic semester at Holy Cross!

Welcome! + Advent on the Hill

Greetings! Welcome to the first official post of what I hope to be an exciting, entertaining and informative blog! My name is Marie Meisner and I am a freshman about to wrap up my first semester at Holy Cross (!!!) that is eager to share all of my favorite memories on Mount St. James with you! I thought I’d take the time this week in the midst of all the chaos of finals to focus on one of the more positive parts of the month: the liturgical season of Advent!! For those of you unaware, Advent is the liturgical season celebrated by most Christians in preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day. As someone who is incredibly devoted to her Catholic faith (and someone who chose Holy Cross primarily for their strong faith and Jesuit values, too!), to say I was excited for Advent at Holy Cross was an understatement. Last week following Daily Mass (which I am a frequent attender- Holy Cross offers it at both 12:05pm and 9pm almost every day), I was able to see the decorations put up inside St. Joseph’s Chapel, which included a massive Advent wreath that hung above the congregation.

St. Joseph’s Memorial Chapel, featuring wooden pews, an altar with Christmas trees and white statues on either side, and a hanging Advent wreath as the center of the image.
St. Joseph’s Chapel decorated for Advent!

I think I squealed in delight at how stunning the decorations looked, amazed by how something as simple as the purple and pink ribbon can hold so much meaning. Outside of Mass, I have been able to grow in my faith here through weekly adoration and rosary through the Society of Saints Peter and Paul, and of course, spending as much time in the chapel as my schedule allows. I’ve met some of the most wonderful and kind-hearted people through the many faith opportunities at Holy Cross, and I am so blessed to have them in my life today.

Additionally, this past Thursday was the annual Christmas Tree Lighting that took place in front of O’Kane Hall, organized by the Purple Key Society and the Campus Activities Board. Prior to the event we had seen glimpses of lights, wreaths and Christmas trees scattered around campus, but this felt like the culmination of all these pieces put together into one big celebration of the holiday season. Cookies and hot chocolate were served, and student performers included members of the Goodtime Marching Band, The Chamber Singers, Fools on the Hill, The Delilahs, and Off The Record (the latter of which are the female-only singing groups on campus). Of course, this isn’t counting my friends and I caroling with members of the Chapel Choir all around campus before the actual event, which was genuinely some of the most fun I’ve had here so far. I guess it’s just something about singing the beloved Christmas carols of your childhood with some of your favorite people, making Holy Cross feel like a ‘home away from home’ even more than it already does. 🙂

The grand finale, the lighting of two Christmas trees on either side of a simply stunning Nativity scene (photo below!), filled the whole campus with so much holiday cheer that kickstarted what looks to be a joyful holiday season. Moments like these remind me of how special the Holy Cross community is, and how thankful I am to be surrounded by such a loving and supportive group of people. Though I am anxious to be done with all my papers, projects and the dread of final exams, I am definitely going to miss the magic of Holy Cross over break that is truly unlike no other.

A Nativity scene sandwiched in between two lit-up Christmas trees in front of O’Kane Hall, which is also decorated with Christmas greenery.
The final product of the evening!