MARCH 2019
Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant

Nazareth Farm Inspires Appreciative Attitudes

Demarest, NJ: Those who spend time at Nazareth Farm in rural West Virginia invariably return home transformed. During their stay, volunteers immerse themselves in the farm’s four cornerstones: prayer, simplicity, community, and service.

While the Academy of the Holy Angels was closed for the winter break, AHA Director of Campus Ministry Kathleen Sylvester accompanied three students to this life-changing venue. Angel volunteers Janella Osbourne, Kayla Pringle, and Katarina Katzarov spent their days making home repairs and carrying out construction projects for local homeowners who have limited resources.

Osbourne, a freshman from Teaneck, said her trip helped her get closer to God. In her reflection, Osbourne explained that she felt a sense of community with the staff and volunteers, and enjoyed the laid-back, “chill” environment at the farm.

“In the ‘real world,’ you don’t get much time to really form great relationships with people, and everything is so fast-paced,” she observed. Nazareth Farm allowed her to slow down and enjoy the element of simplicity within the farm’s four cornerstones.

Visitors to the farm may only take a limited number of showers during their stay, and participate in “energy fasts” – periods when those on the farm are not permitted to use electricity. These experiences, Osbourne noted, gave her a sense of life without running water, heat, and electricity.

“I also loved getting to work with the homeowners and getting to know them. As I visited many worksites, I really started to realize how much more I should be grateful for the things I have. Many of the homeowners had no running water or any heating in their homes, but, at the same time, they were the happiest and most joyous people I’ve ever seen,” Osbourne added.

Pringle, a junior from Suffern, New York, said she was excited and nervous when she arrived at the farm, but immediately felt at ease when she was greeted with friendly, welcoming hugs. She said she enjoyed working with other industrious students from East Catholic and Our Lady of Mercy.

“Becoming a family with them was an amazing experience,” Pringle noted.

This young woman was particularly moved by her work at “Wayne’s World,” the hilltop residence of a man named Wayne. After Pringle’s group climbed the steep hill to his house, Wayne greeted the volunteers and prayed with them.

"What we came to learn is that Wayne lives atop that hill in a small house without any electricity,” Pringle said.

As Pringle and her team built Wayne a shed, he showed them extraordinary kindness, ensuring they had everything they needed, including heat during their lunch break.

“It astounded me that someone who had little was willing to offer up everything to us,” Pringle reflected, noting that she would like to emulate Wayne’s example and share his life ethic with the AHA community. “If we have so much to give, we need to give the most we can to be like Wayne, who had so little and was willing to give so much.”

This winter’s trip was a return voyage for Katzarov, a senior from Clifton, who previously volunteered at the farm in 2017.

“Right as we turned onto Nazareth Farm Road, it finally struck me that I was going home,” Katzarov said, adding that she was excited to reconnect with some of the staff members.

“My happiest moments of the week were at the work sites, and especially the long drives back to the farm,” she said, explaining that she and her team members spent their car rides laughing, braiding friendship bracelets, and discussing events of the day and politics.

During their stay, Katzarov and her group of “Tough Mudders” built three porches for local residents. At one work site, she and her team slid in the mud all day, but were able to construct most of a porch for a woman named Donna. Their collaboration reminded Katzarov why she decided to attend the Naval Academy: She plans to dedicate her life to serving and providing security for others.

“It again showed me the difference I can make in the world, or even to one person, just by being me,” she said of the work she completed as a Nazareth Farm volunteer.

While the AHA students were at the farm, their group headed outdoors with a staff member named Mike. Mike told a Bible story about a man who was experiencing hardships and began calling out to God.

Katzarov said, “Mike had shouted, ‘God, are you there?’ into the wind and I closed my eyes and listened to his voice resound over the mountains into the open air.” She added, “Just hearing what I sometimes feel come to life and echo out through the trees made me want to focus more on my relationship with God and prayer while at Naz.”

The senior concluded by expressing her gratitude to Holy Angels for the experiences she has enjoyed during the last four years, and for allowing her to represent the Academy in the wider world. Katzarov also thanked Mrs. Sylvester for her contributions to the Nazareth Farm trips and to the Kairos retreat.

“My relationship with God has flourished because of your strength, guidance, and friendship,” Katzarov told Sylvester. “I look forward to one day working with you in the future.”

Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious high school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.


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