Winter Mission Trips: Peru and the Puerto Rican Earthquakes

This January, fourteen AMU students volunteered the last week of their Christmas break to serve alongside the Missionaries of Charity at locations domestic and abroad. While assisting Mother Teresa’s congregation of sisters, students at each location were given the opportunity to experience the transforming power of service, realize the dignity of every person, and deepen their faith life. In addition to offering the annual winter mission trips to Washington D.C., Brazil, and Puerto Rico, for the first time this year, the Mother Teresa Project sent a group of students to Cuzco, Peru.


Monica Williams, a senior history major, was one of the four girls who served in Cuzco, a town located in the Peruvian Andes at an elevation of 11,200ft. The Incan culture is deeply rooted in Cuzco, with the elderly still speaking Quechua, an Incan derived language. While most of the week the girls served the elderly and disabled who lived the MC’s walled-in compound, one day, they drove two hours up the mountain to a secluded village. Monica described the town as untouched by time, recalling the thatched roofs, adobe looking mud walls, and distinctive colorful garb of the Peruvian people. As they drove into the town, children congregated at the church where the Missionaries of Charity and AMU students handed out donated clothing. Monica recalled that among the donated items, the Peruvian boys found a batman costume. “They were all holding it up — just glowing. It was one of those costumes that’s padded with muscles and everything. We were all like, ‘oh my gosh, now there is some five-year-old boy in Peru running around the mountains in a batman costume.’” Monica expressed how important the mission trip was for her, especially while in college, where the faith can easily become very intellectual. Through mission work, she was given the opportunity to step outside herself and put her faith into action. 

Puerto Rico

During their mission trip to Puerto Rico, AMU students Therese Brown, Irene Defelice, and Maria Halecky also experienced the challenge of living out their Catholic faith. Three days into the mission trip, they woke up to an earthquake of 5.8 magnitude, one of the biggest earthquakes to have struck Puerto Rico in over a hundred years. This earthquake soon caused the city to lose power. Maria Halecky shared her fears following the earthquake and how she strongly considered leaving Puerto Rico early. “I had the choice to go home the next day, but I also had the choice to stay there and do what I was supposed to do. I chose to stay because I was meant to be there. I feel like that was a big thing for me spiritually.” On the morning of January seventh, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake shook the town of Yauco, stranding the three girls and chaperone in Puerto Rico until the ninth. During these days of uncertainty and changing plans, the girls experienced a sense of peace. “I feel like I really grew in my trust in God,” Therese remarked. “Knowing that no matter what happens, even if your plans change a hundred times, He’s still there. He’s still leading, and you just got to trust Him because He’s good.” After the earthquakes, the girls spent their time praying and simply being present to the locals. 


Ave Maria University strongly encourages students to give of themselves through service. In addition to the mission trips organized through the Mother Teresa Project, the MTP also provides occasions for service throughout the whole year. To learn more about local service opportunities and upcoming mission trips visit

Written by: Madeleine O’Rourke