A Ministry Experience

I recently had the opportunity to visit my Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters (Srs. Elizabeth Dunn OP, Martha Mary Rohde OP and Barbara Becker OP) in Indiantown, Florida for a ministry experience. During my short stay in Florida, I accompanied my Sisters to their ministries in Indiantown, where I encountered those to whom they ministered, and volunteered my services. Srs. Elizabeth and Martha Mary worked at “Hope Rural School” as executive director and principal respectively. Sr. Barbara worked at the “KinDoo Family Center” as the child care coordinator.


Brief background on the area

Indiantown is a small town in Florida that was named after the Seminole Indians, who made it their campsite over one hundred years ago (Ashabranner, 1986). This rural town is located thirty miles from West Palm Beach. For decades, Indiantown has been home for migrants and immigrant farm workers, who continue to claim it as a refuge from economic hardships and civil wars in their countries (Dooley, 2010). Indiantown houses a diverse population of persons from Mexico, Guatemala, Haiti, Puerto Rico and the United States (Dooley, 2010).


Brief history of the Hope Rural School

In the late 1970s, a group of concerned residents wanted to provide education for children of migrant farm workers (Dooley, 2010). “Language deficiencies and cultural differences” made school challenging for migrant children (Dooley, 2010). In addition, children of migrant farm workers generally missed school during the school year (from April to September) because their parents travelled to different places where crops (such as apples, cherries, peaches, onions and oranges) were ready to be picked.

In 1980, Father Frank O’Loughlin and Sister Carol Putman, RSCJ founded and incorporated Hope Rural School, with the support of the community, in order to provide the children of migrant/immigrant farm workers with a Catholic elementary education. “The school day was extended into the late afternoon to assist parents whose working days often lasted until evening. Teachers focused on the basics of the curriculum with an emphasis on language development and assisted students with practical adjustments to the society and culture of the United States” (Dooley, 2010).

Today, Hope Rural School continues to primarily serve children from immigrant families. It supports, guides and encourages the entire family through the education of children, parenting classes and English classes for Adults (Hope Rural School, 2017). As a fully accredited institution, it fulfils its mission to offer families hope by providing a catholic elementary education to children in grades PreK3 through grade 5. The school fosters a safe, stimulating and nurturing environment that promotes gospel values.

Over the years, many communities of religious sisters have supported the Hope Rural School, particularly, the Religious Sisters of the Sacred Heart, the Sisters of Charity from Cincinnati, the School Sisters of Notre Dame and the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa.


Brief History of KinDoo Family Center

The co-directors of KinDoo Family Centre, Sisters Mary Dooley, SSND and Kate Kinnally, SSND worked as administrators of the Hope Rural School for many years. They recognized that parents were learning English at a relatively slower pace than their children and many of them relied heavily on their children to translate for them. in addition, many of the Guatemalan, Mexican and Haitian immigrant families had little opportunity for schooling in their countries prior their arrival in the United States.

The KinDoo Family Center opened for classes in October 2015. Its mission involves empowering families with life skills that will enable them to achieve a better life. KinDoo’s programs currently include sewing, literacy, nutrition and cooking, art, computer and Kids Korner. Sister Barbara helps to provide childcare services while parents attend classes.

KinDoo’s Adult Literacy Program provides English language instruction that helps parents to gain the skills, knowledge and motivation needed to read and write independent of their children; become employed; and pursue further education. Weekly Cooking, Nutrition and Conversation classes help women to adopt healthier lifestyles, which improves their health outcomes, their sense of well-being and their self-esteem (Kin Doo Family Services, 2022). The sewing program empowers the students to provide for their families and to positively impact their communities by sharing their gifts.


My ministry experience

This rich history is the context in which I started my ministry experience. As I entered the Hope Rural School, I was warmly greeted by the children and the staff. The “little hopes”, the 3 and 4 year-olds, enthusiastically surrounded me. The school had a diverse student population. In addition, the grounds of the school were beautiful and conducive to learning. I really appreciated that the school provided breakfast and lunch for all of the students so that they would all have the nutrients that they needed to be productive. Many of the little hopes seemed to speak mostly Spanish. It was helpful that some the teachers and assistants were fluent in both Spanish and English. The children learnt English as part of the school curriculum. In addition, reading was greatly encouraged as a source of learning. Their reading resource room was filled with fun and engaging books. Additional support was given for children who were progressing at a slower pace. There was also a peer system where older children would read to the younger children.

I was delighted to discover that the hope rural school catered to children with different learning styles. Material was presented and reinforced in varied ways. I provided additional support for teachers and assistants. I also assisted with physical education and revision of concepts. Much of my time was spent with the PreK3 students. Their teacher, Mrs. Kendly Lopez and assistant teacher, Ms. Angelica Mendoza helped to create a very welcoming atmosphere. I really appreciated that as early as 3 years, the children were encouraged to choose the ways in which they wanted to revise a concept (for example, though song, a story, or an activity that engaged their entire bodies).

The children also learned about different countries in the world. I did a presentation on Trinidad and Tobago in order to provide the children with some information about my country. They were engaged and readily answered my questions. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the children had previously learnt about Trinidad and Tobago a few years ago. Moreover, approximately once a month, a class is responsible for creatively showcasing what they had studied. The preK4s competently and enthusiastically displayed their skills in counting, adding (using their fingers), singing and advocating for care of the earth. I was also very impressed when they narrated the Passion of Christ. Each student remembered his or her lines and his or her place in the narrative. They also boldly shared their dream for their future careers (for example, a singer, astronaut, nurse, police offer or teacher).  The rest of the school, the staff and the children’s parents and guardians enthusiastically supported the preK4 class. I was so pleased to see the proud parents and guardians taking pictures and applauding their children’s efforts during the term.

 In some instances, I was learning along with the children. On one such occasion, I had accompanied the children of grades 3 to 5 with their teachers and other volunteers to the Environmental Studies Centre. There were interactive presentations to prepare us for the organisms that we would encounter in the sea later that day. The 4th graders were introduced to the mangroves and were taught to distinguish red, black and white mangroves. The 3rd graders and the 5th graders went seining, which involves using a fishing net (which is placed vertically in the water with floats at the top) to encircle the fish, shrimp, crabs, for example. These budding scientists learnt how to record and handle their findings. They were also introduced to the circle of life. They returned any organism that was carrying eggs back into the ocean and used the rest of their catch as live bait, for the fishes and lobsters that were housed at the centre.

I also had an opportunity to visit the KinDoo Family Center during their Volunteer Appreciation Day. As I entered, I recognized that the students were diligently practicing enunciating their English words using their respective scripts. I was also introduced to the children that Sr. Barbara taught at Kids Korner. The children appeared to be happy and energetic as they engaged with the toys. The KinDoo women creatively offered vote of thanks to their teachers. Some were wearing beautiful dresses they had sewn. They humbly served us a delicious and nutritious meal that they had prepared with their teacher. I was delighted by the beautiful and professional display of yummy desserts.

The fresh vegetables used in our meal were grown and harvested from the community garden. Residents of the area were gifted with a plot in the community garden. They were responsible for tending to their garden. I accompanied Sr. Barbara to volunteer at the community garden and I encountered some of the KinDoo women and their children there. Residents were removing the winter crops to plant the seeds for the “summer crops”. Seeds were donated and residents were free to take them and plant them. I observed the comradery among residents as they worked alongside each other and shared crops with each other.



I am truly thankful for this ministry experience. The Hope Rural School and the KinDoo Family Center have supported many families through the gift of education. They provide a safe, stimulating and respectful atmosphere for all persons. The sisters and other members of the local community freely offer their time, talent and treasure to empower those whom they serve so that they can have more positive outcomes. They model for their students the value of hard work, community and “dreaming big”. Students are given the necessary skills and support to find gainful employment and to pursue advanced education.

The vision and mission of both of these institutions are fulfilled each day. As I continue to my discernment of vows at the CDN, I am reminded that my “yes” is intended to make me more available to God and service to God’s people. As I listen for God’s direction regarding my next ministry, I am reminded to ‘dream big’, work hard and rely on the support of community to courageously serve those in need, in the ways God calls me. In so doing, I can also help God’s people to have more positive outcomes by God’s grace.


                                       Hope Rural School                           


(Left Picture) Sinsinawa Sisters who have worked at Hope Rural School: (from the left) Sr. Martha  Rohde, OP,  Sr. Elizabeth Dunn, OP and Sr. Marie Celeste Gatti, OP.                                      

(Right Picture): Past and Present Administrators of Hope Rural School: (from the left) Sr. Kate Kinnally, SSND, Sr. Martha Rohde, OP, Sr. Elizabeth Dunn, OP, Sr. Mary Dooley, SSND.

Photos of my ministry with the PreK3 class 


Left- Ms. Angelica Mendoza (Teaching assistant), Right- Ms. Kendly Lopez (Teacher)
PreK4 presentation during Earth Day

Back row- Srs. Elizabeth Dunn OP, Siobhan Burroughs, Barbara Becker OP and Martha Rohde OP

Front row- Some of the “Little Hopes”

Photos from Lesson on Trinidad and Tobago
Photos from KinDoo Family Center
A visual reminder for KinDoo Students

A KinDoo woman’s display of home-made desserts

Sr. Barbara Becker, OP and Sr. Siobhan Burroughs while volunteering at the Community Garden