Journalism students help Carmelite Nuns amidst water crisis

In the span of two days, St. Joe students and faculty members were able to provide water to the nuns of the Carmelite Monastery.

Ever since the treacherous winter ice storms that ravaged the South three weeks ago, many Mississippians have been struggling to get back to their everyday lives. Jackson residents have especially struggled as the capital city has been without water for weeks. Due to the city’s aging infrastructure, many water pipes were susceptible to breaks from freezing temperatures.

With over 100 water main breaks reported, many Jackson residents were left under a boiled-water notice as their water has either returned with low-pressure or still is unavailable. The Discalced Carmelite Nuns are one of the many in South Jackson still without water.

The Carmelite Monastery in Jackson, MS is home to six nuns and serves as a staple establishment of central Mississippi’s Catholic community. Founded in 1951, the nuns spend their days praying within four walls, as they only leave to run errands, vote, and go to doctor’s appointments. So when the ice storms arrived, they were satisfied with staying inside. 

“At the beginning, it was fun when we saw the snow because we are from the Philippines, and we had never experienced snow before,” said Sister Mary Jane Agonoy, the superior of the Carmelite Monastery. “We were shoveling the snow and making use of it to flush [our toilets]…and we collected the rainwater.” However, when all the snow and ice melted, they faced the problem of trying to get back to normalcy.

“When the snow started to melt that’s when we had the problem…and we were asking already ‘help’ because we couldn’t go out.”

That’s when St. Joe stepped in.

. . .

Seniors Bianca McCarty, left, and Jack Clements help move the donations of water into the Carmelite Monastery.

After hearing about the Carmelite Nuns’ situation, a member from a local Knights of Columbus chapter placed an advertisement on Mississippi Catholic Radio WJXC for assistance with helping the monastery. The word got around, and soon St. Joe students heard about the situation.

From there, efforts took off as the St. Joe chapter of the International Quill & Scroll Honorary Society for High School Journalists decided to sponsor a bottled water drive.

In only two days, 26 one-gallon jugs of water and more than 40 cases of bottled water were collected by students and faculty members. The bottled water drive acted as a community service project for the Quill & Scroll Honor Society and was headed by the officers of the chapter.

“This opportunity combines two things St. Joe is known for: service and our great journalism program,” said senior Bianca McCarty, who serves as secretary of the Quill & Scroll Honor Society as well as co-editor of The Bear Facts. 

She, along with a small group of journalism students and their advisor Mr. Terry Cassreino, delivered the water to the Carmelite Monastery on Thursday. The overwhelming support came as a shock for the Carmelite Nuns.

“This will last us for weeks. It is the biggest [donation] that we have received,” said Sister Mary Jane. “This is not a little act of charity; this is a big thing for us.”

Sister Mary Jane Agonoy, the superior of the Carmelite Monastery.

Community service is one of the core values of St. Joe as the school’s gospel service program seeks to instill in students the desire to make their communities better. Students are required to complete a certain amount of service hours based upon their grade level. Outside of personal service, students and faculty members often come together in efforts such as the water drive to help those in need.

“This is the high school way of living out God’s call. Everything we’ve learned early on in catholic schools, the community, and the teachings of Jesus these students put forth to help when they saw those that were in need,” said St. Joe Principal Dr. Kinsey. “That’s what St. Joe’s mission is.”

“We are really thankful,” Sister Mary Jane said. “You are heaven-sent. We are really very, very grateful. We never expected this. “You are very blessed. We will remember you in our prayers.”