Serving the Common Good in Rural New Hampshire

Thomas More College students clear an 18th century cart track Following on from last week’s article, here is an example in New Hampshire of a landowner who is putting his land in the service of the common good. He is Fr Roger Boucher, a chaplain at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts. Fr Boucher lives on his hermitage which is situated on a farm, several miles north of Concord, New Hampshire. Students from the summer program of the Catholic Leadership Institute helped expose an 18th century cart track, still marked by the stone walls along its sides although overgrown with trees and scrub. The eventual aim is to make the route open to members of the public in an arrangement based upon trust.

You can read more about this very successful and inspiring program here.

The TMC summer program, which took place predominantly on the campus in Merrimack, NH, taught the important idea of leadership through service, underpinned by the principles of Catholic social teaching. Daily lectures from Thomas More College faculty and visiting speakers gave participants a firm understanding of key ideas such as just war theory, common good, the human person, solidarity, authentic teachings on the family, and other Catholic insights on basic economic and political issues that will confront them throughout their lives.

As well as the lectures, there was a strong hand-on element included in the three-week programme: “Each week included opportunities for participants to enact the corporal works of mercy,” said Dr. William Fahey, the college President told me.  “’To serve, rather than be served’ has long encapsulated the essence of Christian leadership.  By volunteering at homeless shelters, food pantries, and other charities, students were encouraged to consider these acts as an essential part of Catholic living.” Students volunteered at several organizations, including the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter, Friends of the Unborn Crisis Pregnancy Center, a refugee center in Manchester, NH, and other charities.

Fr Boucher's farm is situated a few miles north of Concord, in New Hampshire. He addressed the students at the college first, talking on the principles of leadership in the armed services, drawing on his many years as a Navy chaplain (he had the rank of Commander). Then, having inspired them to serve, a few days later he welcomed the students to his home…and put them to work! They all enthusiastically rolled up their sleeves and spent a sweaty and hardworking but satisfying day on the farm in the cause of the common good. The result of their sterling service was a clear pathway of several hundred yards running through the trees.

Here are some photographs. The first below is of Fr Boucher, addressing the 'troops' some days before. The next ones are of the farm: students with the track, before and after. Finally, yours truly surveying the work!