Our Program at a Glance
We offer both winter and spring alternative break opportunities as well as summer Mission Trip experiences. We focus on exposing our participants to the Franciscan traditions of simplicity, service, community, and spirituality. Groups of five to thirty-five people, from parishes, schools, and colleges nationwide, come and spend a week or weekend living simply in community with one another while serving in various service agencies in the greater Cincinnati area. We provide the housing, food, and service assignments, as well as social, educational, and prayer opportunities throughout the experience. Come make a difference with us!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: printable copy
How Do I Begin to Plan a Service Trip?
How much does it cost?
All groups are booked on a first-come, first-serve basis. The week is not booked until deposits are received. All payments are non-refundable. In order to secure the Tau House for your group only, you must guarantee a minimum of 28 people. Otherwise, the Tau House opens to additional smaller groups. Pricing can be found here.
Who can chaperone?
Adult chaperones must be at least 21 years of age and be in compliance with their Diocese’s requirements for Child Protection. Trip coordinator and chaperones must sign off on an Adult Pledge of Support confirming this for their adult leaders. Adult/College groups and youth groups will not be combined. For High School aged groups the adult-student ratio is 1:6. The JrHi ratio is 1:5.
How many people can we bring?
The Tau House comfortably sleeps 30-35 participants. You must guarantee a group size of 28 people in order to secure the house for your group only (or you may pay the fee for 28 people and bring a smaller group). Groups of <28 people must be willing to share the week with another smaller group.
What if someone cancels?
We cannot issue refunds. However, if a participant needs to cancel, another participant can be sent in his/her place. Please contact the Director for details.
Who can attend?
Typically, we host youth groups who are at least in the 7th grade and minimally age 12. Some exceptions can be made with prior Director approval. JrHi groups must have a student-chaperone ratio of 1 chaperones for every 5 students. High School groups must have a student-chaperone ratio of 1 adult chaperone for every 6 students.
Do I have to be Catholic to make the mission trip?
No - we happily host all denominations and non-religious groups alike!
How do we travel during the week?
Groups are responsible for providing their own transportation. Once you arrive at the House, work sites are typically <20 miles from Tau. Gas tanks typically only need to be filled once during the week.
How do we travel to the Tau House?
* By car: The Tau House is located in the City of St Bernard, inside the Cincinnati city limits. It is 1 mile from I-75. Groups are responsible for providing their own
transportation. Once you arrive at the House, work sites are typically <20 miles from Tau. Gas tanks typically only need to be filled once during the week.
* By airplane: We are approximately 20mi/30min from the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Airport (CVG) and 60mi/60min from the Dayton Airport (DAY).
When you arrive at the airport, group leaders are responsible for renting vehicles to transport their group during the week.
* Daily Mass is celebrated next door at St. Clement Catholic Church at 7am (on Thursdays during the school year, Mass is at 7:45am and is celebrated with the students) – Many groups choose to begin the day with this ½ hour Morning Mass as their Launch for the day at least once during the week. Neighboring churches offer some evening Mass times – contact the Director for this opportunity.
** Free time is from after work until dinner at 6pm. Some groups choose to stop at one of two Cathedrals on the National Register of Historical Sites after work and before dinner. Other options include board games, cards, ping pong, foosball, air hockey, and a pool table (all at the Tau House). Swimming is typically available at the St Bernard City Pool during the summer months.
*** Afternoon/evening activities usually include a guest speaker, Supper with the Sisters at St Clare Convent, or other activities.
Some evenings are free.
What Kind of Work Will We Be Doing?
Direct Service Worksites: These include day care centers, schools for the mentally and physically differently-abled, soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, nursing homes, and transitional housing. At these sites you will typically have the opportunity to work and visit with those you serve.
Indirect Service Worksites: These may include warehouses or housing rehab such as painting, yard work, house cleaning, moving, and minor home repairs. The work done at these sites indirectly serves those in need. Sometimes the client is present and working side-by-side with our volunteers.
Descriptions of some of our frequently visited sites can be found here.
Will I work at the same site every day?
One of the things that makes our program unique is that you will be scheduled to work some place different every day. This allows participants an opportunity to discern where their gifts may lie and how they can utilize their gifts back home by experiencing a variety of work-sites. We highly recommend participants serve at a combination of indirect and direct service sites. If a group desires the same site all week, we will try to accommodate with enough notice; however, we cannot guarantee this option.
What hours will we work?
Most work-sites require groups arrive by 9am and stay until 3pm. A ½ hour lunch break is scheduled by the work-site. Some work-sites’ hours are slightly different (ie: 10am-4pm or 9am-2:30pm).
How will we know where to go?
We will provide each driver with directions to their work-site each day. You are encouraged to bring a GPS as a back-up.
Will I choose where I work every day?
The group leader sends the Director the number of people coming, the number of vehicles coming, and how many individuals can be in each vehicle. The Director then schedules the appropriate number of participants to each site.
For example, let’s say a group of 20 people is divided into 4 vehicles of 5 people each. The Director will have various sites lined up based on the transportation needs of the group. Once in Cincinnati, the adult drivers sign up first where s/he will serve and then the participants are assigned where they will go each work each day. Some groups have the group leader assign participants to sites, others allow the participants to select and sign themselves up. It is okay for drivers to take different students each day, but groups sharing the Tau House with another group will take only students from their home group in their car each day.
What is Simple, Community Living?
Where will we live?
Tau House, formerly St Clement’s Convent – 4523 Park Place, St Bernard, OH 45217
What are the sleeping accommodations?
Participants have separate floors for men and women at the Tau House. Each bedroom has 2-6 beds, fans, and a sink. Community bathrooms are located on each sleeping floor with 2 toilets and 2 showers in each bathroom. Depending on the number of participants, chaperones may be assigned to their own bedroom. Separate rooms for adults and teens. All beds are twin size – we provide linens. To allow ample rest to be able to work the next day, we suggest that lights are out by 11pm each evening.
What is there to do at Tau House?
The Tau House has an array of simple games and activities available at the house and in the neighborhood:
* foosball, air hockey, pool/billiards, ping-pong tables – in the basement
* board games, card games, jig-saw puzzles – in the community dining room
* St. Bernard City Pool is available in the summer – free of charge
* St. Bernard City Park is 1 block north and offers a playground, ball fields, basketball courts, and Frisbee golf
* a limited supply of frisbees, balls, and similar are provided – some groups choose to bring their own
Are linens provided?
Each participant is provided fitted and flat sheets, a pillow with pillow case, and one quilt. We provide wash cloths, bath mats, bath towels, hand towels, and kitchen linens. To keep our costs low, prior to departure, each participant will be asked to: launder their bath towels; re-make his/her own bed with fresh linens; assist in preparing/cleaning the House for the next group. Staff launders all sheets.
What will we eat?
* Breakfast is self-serve and consists of fresh fruit, toast, muffins, oatmeal, and dry cereal. Beverages include hot tea, coffee, hot chocolate, milk, and juice.
* Lunch is self-pack and typically consists of a lunchmeat or PBJ sandwich, a piece of seasonal fruit, carrot/celery sticks, a salty snack, and cookies.
* Supper is community cooking – 4 or 5 people at a time take turns cooking the main meal. Menu choices are sent to the group leader and chosen in advance. Popular
choices include: BBQ Pulled Pork, Lasagna, Spaghetti, BBQ Chicken, Fajitas, and Tacos. Vegetarian options are available upon request.
* Some snack items are available for after work – groups are encouraged to bring their favorites to share.
* We provide coolers, lunch bags, and ice packs for use. Please bring a water bottle.
Is There Opportunity for Reflection and Prayer?
Groups may choose to attend Mass during the week. Mass times for neighboring churches are:
* St. Clement Catholic Church – weekday mornings at 7am during the summer; during the school year, Mass on Thursday is at 7:45 and is celebrated with the school children
Located around the block from the Tau House – many groups choose to attend before going to work at least once during the week.
* St. Peter in Chains Cathedral, downtown Cincinnati – weeknights at 5:15pm. Some groups choose to attend after work, but before supper
* Bellarmine Chapel at Xavier University – weeknights at 5pm (during the school year only)
* Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center – weeknights 7:15pm
* Holy Cross Immaculata Church– Monday evenings at 7:30pm
Our Staff is happy to offer a morning reflection activity at 8am. Some groups choose not to do a morning reflection and instead attend 7am Mass at St Clement Catholic Church. Groups are also welcome to do their own morning reflection(s).
Groups are encouraged to lead evening reflections during the week. Our Staff provides some resources onsite for this; however, groups are highly encouraged to plan some prayer options before arriving and to bring any resources with them for the week. Opportunities for Mass or evening reflection at St Clare Convent Chapel or St Clement Catholic Church may be available upon request.
Sacrament of Reconciliation:
Reconciliation may be offered, if clergy is available, next door at St Clement upon request.
Time Before the Blessed Sacrament:
Time before the Blessed Sacrament is available, if clergy is available, upon request.
|Can We Use Tau House for Our Own Retreat?||What is Simple, Community Living?||Is There Opportunity for Reflection and Prayer?||Can I Bring Donations? |
|How Do I Begin to Plan a Service Trip?||What Kind of Work Will We Be Doing?||What Programming is Offered?||What Does a Week's Schedule Look Like?|
|What Do We Do After Work?||What Should I Bring? (and What to Expect)|
What Programming Is Offered?
We provide the opportunity to spend the evening hearing from a speaker on one of two topics: experiencing homelessness and refugees/immigration. The speaker comes to the Tau House in conjunction with either the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition or Heartfelt Tidbits. Group leaders can indicate their preference of topic, and we will do our best to accommodate based on speaker availability. Free of charge.
Supper with the Sisters:
The participants are invited to St Clare Convent for a Supper with the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor. Participants will have an opportunity to be in conversation with the Sisters about their experiences serving and to ask the Sisters questions about their own vocation and experiences. Free of charge.
Digital Scavenger Hunt:
Groups may choose to participate in a digital scavenger hunt for a fun, team-building opportunity. Scavenger Hunts can be held at a local park (during nice weather), on St Clare’s grounds, or at the Tau Community House. Free of charge.
Franciscans for the Poor staff is happy to lead ice-breakers for groups your first evening with us upon request. Free of charge.
Donation Collection – This is not a requirement, simply a suggestion
Some groups choose to make in-kind donations in addition to their time of service. Products are either kept and used at Tau House or delivered to the various sites with whom we partner. These products can be collected at your end and brought with you the day of arrival – however, some groups have utilized the free time to go to area discount stores to make purchases. Items that are always needed:
|Toilet Paper||Deodorant||Diapers (larger sized)||Feminine Hygiene Products||Dental Floss|
|Paper Towels||Hand Soap||Baby Bottles||Dish Soap||Toothpaste|
|Laundry Detergent||Travel Tolietries||Baby Wipes||New Underwear ||Toothbrushes|
|Twin Sheet Sets||Shampoo||Pacifiers||New Socks||Shaving Cream|
|Beach Towels||Cleaning Supplies||Box Fans||Prescription Bottles||Razors|
|Sunday:|| 4:30 pm||Arrival & Welcome!|
| 5:00 pm||Orientation|
| 6:00 pm||Dinner & Get Settled In|
| 11:00 pm||Lights Out|
|Monday - Thursday:|| 7:00 am||Self-Serve Breakfast|
| 8:00 am||Morning Launch *|
| 8:45 am||Depart for Worksites|
| 9:00 am||Worksites|
| 3:30 pm||Free Time **|
| 6:00 pm||Dinner|
| 7:00 pm||Evening Activity ***|
| 11:00 pm||Lights Out|
|Friday:|| 7:00 am||Self-Serve Breakfast|
| 8:00 am||Pay-It-Forward!|
| 10:00 am||Closing Activity|
| 11:00 am||Departure - Safe Travels!|
What Do We Do After Work?
Will there be ‘down’ time?
Free time is scheduled from the time you return from work until supper at 6pm. Some participants use this time to shower, nap, read, pray, play games, or swim. Participants scheduled to cook the evening meal need to allow ample time for supper to be served by 6pm.
Will there be time to site-see in Cincinnati?
If a group chooses to sight see, you are welcome to explore on your own, or we can provide directions and options for some attractions. These include:
* St. Mary’s Basilica in Covington, Kentucky
* St. Peter in Chains Cathedral in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio
* Ault Park provides a beautiful view of the Ohio River – Weather permitting, groups can pack a picnic lunch and eat there one evening
* Krohn Conservatory has free admission and only open until 5pm – Groups would go there right after work and eat supper later either at Tau House or the Picnic in the Park
* The Cincinnati Art Museum is free of charge and a $4 fee for parking – Only open until 5pm (except Wednesdays open until 8pm)
* Carew Tower offers a $2 elevator ride which provides a view of the City – Only open until 5pm, so groups who choose to do this should plan on a late supper
* Cincinnati Reds Baseball – some groups choose to take a free night and attend a professional baseball game when the Reds are in town – Check their website for current schedule
* Cincinnati Zoo – some groups choose to go to the Cincinnati Zoo the day of departure – Group tickets are available
* Skating on the Square – downtown Cincinnati on Fountain Square offers ice skating for a nominal skate rental and admission fee – winter months only
* Music on the Square – downtown Cincinnati on Fountain Square offers a live band most nights of the week during the summer – Free admission
* Graeter’s Ice Cream is known nationally and well worth a trip to partake
* For groups who choose to add a day to their trip for site-seeing, we recommend this website for more information on activities available in Greater Cincinnati
What to Bring (and What to Expect)
What to Expect:
Simple Living – we promise you will have everything you need and some of the things you want.
Community Living – participants are asked to help with daily chores – Many hands make little work.
What to Bring:
Challenge yourself to pack “simply” regarding clothing.
Clothing should be reflective of positive values (no short shorts, belly shirts, sport bras worn as shirts, spaghetti straps, tube tops, low cut necklines, or muscle shirts).
No shirts with suggestive, vulgar/violent language, or inappropriate designs. Shorts need to come down to mid-thigh.
Some sites include the opportunity to swim. One piece suits are requested by the sites.
All participants need to wear closed-toed shoes at worksites (no sandals or flip-flops allowed for safety reasons).
Shirts must be worn at ALL times.
Please bring a personal water-bottle for the worksites – hard work can dehydrate you!
If you have any board games, cards, or recreation equipment that could be used, please bring them to share.
Musical instruments are welcome, but will be the responsibility of their owners.
Summer groups should have use of the neighborhood pool.
Facility & Linens:
The Tau House is a former Franciscan convent built in 1916.
Tau House does not have central air conditioning, but both ceiling and standing fans are provided for each bedroom.
Our dining room, living room, and Chapel have window AC units which help to keep these common areas cool.
Participants have twin-size beds and will share a bedroom with at least one other participant.
We provide all linens – each participant is provided a large bath towel and wash cloths.
Participants <age 18 must notify their group leaders of any prescription medications.
OTC medications will not be distributed by our Staff, only by chaperones in accordance with their policies.
Food and Beverage:
We provide simple meals (although you might be the cook!) beginning with arrival night supper through departing morning breakfast.
We provide coolers and lunch bags for group use for lunches during the week.
Please feel free to bring snack items to share!
Cell phones and other electronics:
We embrace simple living and ask that you leave electronics behind.
Chaperones are asked to bring cell phones to all their work sites in case the Director needs to reach the group. All others are asked to not bring cellphones to sites.
The Tau House does have CD players, a TV, and a DVD player.
Very limited wireless internet is available, but due to the age and structure of the building, it is NOT reliable.
Weather can be unpredictable in Cincinnati year-round! In past years, summer temperatures have ranged from 50s at night to the high 90s during the day.
Groups coming on Winter and Spring trips are encouraged to bring both rain gear and a warmer coat/jacket.