RALEIGH, N.C. — Six adults and 33 teenagers from the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi here participated in the parish’s six-year tradition of serving during a weeklong mission trip.
Providing opportunities to serve for students on summer vacation is a common theme among youth ministry programs around the Province. Some parishes serve in their own neighborhoods, while others travel to new communities to help the needy.
For St. Francis Parish, where Mark Reamer, OFM, is pastor, the students and adults split into three groups, each traveling to a different work site (Cincinnati, Ohio, Bayou La Batre, Ala., and Logan, W.V.) for a week organized by YouthWorks!, a multi-denominational organization that focuses on providing life-changing youth mission trips for junior high and high school students.
Leo Moreda, the parish’s director of youth ministry, said serving side-by-side with churches from other Christian denominations “provides our youth with an opportunity to share as well as become enriched in and better appreciate other faith traditions.”
In Bayou La Batre and Logan, the groups painted and repaired homes for the elderly and participated in Kids Club, a hands-on program led by the students offering games, crafts, songs and interactive lessons all designed to help kids learn about Jesus. In Cincinnati, YouthWorks! partners with local ministries, and St. Francis students cleaned up a park trail than had been untended for 70 years.
Stephen Misencik, an adult leader on the trip, said he was impressed when one of the students noticed a neighborhood tenant cut weeds with a pair of scissors and asked, “Is it okay if I go down and ask that man if I can help him with his weeding?”
Misencik said yes, and, “After about two minutes, the other youth saw what she was doing and helped not only clear his side of weeds, but they continued down the entire block. It was a blessing to see our youth exhibiting the love of Christ toward the people of Cincinnati,” he said.
Twenty-nine high school-aged youth from St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Triangle, Va., where Charles Miller, OFM, is pastor, spent a week in Lancaster, Pa., serving with other churches through Catholic HEART Workcamp, an organization striving to share the love of Jesus and serve the neglected, brokenhearted and marginalized in any way needed, revitalizing communities and beautifying homes for the elderly, disabled and those who cannot afford needed repairs.
Mindi Bartosch, youth ministry coordinator at St. Francis, said the parish volunteers with Catholic HEART because the program is well set up. “It allows the youth to grab onto their faith,” she said. “The work in the day allows the teens to put that faith into action and see a life-changing thing happen for them and the residents they help.”
Bartosch said the youth group traveled to Lancaster to be exposed to a variety of people and needs. Last summer, they served at the Catholic HEART site in Boston.
One 17-year-old participant, reflecting on the week, commented, “It made my heart swell. I’ve never seen such consistent kindness between teenagers and unto needy persons. I hope … to continue spreading love and to further understand God’s mysterious ways.”
Bartosch said all those who participated were grateful for the experience and hoped to participate again next year.
For the youth of Immaculate Conception Church in Durham, N.C., where Daniel McLellan, OFM, is pastor, their week of service was not to strangers from out of state, but rather in their own community.
For the third year, youth minister Margie Burton coordinated Mission Week Durham, a weeklong service event for youth to participate in from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. This year, 32 12- to 18-year-olds participated in the event.
Unlike YouthWorks! and Catholic HEART, which are weeklong commitments, students could choose which days to participate in throughout the week. Burton said each day had at least 22 participants.
A different Durham agency was served each day. Throughout the week, young people visited thrift stores, food pantries and a nursing home, where they made crafts projects and visited with residents.
Burton said that, although they did not love the idea of being at the church by 8:30 a.m., “they agreed it was worth the sacrifice. They really enjoyed going to different places within our city and learning what each agency did.”
She added, “They were proud to be part of the good work that is being done in Durham.”
In the photo above, students from St. Francis of Assisi in Triangle serve the elderly in Lancaster. Behind is a group photo of participants from St. Francis of Assisi in Raleigh on their YouthWorks! trip to Cincinnati.
— Rebecca Doel is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.