July 29, 2009 // Local

Youth serve in the trenches during bcX mission trip

Group 6 teens painted the basement of the Family Life Center of HOPE Ministries homeless shelter and community center. Shown is Ryan Noll of St. Vincent de Paul in Fort Wayne.

Group 6 teens painted the basement of the Family Life Center of HOPE Ministries homeless shelter and community center. Shown is Ryan Noll of St. Vincent de Paul in Fort Wayne.

SOUTH BEND — This summer youth from around the diocese were given the opportunity to attend a mission trip “in their own back yard” by the diocesan Office of Youth Ministry and the Campus Ministry of Holy Cross College at Notre Dame. The week-long leadership camp, appropriately titled bcX-Servant Leadership, was held at Holy Cross College from July 21-25 and featured service projects in the local area.

The focus, says Cindy Black, director of the Office of Youth Ministry, was to “be” Christ (bX) and “see” Christ (cX) in those they serve. Service opportunities included team work for local agencies such as the Women’s Care Center, Catholic Charities, a rehabilitation center, Catholic Worker House, Christ Child Society, the YWCA and more, where students would experience a variety of ongoing programs and discover where their talent to serve lies.

The 50 students, who came from parishes all over the diocese, some with no active youth group, stayed on the campus of Holy Cross College and attended sessions on Catholic social teachings such as the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Each day they were given the opportunity to serve in a different agency or organization. Reconciliation and eucharistic adoration were made available as well as time for reflection, prayer, fellowship and music.

The students were required to leave their cell phones and electronic devices behind each day of service to “go deeper into a relationship with Christ.” However they were encouraged to blog in the evenings in an attempt to share their service experience with those at home. No one seemed to mind.

Megan Oberhausen, assistant director of the Office of Youth Ministry says, “The technology piece was different and cool. The students used computers and cameras and blogged to share with family and friends. The reflections were pretty immediate.”

Students were assigned to small groups that they remained with for the week. Small group discussion led by six full-time and 15 part-time priests, seminarians, catechists, youth ministers and young adults, ensued each evening after the service project to assist the teens in processing their day. Oberhausen says, “They connected really well.” And she says, some of the teens were surprised by the service. “Some didn’t know that people worked full-time in ministry. They connected life to this!”

As for inspiring service, one group of teens scrubbed furniture at a retirement home. “They didn’t complain. They did it joyfully and reflected that it was a good experience,” reports Black. Their blog entry says, “We saw Christ today through Raynard, who was our supervisor and scrubbed through the grime with us throughout the day. We also saw Christ through the welcoming faces of the residents. Even though this was not the most glamorous job, it was still rewarding because we could offer it up to Christ.”

Another group served at Heathwin Rehabilitation Center where they exercised, dined and visited with the residents there. Their blog entry reads, “We saw Christ in all the residents and the wonderful volunteers. … We were touched by the residents’ simple gratitude shown through their smiling faces.”

Group 4 teens prepared and served lunch to the South Bend Center for the Homeless guests. Participants were Logan Parrish and David Huneck from St. Vincent de Paul, Fort Wayne; Gregory Konkle, Christ the King, South Bend; Rafaella Stroik, St. Matthew, South Bend;Michael Zehr, Our Lady of Good Hope, Fort Wayne; Jaxson Burkins, St. Dominic, Bremen; Will Heckaman, adult volunteer, St. Anthony, South Bend; Jessica Richardson, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne; and Rachel Staley, St. Pius X, Granger.

Each evening before bed the entire group prayed the Liturgy of the Hours together, with a smaller group of male teens remaining to pray “man prayer,” which included prayers for their female counterparts and recitation of the Hail Mary.

The exciting and exhausting week came to an inspirational close with a special eucharistic celebration by Bishop John M. D’Arcy, followed by a picnic that included family members and associates from the agencies the teens served throughout the week.

Though the program became more labor-intensive than expected, says Oberhausen, their efforts were well worth the response. “The e-mails from parents and students and the Facebook messages all say it was life changing. They can’t wait for the next one,” she says.

The participating teens showed initiative in their service and now have taken it to their home parishes. One e-mail asked for contact information of an organization for future service. “We wanted to help them find a ministry they can commit to in their area. We challenged them to live a life of Christian service,” Oberhausen says.

Another student’s e-mail stated that he missed “man prayer.” Oberhausen, in turn, challenged him to start his own prayer group, which he now leads in his home parish.

Black and Oberhausen are encouraged by the response of the teens involved and are already consulting with Holy Cross for next year’s mission trip date. “It’s so beautiful to see how the Lord met each teen in a different way,” says Black, who adds, “This is how we give teens the opportunity to meet Christ.”

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