FORT WAYNE — A group of local teens and their moms are currently on a mission — working overtime to make their dream of serving on a mission trip to Central America a reality. Their focus is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jenn MacDonald, of St. Jude Parish, and Stacy Gill of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, are the forerunners of this dream, but say it all started with their children, most of whom are long-time friends, youth group buddies and some even siblings.
Brenna Gill, Stacy’s daughter, recently read a riveting book about a high school-aged teen who discovered her calling to be a missionary while on a mission trip. As the book was shared among her friends David Landrigan, Katie Killen, Eddie Black, Michael McGovern, Katie, Emma and Drew MacDonald, and her brother A.J., the inspired teens formed the idea to serve on a mission trip of their own.
“The kids came to me,” says Jenn MacDonald. “They really wanted to go.” Her friend and fellow home-school mom, Stacy Gill, who has personal experience serving on mission trips, adds, “I want to see them do this.”
After taking the initiative to compile months of area and on-line research, Gill found that there were no Catholic mission trips available, especially those who would welcome teens under the age of 18. But through a series of divinely led communications, Gill received a prayer request for a Catholic family from Louisiana, who was moving to Costa Rica with their children to form a mission house. And that family became an answer to her prayer.
The Greg and Colleen Mitchell family, with their five living children, reside in Costa Rica where they serve the poor. The death of their son Bryce inspired them to form the Saint Bryce Foundation from which to serve.
As the Mitchell family evangelizes in Costa Rica they invite groups to travel to the area for short-term mission trips on which participants assist in their evangelization and work efforts along with the opportunity to attend Mass, Holy Hour, Eucharistic Adoration and prayer time. Two priests, who minister in a large area that stretches to 40 outlying communities, are working to build 40 chapels, at the cost of $3,000-$4,000 each, one for each community where the remote indigenous people wish to gather for prayer, catechesis and fellowship.
Finding this opportunity was a treasure for this eager group and after receiving a blessing this summer from Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, who met with the students, many of whom are homeschooled, and who offered a contribution toward their endeavor, they began in earnest to organize the mission’s logistics, learn as much Spanish as possible, build a website and begin fundraising efforts. Initially the students began a letter-writing campaign and offered presentations to a few parishes as they sought support.
A car wash, garage sales, a sponsored trail hike, a booth at the Faith, Family and Fatherhood Festival and grant writing have kept the students busy and focused on their goal.
Gill says, “We had the fundraisers. They were successful because the kids worked together and they prepared them to be together in Costa Rica,” where the living conditions are more primitive than they are used to in the states.
“There’s no running water, no toilets,” she says.
The students and moms, including Patrice Fox of Our Lady of Good Hope Parish and Dr. Tom McGovern of St. Patrick’s, Arcola, will leave during Christmas break and arrive at a base camp where they will assist the Mitchell family and local villagers for 11 days with construction of a new chapel as well as evangelizing, especially to the area youth, taking meals to villagers and filling in where they are needed.
The faith-filled teens all agreed that this will be a life-changing trip for them and they are prepared to work hard. Though they don’t know exactly what to expect, they are excited to be able to share their faith with others and have the opportunity to experience first hand how another culture lives. And they believe they will bring home a new appreciation for life in the U.S. as well as for their Catholic faith.
Emma MacDonald says she is looking forward to going and share with the other teens “a deep desire to share the love of Christ with others.” Her sister Katie says, “I love learning about the Truth and sharing it with others. I’ve thought about the people in Costa Rica who have never heard the Gospel. … It makes me want to do something and give them the Truth that I really love.”
These trailblazers hope that other teen groups will take up the challenge to spread the Gospel on foreign soil and agree with Jenn MacDonald when she says, “This is an opportunity for our diocese to open its heart on so many levels. … We can be a witness to the universal Church. … to bring Christ into their presence in some form.”
For more information on the teens dedicated to spreading the love of Christ in Costa Rica or to donate to their efforts visit www.catholicsonmission.wordpress.com.
For information on the Saint Bryce Foundation visit www.saintbryce.org
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