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Young people help others on Florida service trip

By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
(Email Renee)

High school students from parishes in Sibley and Cherokee put their faith into action this summer by serving others.

According to Christy Funk, DRE and youth minister at St. Andrew Parish of Sibley, 14 youth from her parish and another four from Immaculate Conception in Cherokee participated in a service trip July 6-12 in Jacksonville, Fla. There were five adult chaperones from Sibley and one from Cherokee who also made the trip.

The youth, she said, like to help others and “do something hands-on with their faith. It’s what Jesus calls us to do. By serving others, it will bring them closer to God.”

The trip was part of Catholic Heart Workcamp. This was the parish’s sixth or seventh service trip through the organization. CHWC provides parish youth groups, teens and adult leaders service opportunities to restore homes, feed the hungry, offer assistance to partner social agencies and lift the spirits of children, the elderly and disabled. Thousands of youth from hundreds of parishes throughout the country participate in the program every summer, working in numerous cities across the nation.

“All of the kids are split up – they don’t stay in the group they go with. They work with other youth from throughout the United States,” said Funk. “Some kids may go to a house to help clean, paint or whatever needs to be done. Other kids may work in a low-income daycare center, nursing home or food shelter. One group helped sort clothes that were delivered to a nonprofit organization.”

Arriving on a Sunday, they work Monday through Thursday and have a fun day on Friday.

For Burke Newman, a parishioner at St. Andrew’s, this is his second service trip through Catholic Heart Camp. The last trip was three years ago in Austin, Texas.

“Originally I went because my older brother was going and it seemed like a lot of fun, but after helping a lot of people there and seeing how it changed their lives, I wanted to do it again – be a servant of God,” said the high school junior, who called service his Christian duty.

During this year’s trip, Newman said he worked on fixing and painting houses in an impoverished area of Jacksonville.

“We tried to make the community a better place to live in,” he noted. “The people were very appreciative - my residents in particular. The man of the house had cancer, so most of their money had gone to getting him treatment for that.”

Laurie Dreier, 6-12 grade DRE and youth minister at Immaculate Conception, was a chaperone for the trip. She noted the youth from Cherokee are all going into the eighth grade.

“They were so hard working and really exceeded my expectations,” she said. “It is something that is appropriate and doable for that age group.”

This was Dreier’s first experience with the Catholic Heart Workcamp and she was very impressed with the organization.

Having opportunities to put faith into action, she added, is important. The youth minister spoke about the two footprints – faith and then putting it into action.

“You need both feet. Learning about your faith, being evangelized and fed by the sacraments, but you can’t stand only on that leg – you need to put that other foot down a walk,” Dreier said.

For Megan Brown, an eighth grade parishioner at Immaculate Conception, she went on the trip because she thought it might be fun and she wanted to help people.

“I got to experience what other people’s lives are like,” she said. “I also learned how lucky my family is and how my town and community is compared to other communities’ conditions. It was a good experience to help them. I learned a lot and met a lot of new friends.”

On the trip she worked at two homes and helped to fold clothes at a center.

In addition to the work, another valuable part of the trip was the spiritual component. Every night, Mass was celebrated and they prayed the rosary. There were also opportunities for adoration and confession.

“It was really nice to be able to go to Mass every night,” said Newman, who noted the spiritual activities helped to build up his faith.

While the Sibley parish typically organizes a service trip every other year, Funk said they would like to organize another trip next summer and this time she and Dreier want to open it up to other parishes in the diocese. They charter a bus, so having a full load makes it more cost-effective.

“We would like to make it a yearly event,” Funk said. Information will be forthcoming through diocesan updates.

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