Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Aug
  • 31

Youth Samaritans

Posted By August 31, 2012 | 1:00 pm | Lead Story #2

By Father Donald C. Ouellette

What would youth from Millbury’s Catholic parishes, adult coordinators, service projects, reflection times, fun moments and Anna Maria College all have in common?
It would be a great experience of service, faith and Christian formation that took place Aug. 6 through 10 in a program called Catholic Samaritans At Work.  The nature of the program is one of serving at some of our area’s social and charitable organizations, while reflecting on how these experiences shape and develop one’s Catholic faith.
Greg Bernard, director of youth ministry at St. Brigid’s Parish and coordinator of CSAW, Jill Palmisano, Chelsea Palmisano, and I assumed adult leadership during the week.  The home base was South Hall, a dormitory building at Anna Maria College.
After morning prayer, the entire group was dispatched to various sites: St. John’s Soup Kitchen, St. Peter’s Food Pantry, Abby’s House and Mercy Centre in Worcester, the Community Harvest Project at Brigham Hill Farm in Grafton, Worcester County Food Bank in Shrewsbury, and domestic projects for some of the parish’s elderly in Millbury.
Serving meals and doing kitchen work at St. John’s, helping with the distribution of food at St. Peter’s, helping clean the dining room and pantry at Abby’s House, relating to and playing with the individuals who are developmentally disabled at the Mercy Centre, working at the Community Harvest Project by harvesting cabbage and eggplants and removing plastic coverings at crop sites, touring the Worcester Country Food Bank, and helping parishioners with moving, cleaning, and yard work all made for a most productive and rewarding week.
One highlight was that some of the very crops  which were picked by our group in Grafton were destined for the Worcester County Food Bank.  It was great for the kids to see that connection.
At the end there was a Mass at St. Brigid, a pot luck supper organized by Cathy Smith (mother of participants Maggie and Tim) and a great slide show of the week.
Combined with fun activities and a day’s end reflection about connecting one’s experiences with one’s faith, the total experience was quite memorable.
Mr. Bernard, founder of the program, maintains that this experience helps continue the mission of youth ministry within our church.
“CSAW provides our youth an opportunity to say ‘yes’ to God’s call to serve,” he said. “Each of these young people voluntarily gives up a full week of their summer and takes action to serve those in need in our local community. None of them do this to fulfill any kind of volunteer or service requirements. They’re a refreshingly selfless and hard working group of kids.”
The youth who participated echoed Mr. Bernard’s enthusiasm.     Nick Bisceglia said that he was open to the experience and marveled how anyone can do a little, and it can help so many people in such a short time.
Shannon West and Allie Dyberg both indicated that CSAW helped bring the group closer to one another and to God, and that it was a fun and fulfilling experience.
Liz Moseley offered an observation that helping people who have less helped her appreciate the little things she has.
Peter Murray, a person who likes to organize, liked the fact that he could help organize at the food pantry.
Pat Hafferty enjoyed working on the farm and saw that the staff there really appreciated the group’s and his contributions.
Jenny Quan loved that the group was able to reconnect with the church, God, and her family, while helping individuals in the larger community.
As a priest at St. Brigid’s and Assumption, and one who fully participated in all the activities, I found the week to be exceptional.  The kids were terrific.  The adult leadership was wonderful.  On so many levels, our kids and adults were able to sample some of the church’s and larger community’s ministries and services, and to see beyond their normal parameters of friends, family, neighborhoods, school, work and routines.
I also sensed that they were better able to understand themselves, use their gifts and witness to their faith, acknowledging a relationship between service and faith.  It was great to see how their faith became tangible and to hear how they saw God each day.
Based on the positive experience this summer, early August of 2013 promises to be another great experience.

– Father Ouellette is associate pastor at St. Brigid and Our Lady of the Assumption parishes, Millbury.