By Ken Downey | Correspondent
Since early November, youth ministries in four of the Diocese’s parishes have been working hard to ensure that impoverished children will have a merry Christmas.
“It’s just kind of unfathomable that a kid would get only one gift or no gifts at all come Christmastime,” said Andrew Scala, youth ministry coordinator in St. David the King Parish, West Windsor.
Teens from Scala’s group, as well as youth from Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, Hamilton; St. Isaac Jogues Parish, Marlton, and St. John Neumann Parish, Mount Laurel, participated in “Box of Joy,” a program of the nonprofit Cross Catholic Outreach that collects gifts for impoverished children.
Thanks to donations from the teens’ families, the youth collected toys, crayons and other items a child would enjoy waking up to on Christmas morning. The shoebox-sized packages will be sent to children in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
“During Christmastime, we tend to think about the people closest to us; we never really give much thought to people out in other countries who are also celebrating Christmas but do not have the means of giving gifts to their families,” said Melanie Blaszczak, youth ministry coordinator in the parishes of St. Isaac Jogues and St. John Neumann. “This program gave me the ability to share this idea with the teens and their families. They all responded generously by donating gifts and their time to come help make the boxes so one child somewhere in the world can have a gift this Christmas.”
Teens who participated in the program spent their youth ministry meetings packing the individual boxes. The generosity from the teens and their families was astonishing, the youth ministers said.
Leonidas Aliaga, youth ministry coordinator in Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, called the experience memorable. “We had about 15 kids packing boxes with things, including prayers. They had a lot of fun packing them, too, even though sometimes we don’t know the fruit of our works.”
On Dec. 9, Scala, Blaszczak and Aliaga delivered the boxes to Our Lady of Peace Church, New Providence, which was collecting the donations.
“It’s incredible to see people come together,” Aliaga said. “One of the things that brings me a lot of joy was being able to help organize this [and] to see the joy [the teens] get from participating in this.”
Blaszczak agreed, saying, “This program is a rally cry to every family to give someone else a chance to feel the joy and love of Christmas.”
“Jesus always said, ‘Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me,’ so by giving these little boxes, we impact lives by sending our love and prayers to them from thousands of miles away. Isn’t it great that someone somewhere in this vast world is thinking about these kids who have nothing, let alone praying for them,” she said.