Teens from the St. Pius X Parish, Forked River, high school youth ministry put their faith into action during a week-long mission trip to aid the economically disadvantaged this June. The nine teens and their four adult chaperones participated in the June 17 to 22 Catholic Heart Workcamp session in Lancaster, P.A., performing acts of charity and elbow grease for the economically depressed area.
The New Jersey based teens joined with over 1800 other youth from around the country to perform service projects for the area’s senior citizens. The youth formed work teams with teens from Minnesota, North Carolina and West Virginia to paint home interiors, chop trees, weed gardens, and wash windows for seniors; another group built a duck pond at a local cloisters.
“It was a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun, too,” recalled Jeanne Easton, coordinator of Youth Ministry for St. Pius X Parish, as she described the camaraderie that formed between the new friends as they toiled side by side. The long day of physical labor was supplemented by daily Mass, Rosary recitation and other faith-centered activities.
After the work day was done, the teens assembled in the Catholic high school for communal meals and to dance and sing with Christian musicians, perform skits and give testimony to their faith before lights out for an evening spent on an air mattress in a classroom. “The last night, the seniors they helped came,” Easton remembered. “They came in crying; they gave [the teens] all hugs.”
The Catholic Heart Workcamp program was founded in 1993 by youth ministers from Winter Park, Fla. as an alternative to secular youth work camps. Easton declared, “It was wonderful. All the events were geared towards our faith. The teens really formed a bond with the other teens and the people they served.”
The St. Pius X teen team consisted of Meghan Easton, Jade Gunshefski, Gabe Knipp, Dan McAvoy, Brenna Nelson, Jared Phillips, Jackie Rice, Barry Timony and Regan Traxinger. Despite the hard work in 95-degree temperatures, they were enthusiastic about the week’s labors. “They were transformed in that one six-day experience,” said Jeanne Easton. “On the way home, they all asked when they could go back.”