By Joanna Puddister King
NATCHEZ – In past summers you could find youth from around the country taking part in the annual Catholic Heart WorkCamp, but this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic many youth were sidelined from the service projects that brought them to much needed communities near and far that need help. But the St. Mary Basilica Natchez CYO group did not let it get them down, they found projects in their own hometown to tackle.
Between July 20 and July 31, 2020, groups of CYO members and adult sponsors worked to beautify the outdoor areas of Cathedral School and the yards of six elderly and homebound parishioners as well as help with a local Habitat for Humanity project.
Youth director, Carrie Lambert said, “This felt like it had more of a spiritual impact on the teens than going out of town to a work camp because the youth knew the people they were working for, asked questions about Habitat, and really felt like they had accomplished something and were appreciated when they were done.”
“They feel this way at Catholic Heart as well, but when the smiles looking back at you are from people you know – you’re touched in a different way.”
Bonding is a big part of mission trips, like those taken through Catholic Heart WorkCamp. Last year, the youth spent time in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, working to beautify schools and churches damaged by Category 5 Hurricane Maria in Sept. 2017. After working, the youth enjoyed the beach and the sights of island life.
This year, the youth bonding experience was still special even though work was only completed in their own hometown.
“I loved watching the team work, the leadership and the hard work my teens put into this camp. I am so very proud of what they did and their attitudes while they were doing it.,” said Lambert.
“We at St. Mary are so blessed by the number of adults and parents who volunteer their time and energy to work alongside our teens throughout the year. The overall experience ended up feeling a bit like traveling on the Road to Emmaeus – feeling like we were accompanying one another and finding Christ in what we were doing and He was working there alongside us.”
Going forward the CYO will pair up with the Knights of Columbus for work days during the year.
“The main theme of our youth programs is ‘Faith in Action,’” said Lambert.
“Doing work for people simply because you want to help someone out is a wonderful way to put your ‘faith in action.’”