Reflection By Anna Simmons
Before this year, I had never been on a plane, let alone by myself to a new place without my parents. To say I was nervous to attend Catholic Heart Work Camp (CHWC) was an understatement. Doing new things like this were way out of my comfort zone.
I had no idea what to expect and so many questions. Would the people I would be helping be friendly? Would I really be making an impact? Would I be able to connect with God in the ways I prayed for in all the days leading up to the trip? The answer was a powerful, resounding yes.
Our work in St. Croix consisted of scraping paint, priming and giving an old building a fresh coat of paint. The work was challenging but seeing the looks of pure gratitude and joy on the faces of those who would use it in the future made it worth it. Many of the locals I talked to expressed how much the hurricane shelter meant to them as only two years before Hurricane Maria destroyed the island. It left many devastated and hundreds of people were still trying to recover when we got there almost two years later! To know that helping convert a once unused building into something with a purpose made the work go by very quickly. I wish we could have stayed longer to help even more.
Groups at the camp visited neighborhoods that were still desperately trying to receive help to get over the damage caused to their homes. We were led by Freddie, a maintenance man from the church, who informed us that many of the people we were serving had only just received running water. Many of the homes had tarps for roofs and no air conditioning. Despite this, each home had gorgeous flowers and the residents greeted us with smiling faces and open arms. Needless to say, being able to interact with such a wonderful group of people left everyone with a smile and a much gratitude for what they had at home in their hearts when they left.
In the time when we were not working, we spent time in prayer at a beautiful church, making new friends from around the country and giving glory to God through small acts of kindness within group meetings and mealtimes.
The CHWC experience was inspiring and impactful to everyone. We could all agree that the week taught us patience in waiting on good things to come and to thank God for the things we take for granted. I will never forget my first CHWC trip and the people of St. Croix. The week brought me closer to God and closer to my youth group for which I am truly grateful.
(Anna Simmons is a sophomore at Cathedral High School in Natchez. She is a member of the Emerald Tide dance team, St. Mary’s CYO and volunteers in her spare time.)
Reflection By Parker Murray
My journey with Catholic Heart Work Camp (CHWC) started three years ago when my best friend, Fisher Iseminger, returned from her first CHWC and told me I needed to come on the next trip. I have attended every summer since then.
The camps are a blast; they are filled with fun activities, fun counselors and meaningful Bible lessons. But my favorite part of CHWC is the aspect of service to others. This year for CHWC, we went to St. Croix, Virgin Islands and stayed at a small school, called St. Mary’s.
While in St. Croix, our group worked at three different places. The first was a dilapidated school named St. Dunstan. We scraped and painted the outside of the school and power washed the concrete. The second place we served was a Catholic Church to paint some colorful murals. The third place we aided was a home for the disabled. Our group painted the living room and were able to meet some truly inspiring people there. Because of our large group we were able to get much needed work done very quickly at all of the work sites. This was such an amazing feeling.
After we finished working for the day, we were able to enjoy some free time. Our group of boys went down to the beach and downtown to look around and see what daily living was like. When we did not have enough time to go to the beach or get downtown, we played football and basketball with the other campers from around the U.S.
CHWH has helped me learn more about my faith, while helping others and meeting new people. I plan to continue going to CHWC for as long as I am able and, God willing, be a chaperone for my own children one day. But for now, I am looking forward to finding out where we are going next year!
(Parker Murray is a senior at Cathedral High School in Natchez. He is a member of the Greenwave football team and member of St. Mary’s CYO.)
Back to school Masses
GREENWOOD – St. Francis of Assisi School celebrated the feast of the Assumption of the Bless Virgin Mary and the beginning of a new school year at Mass on Aug. 15. Father Cam Janas, OFM presided at the liturgy and delivered the homily with a play, in which the fifth and sixth graders took part. The question asked was “what was it like when Mary entered heaven?” (Photos courtesy of Cherrie Criss)
NATCHEZ – Cathedral school first grader Annie Maxwell and senior Olivia Waycaster walking in to the traditional Opening School Mass at St. Mary Basilica (Photos by Cara Moody Serio)
GREENVILLE – Father Tom Mullaly during the Mass of the Holy Spirit with Bishop Kopacz at St. Joseph school. (Photos by Nikki Thompson )
MADISON – St. Joseph school during the Mass of the Holy Spirit on Thursday, Aug. 29. (Photos by Terry Cassreino)
Students dash into new school year
VICKSBURG – (Above) Fifth grade students are ready to R U N at Vicksburg Catholic School’s third annual Flash Dash! (Photo by Lindsey Bradley)
NATCHEZ – On Aug. 18, 10-12 graders gathered at 6 a.m. in front of the St. Mary Basilica Family Life Center for the annual “Freshman Welcome” or “Initiation” of freshman members into the Youth group. Members load up in a bus to travel to the homes of the new freshmen to surprise them and pick them up for a special pancake breakfast prepared by parents at the Family Life Center. The seniors tie-dye special shirts for the new youth group members to wear to the breakfast after being “kidnapped.”After breakfast, students head over to 10 a.m. Mass at St. Mary Basilica. This year over 40 students participated in the event. (Photo by Carrie Lambert)
Mass was full not just grandparents, but also parents and friends. (Photos by tereza ma)
MERIDIAN – Recently the Catholic Youth of Meridian participated in Love out Loud, a week long mission event where local churches come together to serve the people of Meridian. Youth and adults volunteered their time in various ways, such as completing random acts of kindness, visiting nursing homes, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Care Lodge, Hope Village and various schools. Catholic student representatives included Jekalah Keyes, J’Nae Keyes, Carter Eakes, Edwar Hernandez, Macarena Frias, Elena Stroot, Aaliyahmarie Nance, Zemaree Hampton, Wes Pritchard, Zane Pritchard, Reed Gorgas, Ryann Gorgas, Star Cayer, Alana Frias, Miller Hodge, Tom Tom Nguyen, Cassandra Klutz, Hannah Kidd and Sha Hare.Adults who helped included Marvin Nance, Edna Blanks, Ginny Parsons, Liz Bartlett, Janet Reece and Catrina Kidd.
The highlight of the service week was on Wednesday, July 17 when 15 youth and four adults worked at St. Patrick School painting in the main hallway, the cafeteria and in the Pre-K4 classroom.
All together more than 25 churches and over 600 volunteers brought the love of Jesus around the community of Meridian.
CORINTH – St. James Parish, July 19-20. Teachers and kids playing on church grounds during the “Summer School Vacation with Jesus” program. (Photos by Luis Rosales)
Sacred Heart students complete renovation Service Project
By Laura Grisham
SOUTHAVEN – During the first week of June, Sacred Heart Southern Missions (SHSM) was blessed to welcome The Catholic Service Initiative (CSI) for Young Men. Three young men from the six parishes in North Mississippi served by the priests of the Sacred Heart arrived Sunday evening along with their chaperones (and parish DREs), Vickie Stirek and Donna Williamson, to assist on a number of projects. The youth were Michael Marking from Hernando Holy Spirit parish, Alexander Najera and Alex Castro from Southaven Christ the King parish.
Their first stop was at the home of Willie and Thomas. The elderly couple has been on the SHSM project list for a while, but Willie says it was worth the wait. The bathroom at the couple’s home had several issues, starting with a crack in their bathtub. Thankfully this was remedied by a volunteer team earlier this spring.
Next on the agenda was the rotten flooring and dilapidated vanity. Alexander Najera, Michael Marking and Alex Castro jumped in, under the leadership of jobsite foreman Paul Smith, to install a new sink and vanity and lay a new tile floor in place of the peeling linoleum.
Moving just a few miles down the road, the young men made quick work of some minor repairs to a wheelchair ramp for Joy. Next on the list, Alexander, Michael and Alex widened the front door of Robert’s mobile home. Robert can now guide his wheelchair in and out without difficulty.
But it was not all work and no play for the retreat participants. Father Quang Nguyen, SCJ, vice provincial superior and director of the province vocation office, spoke to the teens about vocation choices on their first evening.
A Wednesday evening respite of swimming rejuvenated the young men for the week’s work. The experience for them culminated at the Garden Café on Thursday, where the guys cooked, served and cleaned up after the evening meal in Holly Springs.
Many people have signed up to spend time in the Mississippi Delta with Sacred Heart Southern Missions’ Volunteer Program. By the time this is printed, CSI Young Women from the Sacred Heart parishes and St. John’s from Milwaukee, will be hard at work on home rehab projects and helping with other mission activities. At least nine more volunteer groups are scheduled through the first week of August.
(Laura Grisham is the Public Relations Coordinator for Sacred Heart Southern Missions. Full client names and locations are kept private out of respect.)
Blood drive at West Point
WEST POINT – On Wednesday, May 29, the youth group from Immaculate Conception Parish hosted a blood drive in their parish hall. (l-r) Michelle Aguda; Dominic Borgioli, first-time donor and youth group member, and Jack Elliott III, in the background, donate blood. Parishioner Cathy Johnson and Interim CYO advisor Penny Elliott coordinated the project with the young people. Johnson said she worked on similar projects in her previous parish. Prior to donation day, the young people recruited donors and helped spread the word about the event within the community. (Photo courtesy of Cathy Johnson)
St. Patrick youth take on liturgical roles
Vacation Bible School at St. Jude Parish
PEARL – St. Jude pastor Father Lincoln Dall celebrated a childrens’ Mass during the parish Vacation Bible School in June, in photos above, attendees enjoyed snow cones after some fun outdoor and indoor activities. (Photos by Rhonda Bowden and Stacy Wolf)
By Christina Leslie
METUCHEN, N.J. (CNS) – Though 13-year-old Christopher Serrao studied long, complicated and obscure words for hours on end to win a prestigious spelling bee, the most important word in his arsenal had just five letters: F-A-I-T-H.
Christopher, a resident of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, and member of the town’s Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, joined seven other contestants in taking home a trophy and $50,000 grand prize May 30 in the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland.
A seventh-grade student at Readington Middle School, he had been inspired by his older sister, Danielle, to compete in the annual test of knowledge and endurance.
Studying word roots and language patterns two to three hours daily, and longer on weekends, helped enlarge his vocabulary and sharpen his spelling acumen, but Christopher relied upon his faith to get him into the winner’s circle.
“When I was nervous, I said a prayer to God and would hold the cross in my hand. I also wore a rosary around my neck,” Christopher told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen.
Christopher said his pastor, Father Leonard F. A. Rusay, “told the congregation that I was in the contest and had everyone pray for me.”
Christopher is a member of the parish choir and a lector. Danielle is a cantor and sang the national anthem at the spelling bee the day Christopher competed.
Daily 8 a.m. Mass on competition days in nearby St. Columba Church in Oxon Hill, Maryland, also reinforced his faith. “They were really nice,” he said. “The congregation prayed for me. The community was really supportive.”
This is the third time Christopher qualified for the national competition. He finished in 34th place last year. He and the other seven “octo-champions” survived 20 rounds of competition, 12 of them in the evening. He spelled “cernuous,” (which means pendulous or nodding), before being declared one of the eight winners.
With the money he won, Christopher plans to “maybe buy a dog, but save the rest for college.” But the lessons he said he learned throughout the whirlwind experience were just as important: to be calm, how to study and how to deal with the media. Then, he returned to that all-important word: faith.
“My win is a reaffirmation of the power of prayers,” he said. “When the odds were against me, I knew faith in Jesus and prayers would help me overcome any obstacle.”
“We are proud of the effort Christopher put in and the gracious God-loving attitude he has displayed throughout,” said his father, Dominic.
“We didn’t expect him to win, even though we knew he would place well. We truly believe that his feat was a miracle that can only be attributed to God. We believe with God all things are possible and this has reaffirmed our faith.”
“This journey began seven years ago with our daughter, Danielle,” said his mother, Matilda. “There were a lot more downs than ups along the way.
“However, our faith carried us through. This win has strengthened our faith even more and that our God is the one that makes impossible things possible.”
(Leslie is a reporter at The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen.)
AMORY St. Helen, Team Jesus, July 14-16, 5 – 7:30 p.m. for grades K-6 in conjunction with First Presbyterian Church at St. Helen. Details: church office (662) 256-8392.
BROOKHAVEN St. Francis, Cathletics, July 21-24, 6-8 p.m. Snack provided. Details: Erin Womack at the church office (601) 833-1799.
CLARKSDALE St. Elizabeth, June 17-21, 8 a.m. – noon for children leaving Pre-3 through fifth grade. Details: church office (662) 624-4301or www.vbspro.events/p/stelizabethclarksdale.com
HERNANDO Holy Spirit, June 17-21, 6-7:30 p.m. Details: Allison Baskin at (901) 409-1038.
JACKSON St. Therese, June 24-28, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. with lunch at noon. Closing Mass Friday, June 28 at 11 a.m. followed by lunch. Details: church office (601) 372-4481.
MERIDIAN Catholic community of St. Joseph and St. Patrick, July 22-25, 5:30 – 7 p.m. for grades K – fifth. Details: (601) 693-1321.
NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, ROAR! Totally Catholic, July 15-19, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. for Children PreK 3 (potty trained) – fifth grade at the Family Life Center. Must turn in registration form by June 24 to be guaranteed a t-shirt and deadline for turning in application form for attendance is July 9. Details: Melissa Johnson firstname.lastname@example.org or the church office (601) 445-5616.
YAZOO CITY St. Mary, Friday, July 19, 5:30 – 7:15 p.m. and Saturday, July 20, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Details: church office (662) 746-1680.