Parish youth groups reflect on summer service

Youth groups from across the diocese spent time this summer doing service work. Mississippi Catholic asked for reflections and photos from these trips. Following are excerpts from reflections submitted by members of Natchez St. Mary Basilica and Tupelo St. James. All three groups worked with Catholic Heart Work Camps, taking trips to Florida and Tennessee.

On July 17, myself and 26 other teens and seven chaperones from St. Mary Basilica youth group  traveled to Pensacola, Fla., to experience Catholic Heart Work Camp (CHWC).
I had the pleasure of working with young children at a summer day camp in Pensacola playing water games, reading books, learning about science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) and enjoying being with the children. I also learned enough sign language in order to communicate with a hearing impaired little girl. Her brother was proud to teach me their language.
Our group did some work outside at homes. We cut grass, powered washed and painted homes and trimmed bushes; doing anything that needed to be done. The owners were appreciative of the work we did and we were happy to help them even though it was very hot outside. Some of my friends worked at the local food bank sorting, organizing and preparing boxes for distribution.
Elizabeth Smith
Senior at Cathedral High School

I attended Catholic Heart Work Camp this past summer and it proved to be a very inspiring week for me and our entire group. I particularly enjoyed meeting other kids my age and getting a chance to know them and work with them in service of others.
We worked with Habitat for Humanity to help those in need. One part of my week that was most inspiring was helping an elderly lady with a chronic disease. Her story was so touching because she and her husband had worked hard all their lives but had fallen on hard times. Her husband was in a nursing home because she was unable to care for him after he had a stroke.
She suffered from COPD and had been in and out of the hospital and unable to pay her bills. She had lost one home and her current home needed to have grass cut and to be cleaned. Our group helped her clean her home inside and out. She was so proud and thankful. I think we were most inspired by her attitude. Despite all her hardships, she managed such a positive attitude and continued to give to those she considered less fortunate than all she could manage.
Caroline Kaiser
Junior Cathedral School

This year’s camp was a big change for me. A large majority of the people who usually go to CHWC decided not to go this year, so I kind of felt like I was going alone. But thankfully, this gave me a chance to grow close to other members of my youth group who I don’t normally talk to.
The other members of my team were also some of the friendliest, coolest people I’ve ever met and I was blessed to serve the community of Pensacola with them. On a more spiritual level, this year’s Catholic Heart has made me more appreciative of my Catholic faith and the church’s practices.
It also has strengthened my relationship with God and has given me a hopeful attitude of my future with Him. I learned that prayer is such a powerful tool that needs to be used every day of my life. With this being my fifth CHWC, I feel that this year has also convinced me to apply for a staff position when I’m old enough in the next two years.
Randle Haggerty
member of Tupelo St. James Parish

Parish This year for CHWC we went to Pensacola, Fla. Upon arriving at the school we would be staying at, I did not think I would enjoy most of the week. Ending the first day there, I was proven wrong. I found myself opening up to new people and having experiences that I’d never thought I would have with these people.
The community work we did brought us closer to God. It opened my eyes to a whole new meaning of Christ. God brought me closer to people from my own parish that I would have never talked to on my own. I made friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime. Overall this trip has made me more outgoing, understanding and closer to God. I can’t wait to go back again next year.
Julianna Vaughn
member of Tupelo St. James

I loved the entire week at Catholic Heart, but one of my favorite parts about the week was getting to meet new friends from all around the United States. Everyone that I met was really nice and encouraging, and it was cool to meet other Catholic teenagers. I also really liked the Four Corners experience that we had Wednesday evening. I think it was a great way to spend time with God through prayer, talking with others about our faith, and receiving the sacrament of reconciliation.
One thing I learned at Catholic Heart Work Camp was that when you help others with a good attitude, you get more blessings out of your work than the person that you even helped. I know that when we finished working each day, I had such a good feeling inside of me and I wanted to keep serving. I feel like now I am more eager to serve here in our community because it makes me feel so good.
Allison Hanby
member of Tupelo St. James Parish