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New mission experience helps students encounter God in service

Sharing God’s love through evangelization and service to others – that’s the goal of a summer pilot program for rural middle school students.

"Love Begins Here" is a four-day, three-night mission experience for students entering seventh through ninth grades in the fall, said Jen Moser, coordinator of youth ministry for the archdiocese.

Developed to offer rural middle school students a faith formation opportunity similar to others offered in the Omaha area, the new program is modeled on one developed in 2009 by the diocese of Madison, Wis., and inspired by Blessed Teresa of Kolkata’s devotion to prayer and service, Moser said.

During the July 17-20 event at St. Mary Parish in West Point, up to 25 students will help area residents with outdoor maintenance projects, assist or visit people at senior centers and nursing homes, and participate in group activities, Moser said. They will stay at parish and Catholic school facilities.

"Love Begins Here focuses on evangelizing youth by teaching them to pray and helping them develop a spirituality of mission embodied by Blessed Mother Teresa," Moser said.

"Our goal is to have participants walk away having developed a concrete sense of what it means to be ‘missionary disciples’ in their own homes and communities, as Pope Francis has inspired us to do," Moser said.

Moser said she will help lead the program with Lisa Hunke, St. Mary youth minister and a rural regional youth coordinator for the archdiocese, and several young adult staff. Father James Keiter will serve as chaplain for the group. Father Keiter also is pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Fordyce, St. Joseph Parish in Constance and St. Boniface Parish in Menominee, and a teacher at Cedar Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Hartington.

Cost is $100, including food, lodging, program materials and a T-shirt, and financial assistance is available. For more information or to register, visit archomaha.org/events/conferences/love-begins-here/.

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