Programs apply to family, community
For Kim and Jeremy Pichler and their two children, members of St. Anthony Parish in Columbus, archdiocesan summer programs such as "Love Begins Here" are more than service and evangelization efforts for individual youths and the community – they impact life at home.
"They help us grow in our faith, and they help us form bonds together," Kim said of church involvement by their son, Simon, who will be a freshman, and daughter, Julia, who will be a junior, both at Scotus Central Catholic High School in Columbus.
Last year, Simon participated in the inaugural "Love Begins Here" four-day, three-night mission trip of service and evangelization in West Point. He repeated the experience at this year’s June 4-7 program for youths entering sixth to ninth grades from rural areas of the archdiocese, joining about 20 others in West Point.
And the program is expanding this year to include rural high school youths, with about 20 students gathering June 11-16 to help meet needs on the Winnebago Indian Reservation through St. Augustine Parish in Winnebago.
In West Point, the junior high students helped the elderly clean their homes and yards, visited people in nursing homes and senior centers and participated in group activities.
Simon said the experiences opened his eyes to other people’s needs, in the community and around his own home. Suddenly last year, he found himself taking the trash out, carrying laundry to the washer and dryer, walking the family dog, Gunner, and doing other chores without complaint, and helping neighbors pick up branches or other debris in their yards.
"I do them more willingly now," he said of his chores.
Simon and Julia also are involved in the Godparents program at St. Anthony Parish, and Julia has participated in Quest, J.C. (Jesus Christ) Camp, and trips to faith conferences for youths sponsored by Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio.
This year, Julia and Simon will be attending a Steubenville conference together in Springfield, Mo., with about 700 other people from the archdiocese July 14-16, in a trip organized by the archdiocese’s Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.
And their mother, who has been home and school president for St. Anthony School and a volunteer at the parish festival, will be a chaperone – although not of her own children.
"Even though we’ll be in separate groups, we’ll share the same experiences, so when we get back we can share and talk about them," Kim said.
Having families share such summer experiences and parishes provide programs that support the archdiocese’s summer efforts is important, because they are not intended to be one-time, stand-alone projects, said Jen Moser, coordinator of youth ministry in the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.
"Whenever possible, we like adults to share the experiences and bring them back and help their children, and other kids, too," Moser said. "We encourage adult leaders to work with young people on a regular basis ... How do you bring this home?"
MORE SUMMER OPTIONS
"Love Begins Here" service retreats and trips to Steubenville faith conferences are just two of several summer programs for youths organized by the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.
Camp Vertus et Veritas, July 23-29 at Camp Kateri Tekakwitha in McCool Junction, Neb. Fifty-two boys entering sixth through ninth grades this fall will attend this year’s camp, which includes swimming, archery, daily Mass and eucharistic adoration, Bible study, altar serving training and more.
Youth Serve, three sessions at St. Columban Retreat Center in Bellevue for students entering eighth and ninth grades. An integrated approach to service learning and social justice from a Catholic perspective. June 25-27, July 16-18, July 23-25, $140 per person, including adults. Participants must register through a parish.
Catholic Leadership Institute, Aug. 3-6, helps high school youth grow as disciples of Christ and Catholic leaders among their peers through hospitality, communication and leadership skills. At Roncalli Catholic High School in Omaha, $190 a person, adults attend free, with a July 19 registration deadline (forms available on the archdiocese’s website archomaha.org) through the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, Mercy Hall, 3300 N. 60th St., Omaha.