2 Trips 1 Mission: The SJXXIII Youth Group Gives Back
By: Meghan McCarthy, Youth Minister
Each summer the youth at St. John XXIII have the opportunity to participate in the St. John XXIII summer mission trips. It’s an opportunity for the teens to see and experience a little more of what is happening in the world around them.
In June, The Middle School Youth Group spent their fifth year in Jacksonville, Florida with the Just 5 Days service program. Just 5 Days, as it sounds, is a five day mission trip designed to introduce the teens to service trips. For most of the attendees, it was the first trip they made away from their families. During the day, the teens worked in the community at worksites. They sorted cans at local food banks, organized items at second hand stores, painted homes, picked up garbage, assisted in low-income community summer school programs and pulled weeds at local farms. All the places the teens worked are non-profits that provide services to those in need. In the evenings, the teens joined with other Middle School Youth Groups from all over the country for learning activities, prayer and liturgy. They also have some social time to get to know new friends, and build closer relationships with those they came with.DOWNLOAD THE BULLETIN
The High School Youth Group visited New Orleans for the third time with our host, Operation Nehemiah. The teens spend nine days experiencing poverty and the destruction that lingered 10 years after Hurricane Katrina. The teens worked with Operation Nehemiah, run by Fred and Dee Franke. The group started 10 years ago, after the hurricane, and is one of the few still running today. Nehemiah has a furniture bank the teens helped stock and moved hundreds of pieces of furniture. The teens have helped rehab several local houses, a church and a couple of schools. During the nine days, the teens also enjoyed some of the attractions of New Orleans. We toured the French Quarter and City Park, visited a sugar cane plantation, listened to local music, Cajun dancing, and enjoyed the local food.
The service weeks connect the teens to God and the world around them in a hands-on way. They get to experience the lives of others and share in both their suffering and joy. Every year, the teens fulfill the call to ‘do good works’ and with the support of our parish, will continue to do so for years to come.
A special thanks to those who have made our trip possible, including: Operation Nehemiah, Just 5 Days, Ro-Lin Van Rentals, donations from the Knights of Columbus and the Lenten collection, and all those who gave to the M&M Mission fundraiser.
Quotes from the youth:
“The most impactful part of the mission trip was hearing Fred’s story and how he has given so much of his time and money to those in need. When I was doing work at his warehouse, I was able to help load a trailer full of furniture for a family. The furniture was in pretty good shape and he was giving it to them for such a low price that he was not making an actual profit from it. He has given so much that it is beginning to hinder him. He is very near to losing his home and I pray that he finds a way to keep it.” – Ryan Vance
“The New Orleans mission trip is a great experience for anyone who is willing to help. This was my first year on this trip, but I’ve always loved Just 5 Days, so I decided to upgrade to the high school mission trip. The New Orleans trip is for high schoolers because of the work we go through, but it’s amazing to do. It’s a great experience- for multiple reasons- it’s helping the ones in need, you get to travel, and it’s a fantastic learning experience. We were there from the 18th to the 26th of July. You are away from home for a bit, but you have plenty of time to contact your parents or loved ones. On the week days we would get up and head to our work site until Aaron and Meghan or Freddy (our host) told us we were done for the day. After, we’d shower and head out to eat and do an evening activity such as desserts, dancing, or a picnic. We toured the city and the French Quarter on both Saturday. All the food is very good and it was a great chance to try some new foods. Everyone on the trip is very friendly, so you won’t have to worry about being left out. Aaron and Meghan are great leaders who you can ask any question you have and you know they genuinely care. The other volunteers you get to know on the long drive there, so by the time we got there everyone was buddies. They’re people that you can laugh with and just have a great time with because they’re nice and inviting. I’d like to thank everyone that made my great experience possible. I’m looking forward to going next year because there is always more people to help.” – Alyssa Peters
“On this year’s mission trip to New Orleans, we had the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with Operation Nehemiah. We helped rearrange their warehouse and painted bed frames so they could provide more furniture to those in the community who are still in need. I’m grateful that we are given the chance to go to New Orleans to help out the community because this enabled us to impact other people’s lives, while making friendships that wouldn’t have been possible without this trip.” – Nicole Kostera
“Going to New Orleans for the first time with my youth group was a great experience for me. The youth group was a great way to experience and learn more about my faith and through this trip, I was certainly able to do that. Volunteering in the area made me feel a lot more confident and that I could make a difference in an area that needed our help. We were also able to experience amazing sights and sounds that we normally couldn’t experience in Florida. This trip made my summer and relationship with my church stronger and happier.” -Amanda Collins
“My trip to New Orleans was really quite nice. We helped out in a warehouse, where we organized furniture and also loaded some, too. Along with that, we helped around someone’s house. Although it wasn’t all work, each day after we worked we would head out into the town for some sort of activity. Five of the seven days we were there we worked. The first and last full day there was just us exploring the town. Even though we were working most of the time it was loads of fun doing everything. We did many great things and it was absolutely an amazing trip and will definitely go again next year.” – Josh Peters