Admiring young people’s desire to serve

One of the muscles in my hip is talking back to me today. Sometimes the twinge of pain (never severe!) makes me wince; at other times, I smile at the hurt. The wince is born of pain; the smile, from the memory of its origin.

The pain comes from my decision to sit on the floor with a group of teenagers from Transfiguration Parish in Pittsford. The 12 high-schoolers are participating in an Immersion Week in Community and Community Service sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester Volunteer Corps.

Based at the former convent of St. Boniface Parish the teens, under the guidance of the sisters, spend their days at ministry sites in the city of Rochester. In the evening they return to St. Boniface to share the evening meal together. Following the meal and cleanup they gather to pray and to share the experience of the day. They are invited to talk about what they did, the people they met, what they learned, what it meant to them and how it all spoke to, challenged or strengthened their faith.

On the first day they visit as a group all of the sites at which they’ll serve through the week. After that first day they are assigned to serve in pairs at one of the sites for the remainder of the week. The places of ministry include Bethany House, Mary’s Place, St. Martin’s Place, St. Peter’s Kitchen, Morningstar and Daystar. During the week they will be at the service of — and will learn a great deal from — women in need of safety and support, the hungry, fragile children and infants, and refugees from other nations.

Sharing the first evening’s meal and sitting on the floor with these maturing teens allowed me the privilege of hearing from them why they decided to do the immersion experience. Some were attracted by the opportunity to experience community living with peers; others wanted to find out about urban life; some just wanted to make a difference. All in some fashion or other related their decision to faith and/or the desire to learn more about life and themselves. Two of the girls said they had done it before and returned because they found the experience to be "a life changing one." Pretty powerful words, don’t you think?

I have been keeping the sisters and the teens in my prayers since that wonderful evening. I have no doubt that the experiences of the week will be a grace for each of them. One can never offer loving service to another — especially of sister or brother in need — without encountering the Lord. I have little doubt that, as they share their experiences with one another in their evening reflection sessions, they will all acknowledge that, although they came to serve, they received much more than they gave.

I want to express my admiration to the young people for their generosity in devoting a week of summer vacation to community, prayer and the service of others. No less do I wish to express my gratitude to the Sisters of St. Joseph for providing such a rich opportunity to our beloved young friends.

Peace to all.

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