St. James Parish Youth Mission: Serving as Christ served

STOUGHTON -- For the past few years, the youth of St. James Parish in Stoughton have given up part of their summer vacation to help people in other parts of the country, including Mississippi and New York. This year they decided that there is work to be done here at home.

The annual St. James Parish Mission kicked off this year on June 28. On the first day of the mission each of the 50 teens ranging in age from 13 to 18 received a workbook where they were asked to record both their thoughts and where they saw Christ during the mission.

A quote by Winston Churchill on the cover of the workbook captured the theme of the mission: “We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.”

Sleeping for six days in the lower level of the church, the teens’ days began with 7:00 a.m. Mass followed by breakfast. They were then sent off in groups, with 14 adult volunteers, to serve the community by doing different projects around the town.

Julia Quattrucci, 15, who participated on the mission for the first time, expressed her excitement at staying in Stoughton.

“We are doing something for our neighbors and we can see the work that we have done everyday,” she said.

Projects included mowing lawns, gardening, yard cleanup, building a handicap ramp, building a brick patio, painting, repairing houses, and constructing a walking Stations of the Cross on the parish grounds, according to Jeanne Vandenberg, a group leader.

After a day of service, the teens returned to the church for dinner, some down time and evening activities.

Activities included writing affirmation papers, according to Ann Marie Collins, a volunteer.

She explained that each teen and adult wrote his or her name on a piece of paper and posted it on the wall. Everyday all were encouraged to write something positive about others.

Affirmation papers started at the beginning of the mission and at its conclusion were given to each person to take home.

The nights concluded with a prayer service led by one of the five youth groups.

On June 30, the prayer service was led by the group known as “M Cubed” short for “the Master Guns and the Mandarin Maniacs.”

They created a skit about service, sang a song and reflected on their day’s experience focusing on the question “Where did you see Christ today?”

Kevin Richard, 15, spoke about the hospitality of a woman that the group had done work for earlier in the day.

“She bought (us) food to show her appreciation for the work that we had done,” he said.

During the mission one of the young adult leaders, Erin Klim, spoke to the youth about service and how to continue after the mission was over.

“You do not have to go 1,500 miles and build a house. You can start here and you can start now. You can do it all day, every day,” she said.

The mission took place under the leadership of St. James pastor, Father John E. Kelly and religious education program director, Mary Ann Caldwell.

Father Kelly encouraged other parishes to try and have their own youth mission to serve other communities.

“You can see what we have done here. Do not be afraid to do it yourself.”