By Therese Barenz
“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you?” Eighteen teens from St. Mary Parish in Solon asked themselves this question before they embarked on a mission trip July 10-15 to serve the less fortunate. The volunteer experience, provided by Franciscans for The Poor in Cincinnati, allowed the teens to share their time and talents.
After accompanying a youth group from the Riverside area last summer, Andrew Barenz was excited to return with a group from his own parish this year. The teens lived in a community setting and ministered to the underprivileged through various service projects including: working with Cincinnati Housing Partners, providing sandwiches to the homeless, cleaning and preparing apartments for the homeless to live in, working in a food pantry, and visiting with physically and mentally disabled individuals.
One of the highlights was listening to a formerly homeless man share his story. He described what it was like to be homeless and how hurtful it was to be ignored. He explained that simple measures such as looking homeless people in the eye, smiling and acknowledging them shows the compassion they desperately need.
Living without air conditioning, computers or iPods and sharing household duties nurtured new and existing friendships. Work was mixed with fun in the form of salsa dancing on the Square, a picnic with a scavenger hunt and supper with the Franciscan Sisters. By sharing the Good News, the teens grew spiritually and emotionally. Some of their comments were:
“It made me step out of my comfort zone, but it was worth it.” “It really opened my eyes; I understand we need to help.” “The opportunity to interact and relate with strangers from different backgrounds was a learning experience and a privilege.” “I realized how much we take for granted and how blessed we are.” The teens now look forward to serving the poor locally.
The teens included Lauren Benzing, Jessica Brimeyer, Devin DeNeve, Brian Haight, Corri Goldsmith, Reagan Johnson, Hillary Kaefring, Marshall Keith, Holly Koffron, Claudi Kotter, Ryan Kunkel, Austin Miller, Kylan Patterson, Paul Pisarik, Jill Prentice, Rory Siddell, Lucas Schwartz and Andrew Barenz.
(Therese Barenz is a parent who helped chaperone on the service trip to Cincinnati.)