By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — Inspired by the Catholic Worker movement and Michael Gayman’s efforts with the Oaks of Mamre Catholic Worker house in Davenport, youths from Our Lady of Victory Parish have gotten involved to support Gayman’s ministry.
He spoke to the youths Nov. 2, said Tommy Fallon, youth minister for Our Lady of Victory. Gayman said the more than two-hour talk was more like a conversation. “I talked about the history of the Catholic Worker movement, my history and what led me to be a part of Catholic Worker, and specifically the Davenport house.” The youths, in turn, asked lots of questions.
“Our teens were really inspired by him and wanted to help,” Fallon said.
During his talk, Gayman mentioned a need for blankets to pass out to homeless people who sleep outdoors. The teens “really stepped up. Within 24 hours I had a stack of blankets on my steps.”
They also asked Gayman how they could help. It was decided that a group of teens would cook dinner once a month and serve it at the Catholic Worker house and eat a meal with people staying at the house. “Our plan is to take a few teens each time so they can learn what it is like to be in solidarity with the poor,” Fallon said. After a successful first dinner of chicken tacos, rice casserole and lemonade served in November, the youth group plans to make and serve dinner the second Tuesday of each month.
“The first meal went well,” Gayman said. “Some of the youths seemed a little on edge when they got there because they had never been with someone who was homeless. But they brought the meal, spent time with the homeless and offered conversation.”
Youth group member Sara Olds, a sophomore at Assumption High School in Davenport, said, “We saw people who look like everybody else. Michael takes in anyone who is in need and feeds them.”
Allie Daniel, a junior at Assumption, said her first experience at the Catholic Worker house was not what she expected. “It was a great experience. I learned that they (the guests) are just like me.”
Stasia Nykoulk, a sophomore at Assumption, said the guests “just needed someone to talk to.”
The youths said it was interesting to see how Gayman “makes things work.” One example was using mason jars for drinking glasses.
While at the Catholic Worker house, the Our Lady of Victory youths learned it has a garden in the back yard. Gayman encourages the neighbors to work together and make it a community garden.
As the youths prepared to host their annual St. Nick pancake breakfast fundraiser Dec. 4, they told Fallon they would like some of the proceeds to go toward the Catholic Worker house. The rest of the money will go toward the usual summer service projects, including expenses for service work in David, Ky.
“It came at a great time,” Fallon said of the youths’ fundraiser. “The car at Catholic Worker broke down, so this will be much appreciated.”
Around 50 youth group members and seventh- and eighth-graders from John F. Kennedy Catholic School worked at the breakfast. They made and served hot breakfasts and cleaned tables and washed dishes.