By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
Youth minister Tommy Fallon wasn’t able to book an annual service trip to Kentucky for youths from Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport, but found another worthwhile place to serve.
When Fallon attended the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) last year, he learned about Manus Christi. “It drew my attention because I could still give my youths an Appalachian service experience for relatively the same price as going to Kentucky. Although it is a relatively new program, the staff impressed me and I decided to give it a shot.”
Manus Christi (Latin for “Hands of Christ”) is a ministry of the youth and young adult ministry office in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, W. Va. The program offers weeklong service and mission experiences that give participants the opportunity to encounter Christ in those in need while learning about and living the concepts of personal dignity, the common good, solidarity, and subsidiarity.
Eight teens, Fallon and a second chaperon spent June 8-13 in West Virginia. “There are many reasons to do service trips,” Fallon said. “I think that too often we become self-absorbed and locked inside our own little bubbles. These trips are a great way to show youths the unfortunate realities of other people’s lives. If it is the Church’s mission to grow disciples, then engaging youth in the work of Christ is an absolute must.”
Tyler Zeimet, 16, a junior at Assumption High School in Davenport, said, “This was an incredible experience that broadened my horizons while letting me see God in others.”
He made the trip to help others and experience how people live in another part of the country. “I went into the trip unsure of what to expect, so I can honestly say that what I experienced was incredible. The people we served were so grateful, and I feel like I grew as a person on the trip.”
Zeimet says he learned what it means to be the hands of Christ. “Serving others who were in real need was an experience I won’t soon forget.”
It was an eye-opening experience, he added. “We are all God’s children, and we can all learn from each other. Age, gender, or income levels do not matter; we’re all made in God’s likeness. On the trip, I could easily see God in the people we served, the staff members of the camp, the other youth participants, and our chaperones.”
Stasia Nykoluk, an incoming freshman at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, said she has participated in a variety of retreats such as Teens Encounter Christ, Notre Dame Vision and NCYC, “which were all fantastic. But I wanted to take it to the next level and help others who are in need.”
This was her first mission trip. She said tasks included constructing and rebuilding porches, sheds and flooring; painting barns and houses; and performing general upkeep for the lodge where they stayed.
“I learned that although the tasks were hard work, there were many benefits physically, mentally and spiritually,” Nykoluk said. “We formed not only a community with Our Lady of Victory youth group, but with other individuals from across the country. The recipients were extremely grateful and appreciative, and that was very satisfying.”