Teens and adults apply Catholic teaching to 20 service projects
By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Fort Madison —Patty Pulis looked forward to sleeping in her bedroom for the first time in seven years, a dream that became reality July 1 because of teens and adults who volunteered as Catholics in Action.
Her home’s renovation was one of 20 dreams that Catholics from across the Davenport Diocese fulfilled during the three-day CIA experience June 26-28 that involved direct service and learning about the need for social change. On Sunday, for example, the whole group of 62 teens and adults dragged driftwood out of the Mississippi River in Fort Madison’s Riverview Park. The odor of dead fish hung in the air and mayflies clung to their clothes. On Monday, the kids divided into groups to spruce up yards and two Catholic cemeteries, re-paint the 150-yard-long hand rails on a pier in Riverview Park, provide TLC to animals in an animal shelter, and craft fleece blankets for single moms, among other projects.
Bishop Martin Amos joined the CIA crew on Monday, cutting back mulberry trees in a flower bed in one homeowner’s yard and painting handrails on the riverfront pier. By afternoon, with the temperature nearing 90 degrees, the blue-jean clad bishop was supervising the younger painters. “Why don’t you go back and get that spot
right there,” he suggested, pointing to a corner on the rail that needed more paint.
This was the bishop’s third CIA experience. He carves time out of his busy schedule to participate. “It’s wonderful to see the next generation engaging in works of mercy with such enthusiasm and joy,” he said. “It’s just fun watching a bunch of young people who are happy being around each other and doing service projects for somebody else.”
For Mick and Sue Anderson, members of St. Mary Parish in West Point, the teens’ participation in CIA was inspiring even as the Andersons devoted countless hours working to make Pulis’ house a home again. Pulis, a janitor at Holy Trinity Catholic Jr./Sr. High School in Fort Madison, had been living in the windowless basement of her one-story ranch home awaiting the remodeling of her main living space. Family members gutted the house seven years ago with every intention of remodeling it, but other demands got in the way, Pulis said.
The Andersons led the extreme makeover at the request of Mike Linnenbrink, whom they’d served with on mission trips and previous service projects.
“We did the prep work so that when the kids came over we could start working right way,” Sue said during a respite from work on June 30 (two days after CIA ended). “We painted all the walls in the living room and kitchen. We put linoleum down in the bathrooms and we’re still working on finishing laminate in the hall, the living room and dining room and kitchen,” she added. “As soon as we finish the floor we’re pretty much done, and it’s up to the family to finish the project.” Outside, the house’s vinyl exterior received a power washing, and the teens cleaned the yard and did landscaping. The Andersons’ daughter Katie Bentler and her daughter Eryn Anderson also participated in CIA, Sue said, although they were involved in other work site projects.
Pulis expressed deep appreciation for the volunteers who transformed her house. “They’ve done a lot of work here, they really have. It’s like having a brand new house, it honestly is.” Her three grown children, she said, will finish up the work, installing cabinets when those arrive.
Service is one component of CIA; participants also explore Scripture and Catholic Social Teaching and how to bring them alive every day. They have time daily for individual prayer and reflection, group prayer, journaling and worship. Teams share meals together and meet other youths from across the diocese and participate in fun activities like a swimming party.
“Service projects are usually something you have to do. They (CIA organizers) made this a fun experience,” said Ciyanna Wilson of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish and a freshman at Pleasant Valley High School, both in Bettendorf. She and other CIA participants from Our Lady of Lourdes had the privilege of sprucing up gravesites at a Catholic cemetery in Fort Madison on Monday. Their leader, Sara Scogland, Lourdes’ coordinator of youth ministry, encouraged the teens to introduce themselves to the person listed on the gravestone and explain what was being done there. “It’s like going to anyone’s house,” explained Molly Tauke of Lourdes and a junior at Moline High School in Illinois. “It was more meaningful to treat them like real people.”
Fourteen-year-old Claire Graham of Holy Trinity Catholic Jr./Sr. High School helped with weeding and other clean-up around people’s houses on Monday. “It’s rewarding to do things for them when they can’t do it on their own.”
“Our kids loved meeting kids from other parts of the diocese and working with them,” said Linnenbrink, co-coordinator of CIA 2016 with Sara Scogland. “They want to meet and get to know other kids,” added Linnenbrink, coordinator of youth ministry for parishes in Farmington, Fort Madison, Houghton, St. Paul and West Point.
Sue Anderson thinks CIA is a wonderful three-day mission project, just the right length of time for busy teens, some of whom take time away from summer jobs to volunteer. “I think that speaks highly of our young adults.”
Behind the scenes at CIA
Fort Madison served as the host community for Catholics in Action this year because of a proposal youths came up with last year, says Mike Linnenbrink, co-coordinator of CIA 2016.
When CIA wrapped up in 2015, youths from participating parishes spent time in their own groups responding to the question: If CIA was to come to your community, what would you do?
“Our group came up with a good two-page proposal with 19 different places to do stuff,” said Linnenbrink, coordinator of youth ministry for parishes in Farmington, Fort Madison, Houghton, St. Paul and West Point. Their proposal was selected for this year’s event June 26-28.
Forty youths and 22 adults participated, dividing into five groups to tackle 20-some projects. Prayer and worship were equally important elements of the three-day event. Brenda Bertram, director of faith formation and youth ministry for Prince of Peace Parish, Clinton, was in charge of prayer. Carol Laughlin, director of religious education for St. Mary Parish, Pella, and Amanda Nichols, youth minister of Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington, led catechesis. Father Thom Hennen, the diocese’s vocations director, participated in CIA and presided at Mass on Monday and Tuesday morning. “We have to get the foundation laid or we become judgmental or have a superior attitude toward people we’re helping,” Linnebrink noted.
Here is a sample of thoughts from this year’s CIA participants and young adult directors:
Grant Marek, St. James Parish, Washington, Iowa State University student: “My mom used to be the (parish’s) youth director. She kind of pushed me into doing this. It puts you out of your comfort zone — for a good cause.”
“It didn’t hurt that his girlfriend, Meredith (Lumberg) was helping him,” Linnenbrink quipped.
Kennedy Hopper, Ss. John & Paul Parish, Burlington, junior at Burlington Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High School: “I did it two years ago and it was a lot of fun. I got to experience a lot of charity work and got to meet new friends. … It’s cool to experience different communities.”
Morgan Christ, Ss. John & Paul Parish and freshman at Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High School, said a highlight of her first CIA was “making new friends and experiencing work I’ve never done before.”
Andi Tatti, Ss. John & Paul Parish, CIA adult leader and parent: “I love doing this. I’m really proud watching the kids literally put their faith into action.” She also appreciated the witness talks and the sharing of life stories. Her daughter, Mandi Tatti, said of CIA: “I love it.”