By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Giving teens the opportunity to do service and encounter Christ while helping and encountering the poor is an example of a “classic mission trip,” said Evan Brankin. He is the coordinator of youth ministry at Our Lady of Victory Parish.
When he arrived at the parish last summer, one of the things teens wanted to do was a mission trip or service project. He decided a local parish mission trip was the best choice. “I wanted to offer a mission trip experience and have it be multi- generational,” he said.
Our Lady of Victory parishioners participated in their parish mission July 21-23 on the church campus and at Oaks of Mamre–Catholic Worker House in Davenport. Each day included Mass, ice-breaking activities, work projects at the Catholic Worker, lunch, witness talks, small-group discussions, dinner and fun activities.
The parish has had a relationship with the Catholic Worker for years. Parishioners and the youth group have served a meal, dined with residents and done cleanup. They’ve also baked cookies there and done other activities.
About 40 teens and adults volunteered for one to three days of service at the Catholic Worker for the parish mission. Countless others helped in various ways, including through prayer. Families with younger children or those who could not do physical work participated in projects at the parish. Volunteers made and delivered lunches for teens, adults and residents at the Catholic Worker. The funeral lunch group prepared dinner each night. The parish mission also included families making cards for th elderly and those in nursing homes.
Volunteers also filled backpacks with toiletry items for individuals who are homeless. Michael Gayman, founder of the Oaks of Mamre-Catholic Worker, also works at The Center and Kings Harvest, both in Davenport, which serve people who are homeless. He will distribute the packed backpacks to these agencies.
Major projects inside and outside were tackled at the Catholic Worker, Brankin said. Inside work focused on the bathroom and kitchen. In the bathroom, volunteers plastered holes in the walls, fixed a sink and replaced a light fixture. In the kitchen they worked to secure a new stove. Outside projects included rebuilding steps on the side of the house and installing a new door and roof on a shed. “They have had items stolen and kids play on top of the shed,” Brankin said. The new roof has a steeper angle and the door can be locked. Other projects included reattaching kitchen cabinets, installing new blinds, working on the front and back porches, fixing a fence and pulling weeds.
Teen Jack Scordato said he wanted to do something faith-based and the mission trip fit that desire. He has been to Catholic Worker in the past. On July 21, he worked to secure the kitchen cabinet and shelves. “It was literally falling down.”
Teen Will Rolfstad, making his first visit to the Catholic Worker, chose to volunteer as a way to make new friends and be a part of the community. He pulled weeds that were more than 6 feet high.
Carrie Peterson and Jessica Henning hung blinds. Carrie said she likes volunteering and giving back to others. Jessica said: “You could see in the faces of the residents that they appreciated what we were doing.”
Adult volunteer Mickey Prosise said service is not about dropping off food for persons who are poor. It’s also about eating with them and listening to their stories. “There are real people who live with the bare minimum.” She said when youths cook a meal and eat with the residents, it lights a fire in the volunteers. “They want to come back.”
Prosise sees the Catholic Worker as a part of the Our Lady of Victory family. With their first experience at the Catholic Worker, youths “learn that you don’t know who is homeless, many times. They could have a classmate sitting right next to them in class who is homeless. They learn that contributing a little can go a long way to (helping) those in need.”“We could have gone anywhere for a mission,” Brankin said. “We chose to stay close to home and get the whole parish involved. This is the perfect place for our mission.”