By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
Twenty-eight youths and adults from eastern Iowa spent a week doing service work and helping at a day camp in David, Ky., this past summer. Julia Jones, youth minister at St. Ann Parish in Long Grove, said the trip was “a family affair” for two reasons. One, the group worked together as a family. Second, some were family members, including her 7-year-old son. “It was amazing for the parents to experience their own trip, but also see the events through their children’s perspectives.”
In addition to St. Ann parishioners, participants represented St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt and St. Anthony Parish in Dubuque, Iowa. The group volunteered at St. Vincent’s Mission, which recently celebrated 50 years of service. “Our tasks for the week included running a Bible Day Camp for local kids, building a ramp and fixing a floor for 93-year-old Ocie, replacing a ceiling and repairing a roof for another family, and doing quite a bit of electrical work for the mission.”
Jones said the youths finished their work early on a Friday and headed back to their temporary home only to learn they had more work to do — spreading gravel. “They didn’t even bat an eye. They went to do work where they were called to and accepted every task as an opportunity to do more for the people of Kentucky.”
Pat Sheil, youth minister at the DeWitt parish, made her 20th service trip to Kentucky. “It all started because a parishioner named Sally Blunck wanted a group of youths from St. Joseph to serve for a week at the David School in David, Ky. The first year there were three girls and myself, and we worked for the school. We went back there for two more years. Then I felt we needed to do something more local, so we volunteered for a week with Humility of Mary Housing (in Davenport). The next year we stayed and worked at St. Joseph Parish.”
“…I had promised the teens we could go back to Kentucky, so I contacted the director of St. Vincent Mission in David — Sister Kathleen Wiegand. There began a beautiful and rewarding experience of helping the people of Floyd County with home repair projects.”
Sheil said the scope of work has varied, but usually includes some window and roofing needs, drywall and flooring issues. “We have worked with the people we are serving, laughed with them, prayed with them.”
This year the Long Grove and Dubuque parishes joined in. “No two trips have ever been the same,” Sheil said. “Each time I return home I am awed by the generosity and commitment of those who participate. I have seen hearts melt and arms open to reach out to others with no expectation of anything in return. I believe that getting out of our comfortable safe environment at home, living in community, sharing chores, meals and prayer, open us up to see the world outside the complacency of our everyday life in small-town Iowa.”
Adult chaperone Richard Dickey said his third trip to David, Ky., was a truly amazing experience. “Not only am I able to serve others with my talents but I am able to witness the spiritual growth of our group throughout the week. It’s not just about repairing houses or building items of need; it is about compassion for those individuals and families we are helping. The joy and gratitude of the people we help in their time of need will always remain in my heart. I pray that they have witnessed Christ in our deeds and will feel the need to spread what they have witnessed to others in their words and actions.” He also appreciated seeing those who may have been apprehensive about making the trip become confident witnesses to Christ.
Chaperone Dave Schumacher said that when he retired he decided it was time to go to Kentucky. “After my first trip, I fell in love with the people there, and have been back five times now. Each time is a special trip. The students we bring are there to help people and to learn about other ways of life. They work hard all day and at the end of the day share adventures they had and relationships they made during the day”
Teen Paige Ernst of St. Joseph Parish had many memorable experiences from her participation. “I never want to forget the kindness of Michael (the homeowner), Whitney and Alex. The almost instant connection we made with them I will hold forever in my heart.
“… I never want to forget Stephanie (the second homeowner). Her calling me ‘Sissy’ and the way she held my hand and hugged me goodbye after knowing me a short few hours. I never want to forget all the sweat and laughs I’ve shared with Beau, Hope, Heather and Juliana. I refuse to forget that my dad is my best friend and, frankly, a really awesome dude. Or that Scott Tarchinski became like a second dad to me on this trip.
“… I never want to forget the smell of Kentucky, the clouds in the mountains covered with gorgeous trees, the flowers, the feeling of peace and ancientness you can almost see. I never want to forget that I really do love the song ‘Rocky Top’ or Greg playing his banjo with a chorus of crickets playing along on the front porch.
“I also think I will never forget that daily hike up Mike’s driveway and how just for an instant, as I was carrying all our heavy equipment up, that this, this is how Jesus must have felt walking up carrying his cross. I never want nor will I ever forget Kentucky 2018.”