Youth group members diligently work on their Blessing Bag Brigade service project. Screengrab photo
Youth group members diligently work on their Blessing Bag Brigade service project. Screengrab photo
Knowing it was the middle of winter and hearing actual stories about local homeless people provided the inspiration for the youth group members in St. Catharine Parish, Holmdel, to want to take action.

Using funds they had raised from a Christmas poinsettia sale in December, the teens purchased personal hygiene items, snacks and bottles of water to fill 100 Blessing Bags to be distributed to people in need in the Newark area.

Audrey Krastins, parish adult youth ministry advisor, explained that during a late January youth group meeting, the teenagers welcomed Lisa Catena, a representative from the Blessing Bag Brigade, who shared about the work of the non-profit organization in Monmouth County that is dedicated to showing compassion and humanitarianism toward those in need.

“Hearing some real life stories about the homeless I know opened their eyes,” Krastins said, especially when the teens realized that there are people facing hard times where they live and in light of the  pandemic.

Krastins proudly noted that the Blessing Bag Brigade is one of several community service projects the youth group participates in throughout the year. Recent outreach had members collaborating with the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul conference in which the youth spent a Saturday morning helping to unload baskets of food that were donated by parishioners and then distribute the baskets to clients who are served by the conference. The teens also helped to load a truck with Thanksgiving meals for needy families in Asbury Park, and they also sponsored the annual Giving Tree during Advent, in which they organized the gift tag requests from various local organizations. In all, 500 gifts were purchased by parishioners and once the gifts were returned to the parish, the teens were responsible for sorting them for the organizations.

Among the upcoming activities planned for the youth group Krastins shared include having members make a spring craft for a local nursing home and host a presentation of the Living Stations of the Cross during Lent.

By having teens involved in service, whether it’s outreach to help those in need, calling a grandparent or helping a neighbor, “gives our youth a foundation to live by” and that is something that youth ministers are called to do, Krastins said. And as she reviewed her youth group’s various outreach projects, she said, “Our parish is so proud of our young men and women who exemplify the Light of Christ” through their works of service.