Teens and youth ministers prepare to pack diapers for the Diaper Bank of Monmouth County.  Rich Hundley photo
Teens and youth ministers prepare to pack diapers for the Diaper Bank of Monmouth County. Rich Hundley photo
"  ...Youth group taught me a whole new way of connecting to my faith ... "

There are two things Crystal Saar really likes to do – help others and spend time with her parish youth group.

It was with this in mind that Saar, a member of St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville, and rising sophomore in Central Regional High School, was motivated to participate in the July 27 Mission: Jersey experience in St. Mary of the Pines Church, Manahawkin.

“Being in youth group taught me a whole new way of connecting to my faith and loving God,” said Saar. “It’s fun and a good way to make friends.”

Hosted by the diocesan Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, Mission: Jersey is an annual event that offers eighth grade and high school students an opportunity to work together and engage in works of service.  While Mission: Jersey has been a weeklong event in the past, this year, out of concern for the health and safety of the participants, four individual daily experiences in each county of the Diocese, are being held.

This year’s Mission: Jersey theme focuses on “The Year of St. Joseph” and follows the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. During each gathering, the young people will consider the role of St. Joseph as foster father to Jesus and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary in each Mystery. After praying each decade of the Rosary, the young people hear about the different service organizations they will be assisting during their experience: Blessing Bag Brigade, Child Care Resources of Monmouth County, Samaritan Hospice, Cathedral Kitchen and The Outreach Program, and then learn what they can do to assist the various organizations.

Among the tasks the youth perform include packing toiletry bags for the homeless and diapers for the Diaper Bank of Monmouth County, making blankets for Samaritan Hospice and sandwiches for the Cathedral Kitchen and packing rice and beans for The Outreach Program. Prayer experiences involve the participants praying over each project as well as for those who work in the various organizations and the project recipients.

Carrie Tchaplygin, who attends St. Pius X Parish, Forked River, was very excited to be part of Mission: Jersey. She said her sister has participated in the past and has “always came home feeling so renewed. I wanted to be a part of it,” the Lacey Township High School sophomore offered.

“To have an impact on other people makes me feel good,” said Tchaplygin.  You’ll come out of this a brand-new person.  It’s been a great experience.”

Dan Waddington, Diocesan director of the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, said it was his hope that the Mission: Jersey experiences would “help our young people realize they are called to use their individual gifts and talents to make a difference in this world.

“They have the power to do great things and to help those in need,” he said of the almost 150 youth from around the diocese who are expected to participate in Mission: Jersey. “We’re hoping to send them forth and that they realize they can do this after today.”

In addition to St. Mary of the Pines on July 27, the other parishes to host Mission Jersey: are July 29 in St. Gabriel Parish, Marlboro; Aug. 3, Holy Eucharist Parish, Tabernacle, and Aug. 5, St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square.