From staff reports
Spending almost a week in a new environment can certainly give one a new perspective. The senior high youth ministry members of St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford, experienced this firsthand.
The young Catholics recently returned from a five-day summer service trip to assist the Newark chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Although the group trip has been a longstanding tradition for the high school youth group, this year was their first time partnering with the Newark chapter.
“It was an eye-opening and humbling experience for us to work not very far from the homes and comfortable environment we are blessed with in Medford,” said Linda Xerri, St. Mary of the Lakes coordinator of youth ministry. “This year, we had 14 teenagers, one alumni young adult and six adult chaperones.”
The mission began with a prayer service in St. Mary of the Lakes Church, led by Father Daniel Swift, pastor. As part of the service, teens and chaperones spent 15 minutes in silent meditation before the Blessed Sacrament, while the song "I Give myself Away" by William McDowell softly played in the background.
“At the conclusion of the service, the participants exited the church as John Angotti's song, ‘Mission of Love’ lifted us forward and on our way to serve in Newark,” Xerri said.
The teens spent four of the five days on a construction site, working at a three-story tenement-style house. Their tasks included painting, caulking, removing rust, learning to drill and place fixtures in bathrooms and building an enclosed structure over a basement stairwell. They also helped to remove trees, branches and debris from a future Newark build site.
The service opportunity consisted of prayer, reflection, journaling opportunities and faith-sharing experiences. One trip highlight for all participants included an afternoon prayer stop at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Newark.
“We toured this magnificent church, and prayed for those who live in poverty and face the challenges of underemployment and homelessness every day,” Xerri recalled. “We also visited Ellis Island, and then discussed the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ response to the immigration crises that our nation is currently facing.”