St. Mary Parish's annual bonfire turns to hurricane relief efforts
By Ken Downey | Correspondent
Before lighting the annual bonfire behind the parish center gym, dozens of youth and adults gathered around to offer prayers not too long after twilight Sept. 23.
This year, however, their thoughts turned to a similar cause: those affected by the recent hurricane season.
Photo Gallery: Youth Ministry Bonfire
“I wish I could do something more, like go there and help myself, but all I can do is pray,” Grace Parks, 15, of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Whiting, said of Florida, which was ravaged by Hurricane Irma. “I remember when all the boardwalks were being destroyed here from [Superstorm] Sandy, and all I felt was sadness. I wish I could do more.”
Around 40 people came together for the annual youth ministry bonfire held on the grounds of St. Mary of the Pines Church, Manahawkin, a worship site of St. Mary Parish, Barnegat. The evening, open to both the junior and senior youth groups as well as youth from nearby parishes, included food, fellowship, prayer and games.
The youth ministry has been holding its annual bonfire for about 10 years; this year though, it was held with a different incentive. Alicia Bruno, parish youth ministry coordinator, announced a relief drive for Hurricane Irma victims in the Florida Keys.
“While watching the devastation with Harvey and seeing the projected track of Irma, I was moved to do something about it,” Bruno said. “I remembered the types of homes and communities in the area and thought, if Irma hit there, a majority of the homes would be gone.”
Bruno contacted Catholic Charities in the Florida Keys and was informed that the area had been evacuated and no one could get back to their homes until the initial cleanup concluded. So, Bruno came up with another idea – taking up a collection of gift cards.
“We can send them, hopefully, around the time when the stores in the Keys would reopen and be restocked,” she said.
The youth ministry coordinated with the parish religious education department to promote the fund drive, including sending fliers home with religious education students to inform their parents and social media announcements.
Kate Ryan, youth ministry assistant coordinator, who was taking part in her third year at the bonfire, said she felt the drive was a great thing for the youth.
“There have been so many different catastrophes within the last few weeks, and although it’s not affecting us personally, it’s important for our kids to see that there are others outside of our immediate community and that it [our help] can go nationally and globally,” she said.
“I hope that I can help all these people as much as I can,” said parishioner Emma Ball, 14. “When it came to [Superstorm] Sandy, I was very fortunate. The most we had was a tree falling in our yard. So, when it comes to hurricanes, I feel that it is my duty to help as much as I can.”[[In-content Ad]]