A youth gives a thumbs-up while his work crew team power washes the exterior of Blessed Sacrament Chapel in Owensboro during Mission: Eucharistic Life, which took place June 19-24, 2022 in the Owensboro and Henderson areas. RILEY GREIF | WKC
Not just a mission trip
Youth serve local areas in Eucharist-centered mission experience
BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
Eli Kroeger made a point of heading to Mission: Eucharistic Life immediately after finishing his week of summer camp at Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center.
He recognized that continuing the powerful spiritual experience from the diocese’s Catholic youth camp, into his volunteer work with the week-long mission project, would be good for him – as well as for the people he would serve.
Kroeger, a rising freshman who belongs to St. Pius X Parish in Owensboro, said he “came straight from Gasper because I knew if I came straight from Gasper it would be a good experience and get me closer to God.”
Kroeger was one of 28 youth participating in Mission: Eucharistic Life (nicknamed “EL”), which took place from June 19-24 and provided an opportunity for high school youth to serve, pray and reflect while volunteering in Daviess County and surrounding areas.
The program was hosted by the Diocese of Owensboro’s Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, Catholic Charities, Brescia University and the Glenmary Sisters.
For EL adult leader Beth Probus, the experience was “not just a mission trip but a project where we teach, show and share.”
Probus, who serves as the youth minister at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Henderson, said the youth participants came from a wide array of previous mission experiences – and that that was a good thing.
“Some had been on a mission trip before and others didn’t know what they were getting into,” said Probus.
Yet, throughout the weeklong experience, “several youth found ways to become more personal with God,” she said.
Plus, EL provided a way for the kids to learn basic life skills like how to properly paint a room or build a wooden ramp for a house.
“I love the teaching moments – that’s my favorite,” said Probus.
Luke Estes, a rising freshman who belongs to Immaculate Parish in Owensboro, said he grew spiritually through EL.
He appreciated “the opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the speakers who talked about our faith and how we can get deeper in our relationship with God.”
Mallory Powers, a rising freshman who belongs to St. Alphonsus Parish in St. Joseph, said she loved “getting out and helping people and seeing the joy of the people.”
Her sister, Abbie Powers, a rising sophomore, said they went to help at CareNet Owensboro one day. She said she learned a lot from the example of the women who operate the agency, which provides resources and education to women experiencing crisis pregnancies.
“It makes me hold myself to a higher standard because seeing these people do such great good – it showed me how a regular person can do great things,” said Abbie Powers.
Their work crew teammate, rising sophomore Kaylie Dant, also from St. Alphonsus, added that they also visited a 96-year-old woman’s house to “paint the rails on her front porch, power washed the house and trimmed the bushes.”
Youth volunteer Connor Moore, a St. Pius X parishioner who graduated from high school this past spring, said one day his team “built a deck together for an elderly person.”
This was a particularly special project, since the person was then able to walk out of their house for the first time in years.
Colton Wallace, a rising freshman who also belongs to St. Pius X, said he learned the value of hard work thanks to EL.
“It has been pretty cool that we can all work together,” he said, adding that he enjoyed getting to know his teammates better too.
Vince Carrico, a rising sophomore who belongs to St. Stephen Cathedral, said his favorite part was “seeing how joyful the people we are serving are.”
He said he was also moved when the people realized the youth wanted “to help, and not for money.”
Matt Knight, the youth and young adult minister at St. Pius X, was another adult leader leading work crews throughout the week.
One of the highlights for Knight was getting to encounter his own fellow parishioners. He said the youth visited and helped out at a few St. Pius X parishioners’ houses, and that other St. Pius X parishioners joined the mission experience to assist at certain times during the week.
“Normally we’ve done missions out of state, but this was an opportunity for (local people) to see us in action,” said Knight, who has led three out-of-state mission trips from his parish.
Probus said she hopes the impact of this week continues through the youths’ lives.
“Because this mission trip, any mission trip, should be a life-changing experience to open your eyes and see what needs to be done,” she said. “It just filled them with so much joy – that that’s why we do this.”
Parishes represented at EL were St. Alphonsus in St. Joseph, St. Pius X in Owensboro, Holy Name of Jesus in Henderson, St. Mary of the Woods in Whitesville, St. Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro, and St. Joseph in Bowling Green.