Area Vincentian Marian Youth teens spend week helping others in Indiana

Saturday, August 9, 2008
Submitted photo Members of the Vincentian Marian Youth, which is based in Perryville, Mo., worked on a landscaping project during a weeklong mission trip to Walkerton, Ind.

PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- While some teenagers might work on their tans over the summer, a group from the Perryville-based Vincentian Marian Youth were hard at work on their souls.

In late June, 63 teens, young adults, adults and children representing 17 Catholic parishes in Missouri and Alabama gathered at Walkerton, Ind., to help serve the poor and homeless in that area.

Alina Fox, 16, of Oak Ridge, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Apple Creek, said the trip was the third weeklong trip she has made with Vincentian Marian Youth. While in Walkerton, she spent some one-on-one time with children at the local Boys and Girls Club.

"These are kids who don't get a lot of personal attention," she said. "They kind of need it. It was one of the biggest highlights of the week."

Alina and other young people also canvassed businesses asking for donations to gather together personal hygiene items to give to people in need and food to make a Love Banquet for homeless people in that area. The teens helped prepare the food, set up an area with a formal, elegant ambience, served the homeless and shared a meal with them. For Alina, that banquet opened her eyes about who is homeless and why they are in that situation.

"I went on one trip before to Chicago, and it was totally different," she said. "In Chicago the people there were primarily drug addicts, a lot of convicts." In Walkerton, "we got people who had lost their house, lost their car. A lot of those people are trying hard to get back to where they were. Bad things had happened to good people."

Other work the young people did consisted of painting, landscaping, organizing wheelchair parts, major cleaning and minor home repair.

Rachael Naeger, 18, of Ozora, Mo., and a member of Sacred Heart Parish there, also played with children at the Boys and Girls Club. In addition she helped lay sod at a Habitat for Humanity project and, like Alina, canvassed the community for donations. It was her fourth weeklong mission trip.

At an apartment complex where Rachael and others in her group were helping with landscaping, they befriended a 7-year-old girl named Jacqueline who lived there.

"She asked questions about what we were doing and was so willing to help us," Rachael said. "She got really close to us. She was really sweet."

Offering a helping hand has helped change the lives of the Vincentian Marian Youth participants.

"You could have asked me three years ago if I could see the face of Jesus in somebody less fortunate, and I would have said 'Yeah, right,'" Alina said. "Now I am telling people 'Do this and you'll see the face of Jesus in everyone.'"

Rachael admitted getting a renewed sense of self and gratitude.

"I don't take things for granted as much. Whenever we go to these places, I see what these people are missing, what they don't have and it makes me appreciate more what I have," she said. "It makes it much more fulfilling to help these people get on their feet."

Both Rachael and Alina plan to continue doing mission trips. Alina said she's looking forward to a weekend mission trip in Ste. Genevieve, Mo., on Halloween because it'll mean working for Christ on a pagan holiday. Rachael is headed to Springfield to attend college at Missouri State University and plans to become involved in similar projects there. She is old enough to volunteer for Vincentian Marian Youth on a different level, as a young adult, which she plans to do.

This year's theme, "The Adventure Continues," was chosen because reaching deeper into your faith and missionary work is encouraged, said Deb Fox, one of the adult leaders and Alina's mother.

"Every time I go it brings me closer to God and to his people," Alina said.

lredeffer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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