It is the middle of summer vacation and students have so many options available to them. Many are working summer jobs, participating in summer sports and leagues, traveling on vacation or just hanging by the pool. It takes a very special person to give up a week of summer vacation to serve some of the neediest people in our community.
During the week of June 17-22, 2012, 12 students and 4 faculty members from Joliet Catholic Academy traveled to Toledo, Ohio to participate in a missionary experience. The group was comprised of students: Robert Babich, Kayla Belofsky, Jordan Bergeson, Mary Rose Bruno, Brittany Cunnea, Kagan Kingery, Megan Matthews, Courtney Peterson, Ariana Ruiz, Monica Underwood, Anna Wardlow and Thomas Wiffler and faculty members Fr. Jeff Smialek, O.Carm, Sr. Barb Kwiatkowski, OSF, Joe Burke and Barb Powers.
The group left early on Sunday, June 17 for the drive to Toledo. Later that day, they met up with about 250 other students and adults from around the nation at the Catholic Heart Workcamp site. Cardinal Stritch Catholic High School in suburban Oregon, Ohio, graciously hosted the group.
All involved certainly had an experience of more primitive accommodations as the desks in classrooms were pushed aside and sleeping bags rolled out on the floor for the week.
Every morning the group celebrated Mass together and then went off to their worksites.The students were split between numerous sites around the Toledo area. Some of the organizations that took volunteers included the Toledo/Northwest Ohio Foodbank, The Catholic Club of Toledo, which has been providing services for people with disabilities, Toledo Grows, an urban gardening project of the city.
Others helped to build wheelchair ramps at houses, and the Little Sisters of the Poor put a large number of students to work on the grounds crew around their Motherhouse.
The Catholic Heart Workcamp organization provided many activities at night, such as skits, music and other entertainment. Prayer, Eucharistic Adoration and an amazing service call Four Corners were provided. Four Corners is a prayer service in which students are given an opportunity to pray with one another about concerns for physical healing, forgiveness, faith issues and to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
All involved were moved by the great needs of the poor right here in our country. This trip gave the students an opportunity to learn more about urban poverty in the United States and what is being done to help alleviate it.
The trip was made possible by a great deal of fundraising by the students and generous donations from others in the community, including grants from the social justice commissions of both the Carmelites and the Joliet Franciscan Sisters.
Plans are already under way at JCA for another mission trip in the summer of 2013.