WorkCamp: Serving With Great Joy

By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde

After traveling the winding roads to Winchester, I stepped out of my car and into Millbrook High School to see hundreds of tired teenagers, with joyful smiles, socializing in the school hallways. It warmed my heart as they greeted me, their enthusiasm and good nature shining through their faces, their camaraderie with each other apparent and inspiring.

This past week was the first session of the annual WorkCamp, where teenagers and adult supervisors from our diocese dedicate their time and talents to help make local homes safer, drier and warmer for residents in need by performing home repairs. I was blessed to spend Tuesday evening and part of Wednesday with the participants of this program, which is run by the diocesan Office of Youth Ministry.

Bishop Loverde serves up a spoonful of peas to a hungry WorkCamper.

We began Tuesday evening with dinner, where I was privileged to spend some time in the kitchen serving peas in the cafeteria line to the workers after their hot day in the sun. It made me smile that a fair number of the teens told me, with laughter, “Peas be with you, Bishop!”

After sharing the meal, we began an evening of prayer, Confession and Benediction. After some singing, I spoke to the young people emphasizing how much the Lord Jesus loves each of them and urging them to develop and deepen a personal relationship with Jesus Christ within the community of His disciples, the Church.  After a long day of hard work, the teens’ enthusiasm had not lessened – rather, when the availability of the Sacrament of Penance was announced, many of the young people jumped enthusiastically to their feet to stand in line. My brother priests had also traveled from all around the diocese to spend an evening ministering with me to the teens.

WorkCamp teens put the finishing touches on a back porch.

I was moved to see the devotion to Our Lord in the Eucharist through their prayer and song. It brought to my mind once again that WorkCamp is so much more than just a week of service; it is an opportunity for young people to come before Our Lord, growing closer to Him and stronger in their lives through the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance. They are also given direction and encouragement from speakers and mentors on how to live the spiritual life in the natural world, in particular, by offering a gift of self through acts of service, thereby putting Faith into action

How refreshing to see joy clearly stamped on their faces, whether the young people were eating peas, receiving forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance, or pounding nails with hammers at their worksites on Wednesday morning. I visited several homes where crews were busy adding improvements, painting and cleaning up yards. Their happiness and smiles were contagious; the way they conducted themselves brings to mind a Psalm verse: “They will rejoice before God; they will celebrate with great joy” (Psalms 68:4b).

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