A life-changing six days of service

A life-changing six days of service

Photos by James A. McBride and Alan M. Dumoff

summerinthecity2-web

Teenagers living in community for a week put their hands together in solidarity. The Summer in the City — At the Shore each year brings high school students together for a week of service projects and spiritual enrichment.

summerinthecity1-web

Top: Kathleen Golden and Kailyn Shields move a trunk.

summerinthecity3-webLeft: A teenager reads during Mass at Holy Trinity Parish, Margate, on Aug. 10.

summerinthecity4-web

Above: Young people join residents in a bingo game at Villa Raffaella, Pleasantville, Aug. 7.

Twenty-eight teenagers from the six counties of the Diocese of Camden traded fun in the sun for the Summer in the City— At the Shore service project.

From Aug. 5-11, teenagers from ages 15-18, volunteered at various work sites including Catholic Charities; The Rescue Mission; Jean Webster’s Kitchen; Atlantic County Food Bank; and Villa Raffaella. The students lodged at Holy Trinity Parish, St. James Church, Ventnor.

But the program is not a week of social work. Rather it is a spiritual program that emphasizes the practical side of Catholic social teaching. In addition to service projects, each day is devoted to prayer, communal living and discussion about social justice.

The annual event is sponsored by the Office of Lifelong Faith Formation – Youth Ministries.

“This week of service, spirituality, community and social justice is a life-changing experience for participants,” said Gregory Coogan, director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministries for the Diocese of Camden.

“Teens bring their gifts and talents to serve the poor and disenfranchised in society,” he said. “They impact on the community by making a difference one person at a time. By reflecting on their experience teens are able to see the importance of Catholic social teaching and can begin to see how being a disciple of Jesus translates into being the hands of Jesus in the world.”

Of the 28 teenagers who participated this year, 15 participated in the program in years past.

Kathleen Golden, 17, participated in the program for the second year in row. She described her experience as “life changing,” and says the program has taught her to “not take things for granted and to help the less fortunate.”

Other participants also described the program as life-changing. One teenager expressed how excited they were to “be of assistance,” and another said to “always be grateful for the things you have and to let go and let God.”

Coogan said the program helps teenagers to see life differently. The teens saw the effects of gambling addiction, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Each day the teens reflected on their experience. One night the teens went to the beach and “were encouraged to pick up a stone, throw it into the ocean,” says Coogan. The stone “symbolized what teens wanted to leave behind and grow from.”

About Author