A week at the shore, with their sleeves rolled up

A week at the shore, with their sleeves rolled up

Maura McGonigle, a student at Gloucester Catholic High School, Gloucester City, takes on a painting project during the week she spent in Ventnor as a participant in the Summer in the City program, Aug. 11-16. The annual youth program combines service projects and spiritual reflection.

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Photo by Alan M. Dumoff, more photos ccdphotolibrary.smugmug.com

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At left, “Give a helping hand” is the message one participant wrote on the palm of her hand during an exercise.

Photos above by James A. McBride

VENTNOR – For seven days earlier this month, 34 youth from all corners of the Camden Diocese, gathered for the annual Summer in the City program, spending their days volunteering in the Ventnor/Longport/Atlantic City community, and their nights in reflection here in the St. James church hall.

Summer in the City combines service, spirituality, justice and community in a transformative week for diocesan youth. The 34 youth came from 18 parishes and high schools, and were led by 10 adult team leaders.

“The program is an experience of evangelization and relationship with the Lord,” said Greg Coogan, director of Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministries for the Diocese of Camden.

Waking up every day in the St. James hall, participants would first venture out to various locations to perform service and help the community.

At Our Lady’s Multi-Care Residence in Pleasantville, youth spent time with the senior citizens, providing companionship and hearing their stories, and painted a patio. At St. Monica Parish in Atlantic City, a group helped the parish prepare for its 75th anniversary festivities.

At Bruised Reid Farm in Cape May Court House, youth helped pick such produce as blueberries, tomatoes, okra, and peppers, that would then go to the needy.

The youth even helped with preparations for the Wedding of the Sea, held on the feast of the Assumption, on the beach of Atlantic City.

During the nights, the youth heard from speakers such as Michael Laskey, director of Life and Justice Ministires for the diocese, on Catholic social teaching.

New to the program this year was a project inspired by the website Dearworld.me, where participants write, in black erasable marker, messages on their body that are meaningful to them. Participats spent the rest of the day with inscriptions on their arms and legs such as “The littlest things make the biggest difference,” and “Why fit in, when you were born to stand out?”

Eighteen-year old Michael Catrino, from Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Lindenwold, had the quote from St. Ignatius “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (For the Greater Glory of God)” across his arms. “We should actively participate everyday, to give him glory,” he said, “and not go on autopilot. Make sure everything you do, you do it with conviction.”

Sarah Lozuke, 14, from Church of the Incarnation in Mantua, found the weekend exciting and challenging.”I met new people, and there were fun service activities,” she said.

For Coogan, the enthusiasm of the youth for the lessons they learned, in the value of a smile to a needy individual, in appreciating what they have, and being thankful, gives him “great hope for the young Church.” “I saw their willingness to make a difference, and be disciples of Jesus,” he said.

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