VINELAND — The Camden Diocesan Summer in the City program kicked off in Cumberland Country on Sunday, June 26, as 12 high school-age youths and their four adult leaders arrived here at John Paul II Retreat Center to begin a week of service, prayer and learning.
From Monday to Friday, participants attended morning Mass; broke into service site groups for the day; and heard a guest speaker at night, all consistent with the week’s focus on service, social justice, community and spirituality.
“Summer in the City is putting to flesh Pope Francis’ call to live out the works of mercy, and recognize how we are called to be in the world ministering to God’s people,” said Greg Coogan, director of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Camden.
The experience is focused on four pillars of service, social justice, community and spirituality. Teens learn about Catholic social teaching through hands-on activities, community living and group discussions about poverty, the dignity of the human person and solidarity.
Youth spent time performing service at various sites in Cumberland County, including creating food bags for the hungry in soup kitchens; interacting with senior citizens at a nursing home, and with toddlers at a daycare center; and, along with men in diaconate formation, cleaned up and helped move furniture at the diocesan Diaconate Center.
As well, the youth, coming from areas such as Collings Lakes, Egg Harbor Township, Gloucester City and Mantua, were able to “build new friendships and make connections,” said Deacon Don Rogozenski of Bridgeton’s Parish of the Holy Cross, who was an adult leader for the week.
Kenneth Cinkowski, 17, a member of the youth group at Our Lady of the Lakes Parish, Collings Lakes, said, “We’re forming bonds that will last forever.”
Later this month and next month, week-long Summer in the City programs will take place in Camden and Atlantic counties.