I had to sit on a crowded bus filled with teenagers all night long, sleep on an air mattress in a room with smelly teenage boys, eat school cafeteria-style food and work in the hot South Carolina sun for an entire week. However if I had a chance to do it again, I would do it in a heartbeat! I am referring to Catholic Heart Work Camp 2012. I had the joy of taking 13 of the high school students and 3 adults to Hardeeville, South Carolina for a faith-filled and work-filled week. This was my second year going to CHWC and I pray it won’t be my last! As the youth leader, I was proud of every one of the students that represented St. Andrew’s at CHWC. Not one of them complained or slacked on their job sites. The biggest fear of being in charge is having to deal with disciplinary problems and I was thankful to have such a great group of young men and young ladies representing our parish.
The best part of the week from my perspective was watching these young people come out of their shells and get excited to be Catholic as the week went on. When we first arrived, it took awhile to get settled in to our rooms and unpack. Then we had the joy of trying to find out where everything was located (bathrooms, showers with ice cold water, cafeteria and snacks, etc). The first night is every teenager’s favorite part (sarcasm intended)…ICEBREAKERS! All +300 kids were broken up into groups of 6-8 along with 1-2 adults. There were roughly 48 different groups and 1-3 groups per work site. Most of the sites involved painting or cleaning residential houses. We would spend the next 4 days working from the morning until the late afternoon at these sites.
The thing that really made the week special was that every morning we opened with Mass and then ended the day with a program that engaged the teenagers. It really energized you in spite of working in the hot sun. Even the adults leave CHWC with a renewed Catholic spirit. The two most powerful nights were when we had Eucharistic Adoration one night and then Four Corners the next. Adoration was in the gym and all 350 in attendance kneeled in silent prayer around the Eucharist. Hearing the emotion coming from many of the kids made me realize they understood what a special gift we Catholics have in the Eucharist. Four Corners was equally powerful. I had the opportunity to sit down and listen to teenagers pour out their heart to me about their fears and problems and then we just sat there and prayed together for God’s help. Powerful and emotional are the two words that come to mind when I reflect back on those events.
I believe every Catholic youth should participate in something like CHWC. It gets them excited about their faith, makes them appreciate what they have and encourages them to go out and spread the Gospel to others. If all the Catholic teenagers are like the ones I met at CHWC, our Church has a bright future!