More than 100 teens from the Lancaster area followed in Jesus’ footsteps to help their neighbors in need during the annual “Works of Mercy” Week, July 16-21.
Lending their service by painting, landscaping, cleaning, sorting donations, preparing meals and spending time with senior citizens, the teens spread the love of Christ at 55 sites throughout Lancaster County, including churches, senior housing centers, organizations and individual homes.
At Providence Place Senior Living in Lancaster on Friday, July 21, several teens reflected on the week as they completed their final service project, spreading fresh mulch around the property’s landscaping and gardens.
Setting a wheelbarrow aside to take a break in the shade of the facility’s lush trees, returning camper Petra Turner of St. Joseph Parish in Lancaster told The Catholic Witness she looks forward to the week of service every summer.
“It’s enjoyable for me,” Petra said. “I enjoy every aspect of it, from the work to being with the people we help, and being with fellow campers.”
Four-time participant Joe Hobson, of St. John Neumann Parish, agreed.
“I enjoy coming out, hanging out with friends and doing service hours,” he said. While Joe spent most of the week doing yardwork at various facilities, he said his favorite part of the week was street evangelization. A mainstay of the annual week, street evangelization gives campers a chance to share their faith with others by offering prayers, Rosaries and words of encouragement to people they encounter downtown.
“It’s rewarding to see how people appreciate when you offer to pray for them, even when they don’t know you,” Joe reflected.
WOM Week, as it is traditionally called by participants, is an effort of the Youth Ministry program at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Lancaster, whose director, Bob Cybulski, has been coordinating the summer service project for well over 20 years.
Every year, the number of participants grows. This year, the list topped 100 teens, chaperoned by nearly 50 adults. Holy Mass, opportunities for prayer and reflection, and meals are also staples of the week.
Mary Weinheimer, a returning camper from St. Leo the Great Parish, said she is drawn to the week of service by her love for the community.
“I enjoy serving my community the best way I can, and being a disciple of Christ by helping people in need,” she said.
“Christ went out and helped so many people and would just go to them. His disciples were called to do the same. I see that in what we’re doing this week, especially in going to people’s houses or visiting people in nursing homes,” Mary said. “Most of the time, they just want to talk and enjoy your company and presence. Christ would sit and listen to people, and that’s a lot of what we did in His footsteps this week.”
(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness. Off the Streets photo courtesy of Donna Walker.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness