Continuing a 20-plus year tradition of community service, more than 80 teens joined together for the Works of Mercy Week during the last week of July, bringing a spirit of joyful volunteerism to more than 40 charitable organizations, churches and personal care homes in Lancaster County.
An annual event based out of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Lancaster, “WOM Week” is a time for spiritual growth and community service for the teens, who range from grades 7-12. They give themselves fully to the week of five 12-hour days of prayer, camaraderie, service and meals. The week is under the direction of the parish’s Youth Ministry.
For Joanne Cybulski, 18, this year marked her seventh consecutive year at WOM Week.
“I continue to participate in WOM because I love serving others and my community. Getting to help those who need it is so rewarding. It also has helped me grow closer to God by offering up my work for anyone that needs the prayers,” she said.
This year’s participants served at locations such as Crispus Attucks, St. Anne’s Retirement Community, Mennonite Central Committee and Lancaster Nursing and Rehabilitation. They also pulled weeds, painted and cleaned in individuals’ homes, and participated in street evangelization to share the faith and offer prayers in downtown Lancaster.
Bishop Ronald Gainer joined the group on July 28, celebrating morning Mass for the group, joining teens for several service projects, and concluding the day with a poignant period of Eucharistic Adoration in the quiet and darkened St. Mary’s Church.
“Having Bishop Gainer there was so amazing. It was great to see him work among the teens and just interact with everyone,” said Joanne. “One of the best things that happened while he was there was Adoration. He came and did a procession around the church with the monstrance, which was so amazing. During this period of Adoration we had many teens praying over one another, which was so incredible to see.”
The theme for WOM Week was “Be the Light,” and the teens wore t-shirts reflecting Matthew 5:15, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deed.”
“Having this theme as the center of our work ethic was so incredibly powerful for all the teens,” said Joanne, who hopes to return next year as a chaperone.
“These past seven years have been so incredible and have helped me personally grow as a person. I hope at one point everyone can experience something like WOM Week to help them grow into the person God created them to be.”
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness