Below is an article I wrote back in 2007 for the Catholic Spirit, diocesan newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen. I had just finished my senior year of high school and was living in New Jersey at the time.
Please pardon the quality of the writing, this seems like a long time ago. This was before I went to the University of Missouri and worked at Catholic News Service. However, I feel the message is still extremely important. After the article you can read some further comments that will explain further why I am choosing to share this article with you now.
To most Catholics the phrase, “a call to serve” only applies only to individuals called to become priests and nuns. However, we, as Catholics, are all called to serve those in need. For high school age students there is no better way to answer this call than JusticeworX and other service trips.
I personally have had the opportunity to participate in the JusticeworX program three times. With my youth group at St. Charles Borromeo I have also completed service trips to Appalachia and New Mexico. I will also be traveling to Mexico for a service trip in the near future.
All of these service trips have taught me many valuable lessons and most importantly they have allowed me to grow in my faith. One of the things I love to do on the trips is meet people. In the people I serve with, and for, I am able to see Christ.
While I certainly see Christ in those who I serve and in my fellow peers. The people who have made the biggest impact on me are the individuals who work for the organizations. Many of these people have nothing themselves, yet they are willing to dedicate all their time to helping those in need. This kind of service is truly inspirational.
The trip that allowed me to grow in my faith the most was my trip to Kentucky one year ago. I had been preparing for this trip for months, then, two weeks before the trip, I broke my leg. I doubted whether I should still go on the trip. Even after my youth minister convinced me to go, I was still skeptical. I didn’t believe I would be able to do much of anything, I felt useless. I even thought I would be a burden and have a detrimental affect on the other student’s experiences.
However, I was wrong. I was able to help and make a difference, even if I was on crutches. I was able to help measure wood to help build a porch. I was able to get a lot out of the fact that despite my injuries I was still able to answer the call to serve and make a difference.
One of the other factors that made the Appalachia trip stand out more was the staff at the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity where we were working. This particular chapter was going through some tough times financially. The foreman had no idea whether or not he would have the supplies he needed on a day-to-day basis. Yet, despite not knowing what he would do the next day he maintained a positive outlook. He would always greet us with a smile. The foreman was a classic example of the type of people who I described before.
Every Catholic is called to serve those in need. I answered that call by participating in service trip through my youth group. While I went on these trips to serve those in need, I was also able to grow in my faith and learn many valuable lessons. I encourage all Catholics to go out and answer the call. Especially to those who are in high school, there are many wonderful programs available, take advantage of them, answer the call to serve.
As I mentioned before the article I was living in New Jersey at the time, so the specific programs referenced are programs available in that diocese. However, the Diocese of Jefferson City is no different. The diocese has opportunities to high school aged youth to answer the call and serve their brothers and sisters in Christ. The program I am thinking about is CHRISTpower.
During CHRISTpower students will have the opportunity to participate in different service projects during the day and then other activities during the evening. All of these programs are designed to give a young high school student an opportunity to encounter Christ and grow in their faith. I know many friends who have grown tremendously in their faith because they took just one week out of their summer to serve others.
I know that as my faith grew through these programs, I began to discern a call to the priesthood. This is not to say that every guy who attends CHRISTpower will become a priest and every girl, a nun. This means that when youth are allowed the opportunity to experience Christ in their lives in a very real and tangible way, they begin to think about how God is calling them to serve.
As I mentioned in the article, we are all called to serve, it is our baptismal call as a part of the Body of Christ. God has a plan for each and everyone of us in terms of how he wants us to serve our brothers and sisters. The only way to know this is to take that leap, put away all fears and serve others, in doing so you will experience Christ.
So if you yourself are in high school and are thinking about going but are unsure, go, you will not regret it. If you are a parent, encourage your child to attend CHRISTpower. Or if you know someone in your parish, encourage them to attend as well.
Information about CHRISTpower including all the necessary sign-up forms can be found on the CHRISTpower page on the Discover the Priesthood Web site.