Project Life in the News

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Check out this article from the St. Louis Review:

Project Life teens listen, learn and bring joy

Alexander Sextro of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in north St. Louis County spent one of his summer Mondays alongside five other Project Life teens, painting the garage and stairwell of an elderly couple's home and helping weed their flower bed.

While at lunch, the couple invited the teens to eat and pray with them, an experience of fellowship that Sextro said impacted him and shaped his experience of the trip in the week of "reclaiming."

"He brought us all Divine Mercy cards and asked if we would pray the Divine Mercy (Chaplet) with him," Sextro said. "It was so cool praying with them and being a little community with them. (The man we served) had tears in his eyes praying the Divine Mercy with us -- you could see how passionate he was about the Lord."

Sextro was one of about 130 archdiocesan teens who participated in the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry's annual weeklong Project Life service trip. This year, during the week of June 8-14, teens served individuals and families in Perryville and stayed at St. Vincent de Paul Parish there. The theme of the week was "Reclaim," and teens learned about and engaged in reclaiming the world for Christ.

"This is a week of embracing the Christian life and understanding what it means to be a Christian, to be a part of this body of Christ," said Tom Lancia, director of the Office of Youth Ministry. It's about understanding "how we serve one another, how we love one another, how we treat one another, how we grow in that relationship with our Lord."

Each day, 17 teams of teens traveled to work sites in minivans, working in groups of six with at least one adult chaperone. The majority of the work they performed was manual labor, including yard work, repairing and painting houses and building fences. Teams stayed at a site until the work was completed, which meant that sometimes they stayed at one work site for several days or moved sites each day, depending on the amount of work to be done.

Lancia said Perryville was chosen this year because St. Vincent de Paul Parish and the Perryville community have been very welcoming to the people who came to serve with Project Life in the past. The parish campus provided space for students to pray, sleep and eat during the week. Businesses in the community also pitched in to help with the teens.

To decide who the teens would be serving during the week, Lancia received names of people who had asked for assistance from the Ladies of Charity in Perryville and from other Perry County parishes. Members of the Office of Youth Ministry and two parishioners from St. Vincent de Paul visited each person on the list to assess their situations and see if Project Life had the resources to help them. Their goal was to help as many people as their resources allowed.

Although Sextro participated in Project Life last year, he had never before had an experience "so personal, never where you get to sit down on a porch and hear their stories and hear their testimony to Christ and His love and His works in their life," Sextro said. "I was weeding a garden right next to (the man we served), and I was side-by-side with him, so we were just talking and learning more about their lives. It was very cool."

After serving at their work sites during the day, teens participated in evening programming sessions. The time included talks about reclaiming dignity, being reclaimed, reclaiming what it means to be men and women of God and reclaiming joy.

The teens also attended daily Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation. Evening programming included praise and worship and small-group activities and discussions. Teens had a color war, based on the Color Run 5K race that takes place in St. Louis. The week ended in a feet-washing ceremony.

Adam Otto of Ste. Genevieve du Bois Parish in Warson Woods reflected on how serving people in "small" ways can make a difference. Although, in the grand scheme of things, the type of service projects performed were relatively small, Otto said, "... we're bringing joy into someone's life, which I realized today is really, really cool."

Pohlman is a summer intern at the St. Louis Review.