This past summer I had the pleasure of joining 60 members of our youth group as well as their chaperones in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains for our youth Mission Trip. For a week our High Schoolers dug, hammered, sawed, and drilled in an effort to improve the living conditions of 12 families in one of the poorest parts of our country. The work was difficult and exhausting and several days' worth of rain certainly did not help the situation. Yet at the same time our youth approached each day with great zeal and a willingness to get dirty and do what needed to get done. For a generation of children that so often gets knocked for being lazy or apathetic it was refreshing to see them approach difficult days with such enthusiasm and zeal.
At the end of the week, when we asked the youth to reflect on their experiences, I was affirmed to hear that what they remembered the most were not the late night trips to Dairy Queen or Squatching (that would be Sasquatch Hunting) expeditions, but the relationships they were able to build with the families they were serving and the satisfaction that they received by being able to help their brothers and sisters in need. For them the trip was more than just an opportunity to have some fun together or get their service hours in, it was a genuine opportunity to live out the Gospel in their lives.
These youth lived out well Pope Francis' call to be attentive to the needs of the poor and reminded us that service is not simply just a way to "do good," but how we live out our lives of discipleship. It is so easy for us to take for granted the many gifts that we have. Our acts of Christian service allow us to not only serve those in need but to grow in our solidarity with them as brothers and sisters in Christ. I am extremely thankful for the witness that the youth of our parish provided and pray that these experiences help form them into solid disciples and the future leaders of our Church.
Fr. Brian Ching, C.S.C., is associate pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in South Bend, Ind. He is originally from Flushing, N.Y., and is a graduate of Holy Cross High School. He entered seminary while a student at the University of Notre Dame. He professed Final Vows in 2012 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2013. Learn more about Holy Cross parish ministry here.