By LINDA M. LINONIS
The first-year director of religious education and youth minister at Holy Family Church acted on her vision of getting young people involved in their faith through service.
Maureen “Marnie” Kelty suggested a mission trip through the Diocese of Youngstown and the missions office headed by the Rev. Edward Brienz.
The mission trip to Cumberland, Ky., occurred July 27-Aug. 1 with Holy Family and youth groups from St. Luke Church in Boardman and St. Joseph Church in Austintown.
The youths and leaders did projects at the former St. Stephen Catholic Church, which serves as a dormitory, and at residents’ homes.
Kelty said the Holy Family youth ministry involves ninth- through 12th-graders and about 17 participate.
“My approach is about faith in action. I believe this is part of being a Catholic and doing God’s work,” she said.
The mission trip, a first at Holy Family, was well-received and supported by the parish, Kelty said.
“It took us beyond our boundaries to really help people,” she said. “It was putting hands and feet to God’s work.”
Kelty said she and other youth leaders saw “a real sense of growth” among the young participants. Kelty said the group knew it would be working in an impoverished area.
“It was quite another to witness firsthand,” she said of seeing residents’ circumstances. “To some degree, the kids were surprised.”
Kelty said the residents the group helped would be considered living in poverty, but they were “pleasant, kind and gracious.”
Residents filled out applications to receive help. Kelty said projects varied at homes.
Members of the youth groups, numbering 32, drywalled, painted, replaced steel and screen doors, installed a handicap ramp and toilet and did landscaping. The people were very welcoming, Kelty said.
“They were grateful for what we did,” she added.
Kelty said the group was at breakfast by 7 a.m., then worked on projects.
At the end of the day, Father Brientz would conduct a “recap of the day.”
Cellphones weren’t permitted at work sites, and it “was a nice break” from that part of their lives, Kelty noted.
Kelty said youth group members had time to reflect on the impact of their projects.
“You are the church,” Kelty said she told them. “This is what is expected.”
She also said the experience helped the young people “look at the person and see beyond the surface.”
She said the group talked about how Jesus helped the poorest of the poor.
“They realized they could make a difference in people’s lives,” Kelty said.
Kelty said the mission trip prompted the youth ministry to come up with projects to “give back to the community.”
“They came back home filled with a sense of accomplishment and want to do things to help here,” she said.
The youth ministry schedule for 2014-15 includes various community-oriented projects.
The young people returned being “stronger in their faith,” Kelty said.
On the practical side, they learned skills.
Kelty said the group also had free time and vistied High Rock Falls at Bad Branch State Nature Preserve and Kingdom Come State Park.
They also toured the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum, which gave the young people a sense of the work many of the residents did.