In Houston, a group of St. Joseph’s Academy students participated in the SHINE Catholic Work Camp, helping to provide relief to residents still feeling the impact of Hurricane Harvey. Their service work was done through Rebuilding Together Houston.
Offered in a variety of cities for the past 19 summers, SHINE is designed to empower teens to have a direct impact on the cities in which they serve. The mission experience includes daily mass, service, team building, an intercessory prayer service, adoration, confession, games and a talent show.
Trip chaperones were Campus Minister Alise Alexander, Custodial Staff Director Lena McGee, faculty member Tiffany Byrd and Operations Director Linda Thompson.
“This weeklong service camp was not merely an immersion in service, but an immersion in the mystery of the Catholic faith,” Alexander said. “Each morning, we attended mass as a group where we were nourished by an encounter with Christ in the Word and the Eucharist. We were then sent forth from mass to be Christ to others in service. In the evenings, we gathered as a community to reflect on how we each encountered Christ throughout the day. Through this rhythm of sacrament and service, we experienced St. Augustine’s words that, ‘If we receive the Eucharist worthily, we become what we receive.’ By living this spiritual reality, we were able to draw closer to God and to one another for a wonderful week.”
Homeowners requesting assistance through Rebuilding Together Houston were required to provide running water and a bathroom for the volunteers. One of the houses had neither, and the SJA students working there were told they would not be able to return the next day because the minimum requirements had not been met. But the students lobbied the agency to return and were able to help make the home better for the elderly residents.
Thompson said another of the houses was occupied by an elderly woman whose husband had recently died. “She was not mobile and could not make repairs herself,” Thompson said. “She sat outside in the direct sun in her special chair while our girls worked. She told our girls on the last day that God loved her so much to provide her with so many angels.
“The love that was shared by the young women and the homeowners was an amazing act of service,” Thompson added.
McGee said the students’ hard work was exceeded only by the love they shared with the elderly residents they served. “The fruit of the spirit is love, and our girls embraced the opportunity to help people who had been suffering for a long time,” she said. “You could watch as their faith grew and blossomed. It was like seeing a shining ray of light. It was a beautiful thing to be a part of.”
Junior Alexandra Canova said the SHINE experience was unforgettable. “I absolutely loved this trip with all my heart,” she said. “Painting houses can be boring, but we all lifted each other’s moods and stayed positive. Every morning we went to mass, which reminded us that everything we were doing was for Christ. Through this mission trip, I have grown closer to Christ, and I am forever grateful for the friendships I have made with my classmates and others on the trip.”
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos courtesy of Linda Thompson