Catholic Youth Ministries connects middle school and high school aged youth to Christ through catechism, prayer, worship, leadership development, justice, service, and community life. These programs focus on empowering young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ and to actively participate in the life, mission, and work of the Catholic faith community. Programs span from weekly community building activities to summer vacation bible school and work camps to faith-filled retreats and mission trips. They emphasize service, friendship, spiritual growth, and memories that will last a lifetime.
One of the many programs for youth to participate in is Catholic HEART Workcamp. Maggie McGowan, Director of Youth Ministry at Resurrection Catholic Parish in Lakeland, has been involved with Catholic HEART Workcamp for many years. McGowan elaborates, “Catholic HEART Workcamp started in 1993, and Resurrection Catholic Church has been taking students to camp every year since 1994. Each year, I grow in my faith through the great Masses and programming, and love to watch the teens grow in their love of God.”
McGowan has witnessed the phenomenal growth of this camp. “Catholic HEART Workcamp began very small, started and run by two youth ministers from the Diocese of Orlando, serving 100 teens and chaperones. Now approximately 13,000 teens and chaperones attend CHWC across the country and beyond. Over the years, the spiritual aspect of camp has gotten better and better. Teens really have the opportunity to come to know and fall in love with Jesus, and develop a relationship with him that can take them into their futures as Catholic Christians.”
CHWC provides parish youth groups, teens, and adult leaders service opportunities to restore homes and hearts, feed the hungry, lift the spirits of children, bring joy to the elderly and disabled, and offer assistance while partnering with social agencies. McGowan explains, “Over and over again, we hear from the people who we serve that they are amazed by the quantity and quality of the work that is done by these teen servants over the week. Many of the agencies count on the teens to do work that would not otherwise be done. In Melbourne, one low-income school has estimated that the teens have saved them $49,000 over four years by installing fencing, painting, landscaping, clearing field, building picnic tables, and more.”
Not only does the community benefit from these volunteers, but the students are rewarded with the gifts of accomplishment, meeting many other great teens, and knowing they are doing good things for others. McGowen has heard wonderful feedback from the students over the years concluding, “It is great to work hard and accomplish something, but I believe the biggest benefits for the teens are the relationships built with their youth group, with teens from other parts of the country, and with God.”
Article written by Samantha, an eighth grade student at Resurrection Catholic School, Lakeland. Photos courtesy of Resurrection Parish.