Sunday, 18 July 2010 08:05

Students learn about ministry in ‘Just5Days’

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Rachel Turner, 13, traveled from St. Mark Parish in Independence, Mo., to take part in a new mission trip program called Just5Days. Here she uses a power washer to clean a statue of St. Joseph on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Home in Springfield. With her is adult volunteer John Valene from St. Isidore Parish in Bloomingdale. A group of 60 individuals — 48 youth and 12 adult chaperones — came to Springfield June 28-July 2 to participate in a new mission project called Just5Days. The mission is a five-day experience of service, hands-on learning activities, prayer and liturgy for community groups of middle school youth and adult leaders from Catholic parishes and schools.

“Just5Days is a brand new program specifically designed for middle school students through the (national) Center for Ministry Development,” said Kyle Holtgrave, associate director for youth and young adult ministry in the Springfield diocese. “It was done across the country in various places and Springfield was one of those places.”

Holtgrave, who was site coordinator for the mission, is an adjunct for the Center for Ministry Development. He worked with program director Stan Cordero and prayer and music coordinator Megan Gluhan to coordinate the week. Little Flower Parish hosted the group and acted as a “home base” for the young missionaries and their leaders.

The Just5Days participants who worked in Springfield hailed from Missouri, Kansas and Illinois, and traveled and worked in groups. They volunteered at St. Joseph’s Home, St. John’s Breadline, Holy Family Food Pantry, Contact Ministries, the Pregnancy Resource Center, St. Katharine Drexel Parish and with urban gardening projects at St. Katharine Drexel and at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Greens and herbs gathered from the St. Katharine Drexel garden were donated to Holy Family Food Pantry.

“My job was to coordinate things here in Springfield. I needed a host site that would hold up to 75 people,” said Holtgrave. “I was happy that Little Flower was our host. They have hosted other youth programs and are well-equipped. The parish as a whole was open to having us and the school staff was very helpful. In all it was a great collaboration.”

When they weren’t out working in the unusually hot and humid conditions that plagued Springfield that week, the youth and their chaperones met at and slept in Little Flower School classrooms. Little Flower pastor Msgr. John Ossola celebrated Mass for the group.

The group arrived in Springfield early in the week and spent Monday acclimating themselves to the mission experience and then headed out for community work Tuesday through Thursday. “Friday was a day to ‘mentally unpack’ the experience and to discuss and think about how they can continue serving the poor,” Holtgrave said.

“This is in keeping with what the bishops teach us: You want to have youth ministry programs appropriately developed for both younger and older adolescents,” he said. “There really is such a big difference between junior high students and high school students.

“I was pleased to help support this project that is meant for the younger adolescent-age group,” Holtgrave said. “I’ve already had people in Springfield express interest in going somewhere next year.”