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Parish teens make local community their summer mission trip

When this year’s mission trip to Eastern Kentucky was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, teens at Church of the Little Flower in Berkeley Heights decided to make their local community their mission instead.

For the past few weeks, several of the young adults from the parish have been volunteering to mow lawns, trim bushes, rake, and paint. While it’s not exactly “Mission Possible Kentucky,” the experience is helping the young volunteers live out discipleship locally, said Fr. Matthew Dooley, the parish’s parochial vicar, who organized the summer project.

“Our hope is to help the teenagers appreciate the good work they do as stirrings of the Holy Spirit in their lives in addition to the ‘volunteer’ work. That in giving of themselves, they are nurturing the fullness of who God desires them to be,” he said.

Once Fr. Matthew put the word out on social media, the calls started coming in. The group’s first project was storm clean-up at an elderly couple’s home after Hurricane Isaias moved through the area. While the work took about 35 minutes, the group spent another 35 minutes visiting with the couple on their backyard patio.

“This powerful ministry of presence can be more valuable than the clean-up work,” Fr. Matthew said.

The idea was to respond primarily to the needs of seniors in the parish. However, groups of young adults also completed maintenance work at the parish center and painted for the town. Fr. Matthew celebrated Mass in the parish parking lot to kick-off the workday at the parish center.

Some teens struck up “pen pal” relationships with seniors.

“Everybody likes a mission trip because it’s a week away. It’s fun,” said Fr. Matthew. “All those things are good, but you can do mission work at your home too.”

More photographs of the teens at work are shared on the parish Instagram and Facebook pages.