Catholic HEART Workcamps
A place where the hearts of the young will be changed forever!
"Mission trips can be life-changing with the opportunity to let go of yourself and learn to reach out to those in need with love. A week serving at Catholic HEART Workcamp touches lives forever." Gina Tupy, Senior High Youth Minister, St. Michael's, Prior Lake, MN.
The need it meets
Youth need to experience their faith in action, not just read about it and talk about in at CCD classes. When they do, it clicks. They take ownership for their Catholic identity.
Where it came from
Gina Tupy, the High School Youth Minister at St. Michael's, heard about the Catholic HEART Workcamps and decided to take four teens with her to a workcamp 10 years ago. They have brought a group every year since.
How it works
Young people participate in camps one week long. They often stay at local high schools or churches with other church youth groups from around the country. The week includes time for prayer, celebration of the Eucharist, confession, worship and fellowship along with a daily work schedule that runs from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm. The students help elderly or low-income housing owners complete projects: painting, fix-it jobs, cleaning, yard work, etc. "HEART" stands for "Helping Elderly Attain Repairs Today."
The 6th day of camp is a free day where the teens go on a fun outing with their group. There are many locations across the United States.
St. Michael's has been bringing students to Catholic HEART Workcamp for 10 years. Each year the number of participants ranges from 65 to 100 high schoolers. Most come back to attend a second year. Even a few college students have requested to serve again at Catholic HEART Workcamp. One young man, Brian Dymit, spoke at a Mass and said, " When you finish the day you are dirty, tired, and hungry, but when you see the smile of the person you are serving you forget about yourself."
Recommendation letters are available on the program's web site. Here is a sample paragraph from Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando: "From the experience of Orlando parish groups that have participated in the HEART Workcamp programs, I understand that the spiritual dimension of the participants is nurtured and enriched along with the strong focus on social justice and service to those most in need. You are to be commended in your commitment to preach the Gospel by living it daily with the youth entrusted to you and the volunteers who work with you in each of the workcamps."
Getting kids excited to go the first year. After the first year of experience the participants' witness keeps it going year after year.
How to implement it
Log on to http://www.heartworkcamp.com to download registration information. Promotional materials are available. (The first year a smaller group could attend and bring back their experience to share with the other youth.)
- Promote Workcamp at Masses, in the bulletin, a mailing and during youth group.
- Have a informational meeting where the parents and youth are able to ask questions and listen to a promotional video.
- Register kids following the deadlines of Catholic HEART Workcamp.
- Start a fundraiser to offset the cost.
- Plan travel arrangements.
- Go to Camp!
Follow up with attendees upon returning in order to share the experiences and grow as a group. This would be a great time to brainstorm on how to serve others in your own community on an ongoing basis throughout the year, building upon the week at Catholic HEART Workcamp.
Fr.Tom Sieg is pastor of
St. Michael Catholic Church.