|Posted by Jessica on March 27, 2013 at 2:45 PM|
3/21/2013 10:37:00 AM
On their winter break
BY KURT LAWRENCE
In February, I was privileged to travel to Philadelphia with Rev. Paul Borowski, CSsR, pastor of St. Clement's parish in Saratoga Springs, and seven teens from the parish to work in the city's Kensington District, ministering to the poor, homeless and abandoned.
Father Borowski has been traveling to Philadelphia for a number of years, bringing young people to volunteer with the Blessed Sarnelli Community during their school breaks. The community was founded by Rev. Kevin Murray, CSsR, one of Father Borowski's confreres.
Sarnelli House has moved from one location to another, but now has a permanent home. The house is named after a Redemptorist, Blessed Gennaro Maria Sarnelli, CSsR, who exemplified the charism of his order to care for the poor and most abandoned.
St. Clement's parish and the Blessed Sarnelli Community share the presence of the Redemptorist religious order, which offered us the opportunity to work in Philadelphia. Several teens spoke about the mission, as did Father Borowski:
• "Although this was my second trip to Kensington, both trips were equally enriching not only for my faith, but for my happiness. Ever since I was little, I have wanted to help people. Joining the Peace Corps had gone through my mind until I heard about the trips our youth ministry has to offer. The Blessed Sarnelli Community allowed my love for helping people to shine. The guests we welcomed were people just like us. Around 100 people walk into the Sarnelli Community on the days that warm meals are being served and each of us got to speak to them and view life through their eyes. Some people told us how the only clothes they had were the clothes on their backs; some people explained how they live in abandoned houses. I tend to take for granted how lucky I am to have family, friends and a warm home. The people of Kensington barely have anything, yet they are so hopeful, happy, strong and full of faith. I strive to be as strong as the individuals we helped. Working at the Sarnelli Community showed me you don't have to go into the Peace Corps to make a difference. If we keep our hearts in tune with our God's love, then helping others will be much easier." - Suzie McDermott
• "I am 17 years old and a junior at Saratoga Central Catholic High School. When Kurt came to me about the trip, I thought it sounded stupid. I had recently decided to throw away my belief in Catholicism and my relationship with God. [But] I thought, "It's a free trip," and, "It doesn't have to do with religion; it's only community service." When I saw how friendly the Sarnelli Community was, I began to open up. What really struck me was when we were helping out at the Tuesday night dinner, when a man came up to us who was not able to speak. When we gave him his food, he was so happy. Later than night, I went to the door to greet people. I saw the same man leave. He was so happy and overjoyed that tears were coming from his eyes. He shook my hand and mouthed the words, 'Thank you and God bless,' to me. I saw God in that man. Here was a man who was homeless and could not speak, but he still prayed to God." - Harry Reid
• "I am a 15-year-old sophomore from Saratoga Central Catholic High School. Sarnelli House is a wonderful place where they serve the homeless and the poor. Tuesday and Thursday, we served dinner; on Wednesday and Friday, we served snacks and gave them clothes. There were people whose hands were so frozen that they had turned black. I have only seen things like that in movies. I did not really understand what their lives were like, so we took a walk through the neighborhood. We saw some of the people we served the night before just walking up and down the street until they could find someplace warm. We also saw at least 30 of them sitting inside a fence eating their lunch outside. This really got to me. If there are just that many people having lunch there today, how many are like that in the entire world? We heard a lot of yelling. It scares me that the homeless are either in or see so many fights. That afternoon, we were serving a snack and talking to the same people, now keeping in mind that we were freezing from one hour outside with about four layers of clothing on. One man came in wearing just jeans and a small jacket and he was telling us that it wasn't that bad out at all. Yet even with these harsh conditions, these people were so kind and humble. Many of them were also very thankful. They looked like a kid on Christmas morning from getting even a bit of food. It was a truly eye-opening experience. I beg you to take these words to heart and, the next time you see someone in need, please help them out." - Morgan Ose
• "The experience that I had with everyone in Kensington was life-changing. There were so many emotions that I felt throughout the week, and I feel so happy with what we all did. My faith had definitely gotten a lot stronger in the past year, but there was still a lot more I wasn't connected with yet. At Sarnelli House, I met four individuals who have dedicated their lives to serving others and connecting with God. We learned so much from them. On Tuesday and Thursday, we made meals for more than 100 people. Some of the days were really windy and cold and a hot meal meant the world to them. To see a smile on the face of someone who was homeless or living in poverty was amazing, considering all of the hardships they face. I also had conversations with guests, which were some of the most intellectual conversations I've ever had. This really made me happy because they were confiding in me and we all really enjoyed the company of each other. I also realized that you can never judge a person based on their circumstances, because the most faithful and caring people could be living on the streets." - Meredith Hungerford
• "There are many homilies that I give as a priest and as pastor of St. Clement's. The best homily is the one I once again saw this week as the youth of a church willingly lived, played, prayed and ministered as disciples of Jesus Christ. Their words tonight simply once again echo their willingness to be the light of the world and challenge us all to share Christ's love and light. What did you do on your winter break?" - Father Borowski
(Mr. Lawrence is youth minister at St. Clement's parish.)