Local Youth Serving Local Needs
From June 12-15, more than 50 diocesan teens and volunteers participated in Mission Evansville, a new initiative to connect local high school youth to real needs in the Evansville community.
The idea germinated in September 2015, when a small group of parish youth ministers realized that they shared a common desire to begin a local service initiative. Katie Goebel, Director of Youth Ministry for Corpus Christi Parish in Evansville, St. Philip Parish in Posey County and St. Matthew Parish in Mount Vernon, said that they had all experienced the power of mission trips, but they wanted the students they serve “to see the needs in their own communities.”
The group of ministers combined ideas and resources, spreading the word in their own parishes and securing Mater Dei High School as a “home base” for the week. They arranged collaborations with a total of seven local service organizations. Students denoted their preferences and were assigned one organization to serve for the week. “We wanted to give them a chance to finish a project,” Goebel said.
Examples of student projects include setting up mattresses at Ozanam shelter, playing with children at the Boys & Girls Club, processing book donations at the Dream Center and planting vegetables at Seton Harvest. “It’s been unbelievable,” said Jacob Greulich, a high school student and member of Corpus Christi parish. Greulich spent the week painting a house to be used for events in Evansville’s Tepe Park. “We haven’t seen the people we’re helping, but we know that what we’re doing will make an impact.”
Jeremy Goebel, theology teacher and campus minister at Mater Dei High School, also spoke about the long-term effects of the initiative. Goebel, who spent the week volunteering at Seton Harvest, explained to students that, though hoeing and digging may just feel like tiring work, a family in need will eventually eat the vegetables they helped to plant.
Mission Evansville volunteers slept in classrooms at Mater Dei, and the school cafeteria staff prepared meals throughout the week. Each morning, students gathered in the cafeteria for a community breakfast, activity and prayer session. They then boarded buses and headed off to their project locations for the day. Each evening, students participated in group discussions, listened to speakers and, most importantly, celebrated Mass.
Katie Goebel said that the response to Mission Evansville has been “beyond what we could have expected.” She is hopeful about the future of the initiative, noting that “people are already volunteering for next year. People are already planning around it.”