Youth Ministry Outreach

St. Gerard's Outreach program happens every summer. Our trips go to Olive Hill, Kentucky; Disaster Relief in various locations; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; New Orleans; Detroit; Louisiana; Boston Soup Kitchens; NH Outward Bound up Mt.Washington. Qualified CYO members must apply and be chosen for a trip.


Committee Heads:

Rachel Beatty: (781) 801-6577

Maggie Connolly: (781) 801-2177

For Frequently Asked Questions
Click Here

For Testimonials
Click Here

 


Get to Know Our Youth Ministry Participants and Activities


Youth Ministry Outreach 2019
 


Youth Ministry Outreach 2018
 


   Youth Ministry Outreach Over the Years...
 

St. Gerard's Youth Ministry Kentucky Outreach 2016

St. Gerard's Youth Ministry Kentucky Outreach 2016

 



 

Youth Ministry Outreach FAQs
 

When do the trips take place?

Each trip is one week and their dates change every year, but they are usually in late July, or early August.

What types of trips are offered?

A Habitat for Humanity‐based trip, doing reconstruction of homes in the coal mining regions of rural Kentucky. Living among the impoverished in inner‐city Philadelphia to assist in running the neighborhood soup kitchen. Disaster relief: could be at almost any location in the U.S where a disaster has occurred.  A combination of Outward Bound and working with the inner city needy.

Am I eligible to go on these trips as a freshman? 

Yes.

How do I qualify to partake in Outreach?

You have to be involved in CYO on the local front before you can be considered for a summer trip. Ways that you can get involved include regular participation in Father Bills, Operation Lazarus, JR. CYO events, Teen Mass, Sojourner House, retreats, CYO Basketball and any other additional Outreach projects.

Do I have to pay to go on the trips? What if I cannot afford it?

There will be a required deposit of $250, to be returned with your application.  An additional $200 is due at our Spring Outreach meeting for a total of $450. It is suggested that the applicant obtain this balance by fundraising.  If necessary, Mike and Fr. Copp will confidentially review individual financial situations and will help if needed. Your financial situation will not be a factor in whether or not you are eligible for participation.  

Can I choose which trip I go on?

We take your choice into account, but we ultimately place you based on where we see fit; based on the destination and the needs of the group. After all, our mission is to reach out to others, regardless of where, how, and why.

Do I need to be a parishioner at Saint Gerard's to attend an Outreach trip?

It is a factor as it is St. Gerard that sponsors our trips, but our selections are predominantly based upon your involvement in CYO, regardless of whether or not you are a parishioner of St. Gerard's / Catholic.

When will I be notified as to whether or not I can go on a trip?

We begin the selection process in April and will notify you in early May.

What if I am inexperienced in construction or manual labor?

Our objective is to keep our groups as well‐rounded as possible, so we need people with a variety of skills and talents in order to be successful.

How many times can I go to one location? 

You may travel to the same area for a max of 3 times, during your high school years. Then we would like you to travel somewhere else so you can get a well rounded experience through the Outreach program.

Does past participation in CYO contribute to consideration for this year's trips?

Current involvement in CYO is most critical while past participation is taken into consideration.

Who will the advisers be for these trips?

The advisers for the trips have not been fully decided yet. Past advisers will be moved around so that each one gets a chance to be a part of every trip. The advisors trip destinations will be decided sometime in late Spring.

 

Testimonials

In Their Own Words...

The St. Francis Inn taught me that giving to others, especially the less fortunate, is a privilege we have...I have never been in a more welcoming and forgiving place in my life.

“Dude, come look out the window right now.”

I was woken up Tuesday morning to see a woman holding a smashed beer bottle running after her boyfriend. The three boys on my trip watched in shock as she caught up to him and stabbed him in the back. He continued running around in the view of our window, getting hit with the sharp edges of the bottle at least two more times. Many others looked on the from the street, as well as passerbyers in cars, and while over a dozen people watched anxiously not sure what was going to happened next, the police would not be showing up and nobody standing up to protect him. This was the moment that the reality street life on Kensington Ave set into me. It turns out that this was the same couple the girls on the trip saw the day before, as the man who was getting stabbed aggresivley beat up the woman, and the same couole that later Tuesday night laid together on our frontstep. Later in the week, when he returned to the Inn’s area with a bandage wrapped around his head, I learned from the other guests at the Inn that he had gone to the hospital over 30 times because of his girlfriend. No matter how many times she hurt him, or he hurt her, without each other they would have nothing. They were filling each others voud in life created by loneliness. 

Kensington Ave is at the epicenter of the opiod crisis In Philedelhpia. So much so that even driving down Kensington during the day you’re bound to see a handful of people shooting up alongside the ride. On our first night serving in the Inn, a woman who had been problematic earlier in the week came to my table. I introduced myself and was back at her side with her meal and dessert in a matter of seconds, as to make sure this meal progress with ease, but that night she was different. 

I watched as she sat at the table; so high she could barely talk, so high she couldn’t eat her food, so high she let herself slump over the table leaning farther and farther only to pick herself up right before she feel out of her chair, so high other guests asked to move to another because they couldn’t bear to watch it. 

Hopelessness is a word we use in CYO a lot, and is something we aim to abolish by shining our light and spreading hope. I don’t think I had seen true hopelessness until that moment. In that moment standing by her, seeing what used to be her ankle and was now a scab covering pin cushion, unsure if she was going to make it through the meal without passing out on the floor, I felt hopeless. I saw something different in her, she had no will, her life was her void, and the only way to fill it was getting so high she was barely living.

The thresholds for action on Kensington Ave are different than in Canton. People can be chased and assaulted with weapons, use hard drugs in the open, or steal from someone else, and the police will not show up to stop it nor someone step in. This makes it hard to see the guests lives on the street as a reality, and not like a TV show. Becase of this difference in treshholds their problems seem different and obscure to us, but in reality are the same as anyone here.

Loneliness, depression, addiction, and relationship problems are not something foregin to us in Canton, “Honesty is the first step to recovery” this was the advice given to our group by a guest named Jerry, someone everyone on the trip would call a friend. This same advice was given in our journaling session the night before where we talked abiout ways to solve the biggest problems in our own lives. The people who call Kensington Ave their home are the unlucky ones in this world who have been brought down by crisis’ in life. Crisis’ that we all face and could one day, bring us down too.

The Saint Francis inn is a place where people can bring their lives back up. The Franciscan orders ideal is to serve the impoverished in the community around them. The St. Francis Inn has not only served the community around them, but turned it into a family. They know their guests on a personal level, and do so much more than give them a warm meal, helping them find housing, employment, and ways to get off drugs. They spread their seeds of love and hope no matter what the soil looks like and if it will take the seed. They taught me that giving to others, especially the less fortunate, is a privilege we have, this privilege should never be taken for granted. I have never been in a more welcoming and forgiving place in my life, and aspire to go back and help them continue their work, which is truly the work of God. 

John Peplau, High School Junior
Saint Francis Inn; Philadelphia, PA

 

The people of [Puerto Rico] showed us that it does not matter how much money you have or what you own...the real key to happiness is meaningful relationships.

Hello, my name is Maggie Wade and I have the privilege of traveling to Dorado, Puerto Rico…and although it is a part of our country, you don’t hear much about it. So, going into it I didn’t have many expectations besides the beautiful beaches and a beautiful culture, but I was not prepared for what was behind the scenes.

We were sent to a community called “La Hormiga” and it was a squatter community which means none of the people living there had any rights to their land, therefore they were not receiving any help. And so, while they seem materially poor, Pastor Ronnie made us realize “Poverty is the lack of meaningful relationships” and this quote shaped our trip because it put into perspective how important it is to love one another.

The people of Dorado and La Hormiga showed us that it does not matter how much money you have or what you own, rather the real key to happiness is…meaningful relationships.

This all came full circle for me during one of our journaling sessions when we talked about how we all go on these trips and do amazing things and have life changing experiences but when we return, the work we did and the lessons we learned tend to get drowned out, especially through our busy year.

But, if this one week has taught me anything, it is that there is something we can bring home that doesn’t just “fade away” and that is the love we have for one another. We can put up walls and change lives but I think what matters most is the lessons we learn from the people we help…and in Puerto Rico that was to love one another confidently and fearlessly through the hardest of times. 

Maggie Wade, College Freshman
Puerto Rico
 

Although a group of teenagers like us didn’t fix up the entire town of Olive Hill, fixing a few houses changed a few lives forever.

One of the most important things I’ve ever seen was the look on Tammy Moreland’s face when she saw the finished product of her new roof. It was the face of pure joy and happiness along with a little shock that a few teenagers could do such a thing.

I had worked on that roof for two and a half days, until something happened that truly changed me, after two days of long, exhausting work in the Kentucky heat, a trip to the hospital, and a few stitches later, I was left unable to work. To some this may seem unfortunate, but to me it was what made the trip truly worth it. My inability to hold a hammer is what opened my eyes to what Outreach is really about. 

Over the course of the last three days, I was given the opportunity to understand what life in Olive Hill is truly like. Although I was inspired by Tammy’s ability to house so many relative that I couldn’t keep track of them, it was a day I spent shopping with Nina’s family that will stay him me forever. Three boys and three girls, living in two trailers up the street from one another. Although these kids might be among the most impoverished and lease fortunate, they stayed smiling every second of the day and continued to sing a long with every song we played. 

The six were told to buy what they wanted, but the prideful and humble family picked out what they needed. Justin, the youngest, could’ve picked out any shirt in the store, no matter the brand or the price, but he still chose the shirt that he could wear to match with his brothers. After his tears of joy, made me realize what Olive Hill, Kentucky truly is: a family. Being able to be a part of this family for 7 fast days has impacted me in ways I wouldn’t never imagined. 

Understanding the pride the people have, has given me a new sense of pride for my self, my family, and my hometown. Being able to take a step back and take a look at my life alongside there’s has changed me. I’m not one who likes to open up, but Nicki and Gracie Walker opening up to me let me see the pride in speaking about my struggles.

And although a group of teenagers like us didn’t fix up the entire town of Olive Hill, fixing a few houses changed a few lives forever, which leads to the greatest fix of all, hope.

And although some people might’ve thought our dance at the Horse Show was silly, I know that the one little boy with a cast on I saw in the stands was full of joy smiling, cheering, and dancing with his mom, I know we made a difference for him. So although I know I didn’t get to make the biggest impact on the worksite, the relationships I was able to form with the people of Olive Hill has helped me fill my void and that has made all the difference. 

Timmy Kelleher, High School Junior
Olive Hill, Kentucky

 

I felt not only accomplished of the work we had done, but also more full of hope and love.

As we were getting out of the van, at our worksite Tuesday morning, I couldn’t help but analyze what we would be working on for the rest of the week. A small trailer home on 3 acres of land in the small town of Crosby, Texas. The trailer had two steep staircases made of old wood to get to the front door, a dog, and a cat running around, a fully furnished inside and a car in the driveway. It seemed like a normal Texas home, but something about it didn’t seem quite right. 

As we began conversation with the proud homeowners, Miss Jill and Mr. Mike, they immediately told us about their experience with Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Their previous home was ruined in 7 feet of water which resulted in them being forced to move into their current home. They continued to tell us about their numerous medical issues including knee replacements and a chronic heart failure which led us into what our project would be for the week.

We would be building a wheelchair ramp for the old couple to replace the steep wooden stairs they had been using to get into their home. As the week went on, the ramp became longer and our conversations with Miss Jill and Mr. Mike became deeper. By Friday it became clear to me what the initial lack was that I noticed Tuesday morning. Miss Jill and Mr. Mike had a missing piece to their home that was far from material. They not only lost their home in 2017, but they lost their hope along with it. Their home was replaced but the hope they had lost remained unfound.

I only noticed this void of theirs as I watched the void become full. The couple laughed more, talked more, smiled more, and loved more as the week progressed. On the final day the ramp was finally complete and Miss Jill and Mr. Mike were beyond appreciative. As they thanked and hugged us hundreds of times as we left, I felt not only accomplished of the work we had done, but also more full of hope and love. Fitting the unseen void that Miss Jill and Mr. Mike had simultaneously filled the unseen void in myself that I never would have found without this week in Texas and for that I am forever thankful. 

Nicole Erk Thompson, High School Senior
Hurrican Harvey; Houson, TX
 

We made a community feel no longer forgotten, let children feel the joy and simplicity of play, and felt a piece of our hearts fall for Cuba.

I’m eighteen years old and I visited Cuba last week. I’m going to tell you all about the experience.

This trip taught me so much about life, family, friendship, and hope, in a time I really needed to do some discovery and reflection. It has made me appreciate my privilege, but also taught me that all of the things I have because of my privilege, like all of the "stuff," doesn’t matter at all.

Life is beautifully simple in Cuba. The people are faced with the struggles of poverty, yet use their faith, love, and hope to channel their gratitude for what they do have, like family, friends, food, water, and a beautiful culture. Their lives are centered around people, not things, and every day revolves around love and experiences. And I didn’t think I could adopt that way of life so easily in just one week. I felt the human connections and interactions and felt like my presence and St. Gerard’s Outreach presence meant something special with every hello and goodbye to the people of Manzanillo.

In an impoverished and communist country, it is easy for citizens to feel forgotten. However, our group showed the Manzanillo, Callo Espino, and Limones people that they are not forgotten or alone. We empathize with them, made lifelong friendships, exchanged aspects of our cultures, and most importantly, we let them know that we were there for them not only for eight days, but forever. Our Cuban communities taught us that language and culture are not barriers, but doors. Doors for discovery and finding a way to connect with someone just by kissing their cheek or holding their hand. This trip was entirely about human connection, faith, love, and above all, hope.

We saw hope in the eyes of a sick elderly woman while we prayed for her and praised her for her strength. We saw hope in the smiles of the children playing frisbee, hockey, or parachute for the first time. We felt hope pouring off of our Cuban family while hugging goodbye because we reminded them it was just a "see you later."

We made a community feel no longer forgotten, let children feel the joy and simplicity of play, and felt a piece of our hearts fall for Cuba. There is something different in the air in Cuba, and it’s not horse poop, it’s magic; it’s love.

And to my family in Cuba, I’m very thankful for your friendship. I’m going to miss you very much. I love you more than you can imagine. Long live Cuba!

-Molly Colburn, Senior
Cuba

 

If Houston could be so overcome with tragedy yet still overflow with love, there is nothing stopping us from shining our lights back home.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to have traveled to Houston, Texas, with the simple goal of providing disaster relief for the victims of Hurricane Harvey that hit just one short year ago. While we went to Houston to help these people get back on track, our experiences have touched our own lives in a way as well.

On our first day we met Martha, an 80-year-old great grandmother to 11-year-old Katie−their house was hit hard by the Hurricane, and they were left alone with no help from anyone around them. While we were only expecting to tear down their walls and rebuild what was damaged in the disaster, we also were able to sit down with Martha and hear her story. To take in what this family has been through in this past year was incredibly eye-opening. However, what truly struck me was how Martha and Katie have gone through all that they have, and yet they still speak of their faith, gratitude, and true belief that God had blessed them with us.

If the two of them can carry this burden with such grace, then my hope is that we can do the same with our own as we return back home. The bottom line is that the people of Texas who have undergone this tragedy do one thing so incredibly well− they love. I do not mean that they love their homes being rebuilt or other materialistic things−they love one another more than anything else.

Houston undergoing the devastation of Hurricane Harvey was tragic, but the unity in loving one another the way these people have will forever be far more powerful than any storm or natural disaster that comes their way.

On our last day of working at Martha and Katie’s house, we gave Katie a gift. While the sight of the Dairy Queen gift card brought Katie’s smile from ear to ear, their reaction to us handing them one of this year’s Outreach t-shirts is one that I will never forget.

I realized in that moment that she saw the shirt with all of our names on the back, that no amount of money was going to make their smiles any bigger than they were then because to them, we were the true gift. And that was not because we put screws and nails in their walls, but because we became a part of their story that they had no control of for so long after the Hurricane. They could not choose to put their house back together or make this awful nightmare go away, so instead they just chose to love. If there is one thing that we can pack up and bring back to Canton to smooth out our own bumps and curves back home, then I truly believe it is the same thing that people like Martha and Katie so clearly emulate−unconditional and unwavering love.

In a world overcome by evil and tragedy, we all need to choose love. These people don’t love the materials or things in life, but one another. They truly recognize that life is all about loving people and using things, not the other way around. We may have gone to Houston to help people like Martha and Katie get back on track, but I truly believe that they have helped us to get back on track too.

After experiencing the faith, love, and light that I have this week, I hope that we can all pack up the gratitude and fill our hearts with the love we have felt this week and try to smooth things out back home. I know I leave Houston with a firmer belief that things do happen for a reason that we may never know, but our faith and hope is what will guide us on our journey. Seeing a house entirely destroyed and left empty from the storm besides a small, crooked sign in the back room entitled "thankful" helped open all of our eyes to the fact that the little things really are important.  It showed me that if Houston could be so overcome with tragedy and darkness yet still overflow with love, then there really is nothing stopping us from shining our lights back home in Canton in the times where things get dark. While I hope more than anything that the people of Houston that we met never forget us, I even more hope that all of us never forget the love we felt here, and that we can squeeze it into our suitcases and head back home to Canton with it to smooth out the bumps and curves back home.

-Kelly Morrissey, Junior
Disaster Relief; Houston, TX

 

This stay has changed my life forever, and I will stand by that statement for as long as I live.

Mid-way through the week [of the Kentucky Outreach trip], I had a conversation with Mike. He said to me that in the week leading up to Outreach and Kentucky, there had been little to no prayers of the faithful at Mass that mentioned us, the kids, who were going to go do what we’d hope was going to be good things. This got me thinking. I realized that back at home, Outreach had become so routine, by no fault of anyone, and that churchgoers could see the full potential of our efforts.

In Harrisburg, we were cheered and sent off by a group of complete strangers. In Kentucky, those we helped praised us. Now what Kentucky has helped me realize is that no one is alone with his or her struggles. Everyone goes through something at one point or another. We should never be afraid to ask others for help.

On my worksite, Mr. Hensley had taken in a woman who’d been struggling with substance abuse. This same Mr. Hensley has metal cages all through his body and walks with a cane, but he nonetheless chooses to house a woman in need.

This stay has changed my life forever, and I will stand by that statement for as long as I live. Maybe I’ll never see Mr. Hensley again, but one thing is for sure and is that you should never, ever give up hope. After a year the woman is now substance-free.

To sum it up, through my many learning experiences, my greatest [experience] was to help others; and whether you receive something back or not, you should always be proud of who you are.

-Billy Wade, Junior
Kentucky

 

For every person we meet, we show that there are people who care about others and that things can get better.

Last week we went on the Outward-Bound trip where we also spent two days with retired veterans in New Hampshire. Going into this trip, I thought I was going to find out more about myself and make connections with others. Although I did, I mainly discovered why we do Outreach.

On our second night of the trip we were asked to reflect on what we expected from the veterans’ home versus what it actually was. I had written that I expected to learn about a little about the veterans’ lives and bring them a new face to see, but it would mean little to them because how much of an impact can a teenager have on someone who risked their lives for our country? I was completely wrong.

Sitting with an older man named Don, he told me that he believed what we are doing has a greater impact than what he did. He said he wouldn’t have had to fight if there were more people like us, bringing hope to other people’s lives changing the world. What he said had me in awe. I would have never compared myself to a Veteran. Don showed me the impact Outreach has on the lives of the people we meet.

There is only so much that can be done in a week. There are only so many problems that can be fixed, and only so many places we can go, but the hope that we spread can last a lifetime. For every person we meet, we show that there are people who care about others and that things can get better.

Outreach showed me that every little thing matters. From the smile you give someone passing by, to the roof you put on their house, it can truly change their life.

-Maria Femia, Freshman
Outward Bound

 

At home at night, you look outside and there’s nothing to notice. In Philly at the Inn, if you look outside, there’s everything to notice.

When I look outside of my Canton, Massachusetts, bedroom window at night I can see my front lawn, my neighbor’s house across the street, a street light, and lights through the tress for the train tracks. There’s nothing unusual or anything special to make a remark about.

At the Saint Frances Inn in Philadelphia, when I look outside the window at around 11:30pm, I can see about 10 out of 20 homeless people asleep on cardboard; some with blankets, some without. Those awake are either doing drugs or just sitting up against the wall looking around. As hours pass by, a few others and me look outside the same window after hearing some commotion. We see a fistfight happening between two men. After it breaks up we turn from the window. Two more hours pass, and when we look outside to see what’s going on, all 20 homeless people are awake.

When I remembered what my advisor said, "Some people have to take drugs at night in order to sleep," it made more sense why everyone was awake. We didn’t look outside anymore, and soon we went upstairs to go to sleep.

The look outside both windows is significantly different. At home at night, you look outside and there’s nothing to notice. In Philly at the Inn, if you look outside, there’s everything to notice.

The next day comes along and we wake up for Mass. After Mass, we give out breakfast and also begin to prepare for the main meal for 4:30. While the main meal comes and goes, I notice 3 things: people that just go there for the meal and can be rude and selfish; the nice people who appreciate what we are doing and have a smile on their face; and the hardworking staff we worked alongside with.

At home, I see all types of people: people with money, and people without; big houses, small houses; quiet people, and loud people. While there are distinct differences from home and Philly, this week has helped me to reflect on the rough patches at home, too. Things you may not see on the surface but are hidden underneath. I learned to look beyond the surface at home.

After the time that I have spent in Philly, I learned that the things that we take for granted in our everyday life are all just dreams of these people, and they are things they probably won’t ever get. Things such as clean water, food, and electricity; yet they can still be more grateful than almost all of us - if not all of us - back home. This trip helped me realize how to smooth things out, not just at the Saint Francis Inn, but at home as well.

-John Bradley, Sophomore
Saint Francis Inn; Philadelphia, PA

 

These trips send me back home with a never-ending amount of hope, faith, and happiness... 

For this Outreach trip to Kentucky, things acted as symbols for me. The vans for example, symbolize how far we are all willing to travel. The amount of people that show up to the work sites symbolizes how many are willing to change lives, and the work demanded symbolizes how much we will do to help others. Saint Gerard’s has been going to Olive Hill for 29 years and counting, continuously turning hopes and dreams into reality. We are able to touch the citizens of Olive Hill by keeping their faith going. This is so crucial because peoples lives don’t end they die, it ends when they lose faith. It may be true that Olive Hill, Kentucky, is a dying community, but when I had some down time on the work site I took the opportunity to ask Austin Walker what he thought about what we do for Olive Hill for a week out of every year, he said “Every year you guys come, it seems like the sun shines brighter, the wind blows more often, and miracles happen on the daily.” And I couldn’t agree more. The cost of gas, hotel rooms, food, materials, and supplies may add up to more than tens of thousands of dollars, but the homeowner’s reactions and endless appreciation is priceless. This sends me back home to Canton, Massachusetts with a never-ending amount of hope, faith, and happiness. But this Kentucky trip was not just the jobs we set out to complete, but also the journey. The journey that consisted of the relationships we built, the beauty of Gods country, which we all saw, and learning the hardships, the bumps, and the curves in peoples lives. Hopefully our impact in Olive Hill, Kentucky can be packed up, put in the vans and brought home to Canton to smooth out the bumps and curves. I know I will pack up the impact, bring it home to Canton and do my best smooth out the bumps and curves back home.

-Joey Vaughan, Junior
Kentucky

 

Spreading hope to others can give you the power and motivation to do great things...

On the Outward Bound trip we spent the first working with adults with developmentally disabled at Hope House and the next four days hiking through the White Mountains in New Hampshire. At Hope House I met a 35-year-old man named Justin. Justin was both mentally and physically disabled because of a brain tumor that doctors found when he was only 10 years old. After talking to him I learned that he used to be a completely normal kid before his brain tumor, and he loved sports, but sadly even after 25 years of speech and physical therapy Justin can still not walk and has a hard time speaking. When I told him that we were going to hike the White Mountains he was amazed and said he would give anything to be able to do that. When we left Hope House and began to hike the White Mountains; it wasn't easy. There were plenty of challenging times along the hike and a number of blisters, but whenever it got difficult I just thought back to Justin at Hope House and how he would give anything to trade places with me right now. Justin is a perfect example of someone who spreads hope to others in this world, and what I learned from him was that spreading hope to others could give them the power and motivation to do great things.

-James Murphy, Freshman
Outward Bound

 

The trip does not end here, for it stays with you forever...

This was my second year going to Philly, so I was very excited to go back and renew old friendships but also make new ones. We worked and lived at the Saint Francis Inn, a soup kitchen off of Kensington Avenue that serves a meal to over 350 guests every day and provides other necessities for the guests. Our job for the week was to provide these guests with what they needed with a smile on our faces and love in our hearts. For those of you who do not know, Kensington Avenue is an area filled with poverty, homelessness, drug and alcohol addictions, and crime. Despite being located in this area, the Inn is considered a "sanctuary." The guests have nothing but respect for the Inn and its staff and volunteers because for many of these people, what we provide is the only care that they will receive that day. As volunteers at the Inn for the week, we were cooking, cleaning, and serving the guests each and every day. Despite the negativity that goes on in this area, many of the guests have provided more hope for me than I have been able to find anywhere else. I was fortunate enough to renew many friendships with staff members of the Inn from last year, but I also was able to meet many guests and learn their stories. The stories I heard and the love that is spread in this small soup kitchen has given me hope that light can be found in even the darkest places. Something that Father Michael helped me to recognize was that by being on this trip, we were a part of the 1% of people in the world who care for the homeless like they are equals to us. We are all human, and none of us had the ability to choose our parents, financial status, or the struggles we would be born into. There are people like Nikki, a 30 year old woman who at age 12 was kicked out of her home by her own mother, who chose her boyfriend over her daughter. Nikki did not ask for this, but it was what she was given, and at age 12 she was on the streets with one person to help her, herself. Not every homeless person can change their situation; every single person has their own story of how they got to where they are, but what matters far more is that we are now a part of their story, and we made their hardships just a little bit easier, whether it was with a warm meal, a quick conversation, or just a smile on our face. And like I said, we don't get to choose how our lives begin. But one thing we can choose is how we live out our lives. We are all one step away from crisis- one missed paycheck, one family tragedy, and one disaster away from being out on the streets, from being someone like Nikki. That is why it's so important to lend a hand to those who weren't as lucky as us, who had the odds against them. After this week, I feel so fortunate to be able to go on trips like these, because not only have we been able to enrich the lives of many people in Philly, but our lives have been enriched as well. I learned that there is no obstacle in life that is too large for one to have faith in God - these people that we met have nothing but they still have full belief that everything is going to turn out okay. Our lives have been forever touched by this small community of people that we have met this week; whether it was the smiles of father bill or the endless hugs that we got from Ang on our last day, I truly have never felt more love anywhere else. What is most important is that I, and every person on the trip does not forget what happened here, but takes that love, hope, and light with them wherever they go in life. The trip does not end here, for it stays with you forever and inspires you to find the hope that we found here in our own lives.

-Kelly Morrissey, Junior
Philadelphia

 

 

 

Testimonials

In their own words...

The St. Francis Inn taught me that giving to others is a privilege...I have never been in a more welcoming and forgiving place in my life...
Hopelessness is a word we use in CYO a lot, and is something we aim to abolish by shining our light and spreading hope...The Saint Francis inn is a place where people can bring their lives back up. The St. Francis Inn has not only served the community around them, but turned it into a family...
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The people of [Puerto Rico] showed us that it does not matter how much money you have or what you own...the real key to happiness is meaningful relationships...
Going into Puerto Rico, I didn’t have many expectations besides the beautiful beaches and a beautiful culture, but I was not prepared for what was behind the scenes. The people of Dorado and La Hormiga showed us that it does not matter how much money you have or what you own, rather the real key to happiness is…meaningful relationships.
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Although a group of teenagers like us didn’t fix up the entire town of Olive Hill, fixing a few houses changed a few lives forever...
One of the most important things I’ve ever seen was the look on Tammy Moreland’s face when she saw the finished product of her new roof. It was the face of pure joy and happiness along with a little shock that a few teenagers could do such a thing...Over the course of the last three days, I was given the opportunity to understand what life in Olive Hill is truly like. Although I was inspired by Tammy’s ability to house so many relative that I couldn’t keep track of them, it was a day I spent shopping with Nina’s family that will stay him me forever...
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I felt not only accomplished of the work we had done, but also more full of hope and love...
It seemed like a normal Texas home, but something about it didn’t seem quite right. As we began conversation with the proud homeowners, they immediately told us about their experience with Hurricane Harvey in 2017...their previous home was ruined in 7 feet of water which resulted in them being forced to move into their current home. As the week went on...it became clear to me that what Miss Jill and Mr. Mike were missing from their home was far from material. They not only lost their home in 2017, but they lost their hope along with it. On the final day the ramp was finally complete and Miss Jill and Mr. Mike were beyond appreciative. As they thanked and hugged us hundreds of times as we left, I felt not only accomplished of the work we had done, but also more full of hope and love, filling the unseen void that Miss Jill and Mr. Mike had simultaneously filled the unseen void in myself that I never would have found without this week in Texas and for that I am forever thankful. 

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We made a community feel no longer forgotten, let children feel the joy and simplicity of play, and felt a piece of our hearts fall for Cuba...
In an impoverished and communist country, it is easy for citizens to feel forgotten. However, our group showed the Manzanillo, Callo Espino, and Limones people that they are not forgotten or alone. We empathize with them, made lifelong friendships, exchanged aspects of our cultures, and most importantly, we let them know that we were there for them not only for eight days, but forever…

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If Houston could be so overcome with tragedy yet still overflow with love, there is nothing stopping us from shining our lights back home...
While we were only expecting to tear down their walls and rebuild what was damaged in the disaster, we also were able to sit down with Martha and hear her story. To take in what this family has been through in this past year was incredibly eye-opening. However, what truly struck me was how Martha and Katie have gone through all that they have, and yet they still speak of their faith, gratitude, and true belief that God had blessed them with us…
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This stay has changed my life forever...
What Kentucky has helped me realize is that no one is alone with his or her struggles. Everyone goes through something at one point or another. We should never be afraid to ask others for help…
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For every person we meet, we show that there are people who care about others and that things can get better...
I expected to learn about a little about the veterans’ lives and bring them a new face to see, but it would mean little to them because how much of an impact can a teenager have on someone who risked their lives for our country? I was completely wrong…
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At home at night, you look outside and there’s nothing to notice. In Philly at the Inn, if you look outside, there’s everything to notice...
While there are distinct differences from home and Philly, this week has helped me to reflect on the rough patches at home, too. Things you may not see on the surface but are hidden underneath. I learned to look beyond the surface at home…
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