The next generation of Vincentians are learning what it means to embody spirituality, friendship and service, as the St. Vincent de Paul Youth Society at St. Patrick Church in McEwen begins its seventh year with 14 youth involved.
Every year, the group, most of whom are either parishioners of St. Patrick Church or students at St. Patrick School, come together to pray, learn about St. Vincent de Paul, and often participate in projects that serve the community.
On Tuesday, Sept. 27, they showed off their Vincentian spirit of service as they prepared and served dinner to more than a dozen leaders in the community, including Bishop J. Mark Spalding, St. Patrick Pastor Father Zack Kirangu, Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis. members of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation, and others.
With assistance and guidance from their leader Barbara Hooper, vice president of the St. Vincent de Paul Conference at St. Patrick, and a few parent volunteers, the youth prepared the food, which included a salad, spaghetti with meat sauce and meatballs, and a brownie and ice cream for dessert; served the guests; led the guests in prayer; shared what they’ve learned in being part of the society; shared facts about the saints they’ve learned in the “Hall of Saints,” and more.
“This is not a club, this is a ministry,” said George Tenorio, a fifth-grade student at St. Patrick and spiritual director of the group. “What I like most is the activities and the people. We’re like one big family.”
“We like serving people, and that’s what St. Vincent de Paul is all about, is serving people and helping people,” added Kendall McNeil, a seventh-grade student at St. Patrick. “It’s fun helping people as well as to learn about God and the St. Vincent de Paul Society.”
Joe Orozco, an eighth-grade student at St. Patrick, said being part of the group has helped him grow.
“I’ve learned not to take everything for granted,” Orozco said. “Being able to help people who have lost things or people who have become poor or have had something bad happen, it made me realize I shouldn’t take everything for granted because stuff like this can happen.”
As he continues on to high school next year and beyond, “hopefully I’ll continue to be a good person and serve those in need,” he added.
Hooper formed the Youth Society at St. Patrick about seven years ago when she wanted to see the youth read at church. “If they belong to St. Vincent de Paul, they can get up and read a reading at Mass on the weekend,” Hooper said.
Then, as she started researching and found out that the Society of SVDP does have a youth and young adult program, she said she knew it was something she had to do. And she has her own way of doing it.
“I’m not a ‘sit down at this table, take a book out, and you read three paragraphs and then tell me about it,’ kind of person,” Hooper said. “I enjoy seeing them out and living their faith.
“This dinner is a huge service. Setting a table, serving the food, they learn that we’re working as a team and we depend on each other,” she said. “That’s what I’m trying to teach them – to know to serve and see the face of Christ in others.
“I’ve got chills watching them serve, and I’m very proud of them,” Hooper continued. “My hope is that tonight gives them confidence and gives them the courage to show their faith and to just let it shine always.”
Guests had no problem seeing the faith of the youth shining through.
“The kids are just wonderful,” said Mike Pogreba, a parishioner of St. Patrick and Humphreys County Executive. “Just the courteousness and professionalism that they exhibited tonight, from the Hall of Saints to how they did with dinner, is fantastic.”
“I was so humbled to be included and grateful I could come,” added Sister Lydia Marie, OP, a first-grade teacher at St. Patrick. “I was very proud of them from the moment when we walked in. We were welcomed at the door and shown the way in. We were also led through a beautiful hallway of saints and the youth shared what they’ve learned about them.
“I was very touched by all of it,” she continued. “The kids really took ownership of the evening and really created an atmosphere of joy and peace and really expressed their gratitude for our support, which was very touching.”
Bishop Spalding said he appreciated being part of the evening.
“We have children here that appreciate the blessings they’ve received and shown how they’re going to use those blessings and gifts that they have to make the world a better place. It is powerful to see that. At times, I was emotional listening to them in their own unique ways,” Bishop Spalding said. “I told them, ‘When you go home tonight, look your parents in the eye and tell them, the bishop said, ‘they’re doing a good job.’’’
“The whole community here is doing a good job to create young people that want to do good for others,” he said. “If they can hold on to that, then they hold something precious for all their days, and it is something that, when they stand before the face of God in judgment, they can say, ‘This is what I’ve done with the gifts that you’ve given me,’ and that makes God smile.”