Teens look in their hometown to help others

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Teens from Holy Family Church in Brentwood, St. Matthew Church and St. Philip Church, both in Franklin, participated in the annual Holy Family Servio Deo mission trip June 1-3. Because of the pandemic, the teens weren’t able to travel out of town as they have in the past, so they focused on doing service projects in the Nashville area. Melissa Ladd, center, the youth coordinator at St. Catherine Church in Columbia, gets help from some of the teens lifting a piece of ashpalt they were removing from a former parking lot on Nolensville Road being converted to a park. Photos by Andy Telli

Each summer for the last decade, the teens in the LifeTeen ministry at Holy Family Church in Brentwood would pack up and head to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, for their Servio Deo service trip, helping the people of that area still feeling the scars of Hurricane Katrina while taking time to deepen their faith.

Natalia Gonzalez, above, of St. Philip dumps some of the asphalt the teens dug up onto a pile to be removed later.

“We developed relationships with the churches and community there,” said Ellen Marie Buettner, who started making the trip as one of the teens and now serves as the work crew chief. “They needed help, so we kept going back.”

But for the last two summers, the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted those plans. So this year, the group, joined by teens from St. Philip Church and St. Matthew Church, both in Franklin, decided to look closer to home for people to help.

“It’s been great having them here to see things and help in their back yard,” said Buettner.

June 1-3, nearly 110 teens would spend the day doing service projects at locations around the Nashville area, including:

  • Assumption Church in Nashville, which is still recovering from the damage sustained from the March 2020 tornados.
  • GraceWorks Ministries in Franklin, a collaborative effort addressing issues of poverty.
  • Holy Name Church in East Nashville, another neighborhood hit hard by the 2020 tornados.
  • St. Vincent de Paul Church in North Nashville, a third area hit by the 2020 tornados.
  • The Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
  • St. Pius X Church in Bordeaux.
  • The Nashville Rescue Mission, which serves the homeless.
  • The Nolensville site of the new Mother Teresa Parish.
  • The Catholic Charities Family Resource Center at C.E. McGruder in North Nashville, which offers a variety of services to the residents of the neighborhood.
  • One Generation Away in Franklin, which brings fresh, healthy food directly to people in need.
  • A former parking lot on Nolensville Road in Nashville where they were digging up old asphalt so the site can be converted to a park.
Christian Hamrick, a seminarian for the Diocese of Nashville, volunteered with the teens who were helping at the lot on Nolensville Road in Nashville.

Some of the teens worked at Holy Family preparing meals to be delivered to people in need.

“It’s been eye-opening,” staying in Nashville, said Joe Feduccia, a Holy Family parishioner who participated in his fourth Servio Deo retreat. “I didn’t realize this area really needs service.”

“It’s been good to help locally,” said the recent graduate of Nolensville High School. “It’s good to help people at home.”

After spending the day working at the service sites, the teens would return to Holy Family, where they spent the night, for some free time, a meal and an evening program that featured music from Catholic musician PJ Anderson and his band, speakers, prayer, Eucharistic adoration, Confessions, and Mass.

The theme of the programs was renewal, Buettner said. After the tornados and the pandemic, “now is the time for the kids to renew their spiritual life,” she said.

“They’ve been super fun,” Feduccia said of the evening programs. “Every year that’s probably what I look forward to the most. I like dancing to the music with my friends. I get a lot out of the talks.”

Bishop J. Mark Spalding celebrated Mass on the final evening of the retreat.

“It’s really cool to see the last night, see all the kids coming together,” Buettner said. “They really become a community.”

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