July 13, 2018

Camp aims to help teens become ‘agents of evangelization’

High schoolers Sarah Hagen, left, of St. Louis de Montfort Parish in Fishers, Ind., in the Diocese of Lafayette; Joan Njoroge of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis; and Aidan Galt of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis navigate through an underserved neighborhood on the south side of Indianapolis searching for edible plants on June 21. The unique scavenger hunt aimed to help the students better understand poverty, and was part of the Missionary Disciples Institute hosted by Marian University in Indianapolis. (Photo by Katie Rutter)

High schoolers Sarah Hagen, left, of St. Louis de Montfort Parish in Fishers, Ind., in the Diocese of Lafayette; Joan Njoroge of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis; and Aidan Galt of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis navigate through an underserved neighborhood on the south side of Indianapolis searching for edible plants on June 21. The unique scavenger hunt aimed to help the students better understand poverty, and was part of the Missionary Disciples Institute hosted by Marian University in Indianapolis. (Photo by Katie Rutter)

By Katie Rutter (Special to The Criterion)

After examining a rain-drenched map, high school sophomore Aidan Galt thought he had found what his group was looking for. He pointed to a trellis in front of a small house and asked a nearby woman what the tall plant was.

“That’s a rosebush,” the middle-aged community member replied.

“Oh, OK. Thank you,” the teenager said as he turned to his two companions with a sheepish grin. “Not edible.”

Responding to Pope Francis’ call for all Catholics to be “missionary disciples” and “agents of evangelization,” these three students had broken out of their comfort zones to learn more about the people around them. To better understand poverty, they took part in a unique scavenger hunt through an underserved neighborhood on the south side of Indianapolis.

Stepping around puddles in the figurative shoes of impoverished community members, their task was to find and take pictures of edible plants that could “supplement” their lunch budget of four dollars.

“It put into perspective how, as someone who doesn’t have much money, you go look for as many food opportunities as possible,” explained Aidan, who is a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis.

“It’s definitely emotionally impactful,” he added.

The task was an “immersion experience” of the Missionary Disciples Institute, a weeklong camp hosted by Marian University in Indianapolis on June 18‑23. The experience was funded by a grant from the Indianapolis‑based Lilly Endowment, Inc. The camp taught the 52 attending high schoolers that successful ministry means going out to meet those in need.

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“[Being a missionary disciple is] literally going out to people that are hurting, people that are struggling or suffering and embracing them,” explained Patrick Verhiley, the director of the Missionary Disciples Institute.

The camp also aimed to equip these students with the knowledge and training for successful evangelization. Ahead of the scavenger hunt, the teenagers met with the leaders of a community center in the area to learn about the struggles that locals are facing.

“He told us about this lady who was on food stamps, and she got a job just for the winter, and then ended up losing her food stamps. I was blown away by that,” said Peyton Dethy, a member of St. John Paul II Parish in Sellersburg.

The entire camp focused on the Holy Father’s call to “accompany” others on their faith journey. The scavenger hunt group focused on ways to serve communities in need. Other groups learned about the ministries of teaching, proclamation, partnership and prayer.

“We have five tracks here at the Missionary Disciples Institute, and they are focused on ministries that we have found in the Acts of the Apostles,” explained Verhiley.

To practice proclamation, a second group of students visited St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis and led local middle schoolers in a Bible study. After reading the passage, the young people put on presentations to demonstrate the biblical lesson.

“One of the kids commented that she was surprised by how much fun she had, like she was expecting it to be boring,” related Monica Simmons, a home-schooled senior and member of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Noblesville, Ind., in the Diocese of Lafayette.

“I thought that was really significant and the kind of impact that I’d really love to have: to help people see the joy in our faith,” she added.

Other groups held book discussions and visited an Indianapolis gathering space for people who have struggled with addiction or other difficult circumstances. The final group visited the Benedictine sisters of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove to learn how to lead a prayer service.

“For me personally, I find it really hard to stay quiet sometimes,” explained Therese Jargal, a home‑schooled teenager of St. John Vianney Parish in Fishers, Ind., also in the Lafayette diocese. She and her fellow group members were taught a form of prayer developed in an ecumenical community in Taizé, France, that uses both repetition and silence to prompt meditation.

“It’s important for me to just stop and take a deep breath and have a conversation with God,” she said, “because you have to have a relationship with Jesus before you can have a relationship with anyone else.”

Throughout the week, the students also heard keynote speakers that included author and musician Chris Padgett, Franciscan Friars of the Renewal Father Agustino Torres, and Beth Knobbe of Catholic Relief Services. Each tackled a topic related to evangelization.

“One of our keynote speakers said that it’s not about what physical gifts we can bring, it’s about just being there for people and just spreading the love as much as you can,” explained Maddie Buckner, a senior at St. Theodore Guérin High School in Noblesville.

Students were also prompted to come up with a plan to better evangelize their own communities.

“The main thing you need to do is [be present] because if you’re just there for someone it can save their life, so I just want to be that person for somebody,” said Maddy Kellicut, a member of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood.

On the final day of the camp, the teens were joined by their families and youth ministers and were ceremoniously commissioned to go out and share the Gospel. Several of the young people related that their entire focus was now geared on being an emissary of Christ.

“I actually came out of one of our track sessions thinking, ‘Wow, I really want to go into theology,’ ” said Therese.

“I see now that there’s more than just picking a career and really going for it. You have to really know it’s for you, and you have to be at peace with it,” she explained.

“What I’ve learned here is, being a missionary disciple, that’s what your life has to be,” Aidan said.

“It’s not when you see someone who’s in a bad spot, you put on your ‘missionary disciple face’ and you go help them. This is 24/7. This is what every disciple of God is called to do.”
 

(Katie Rutter is a freelance writer and member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington.)

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