November 26, 2021

National Catholic Youth Conference 2021

Youths at NCYC rush to fill a Box of Joy for children—and other service projects

Charlotte Wiman, left, and Aidan Sauls of Our Lady of the Hills Parish in Columbia, S.C., are all smiles as they help with the Box of Joy service project at the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis on Nov. 19. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Charlotte Wiman, left, and Aidan Sauls of Our Lady of the Hills Parish in Columbia, S.C., are all smiles as they help with the Box of Joy service project at the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis on Nov. 19. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

Charlotte Wiman and Aidan Sauls kept quickly returning to fill another Box of Joy for a child who wouldn’t otherwise experience the magic of Christmas.

Two thousand boxes needed to be filled with an assortment of gifts—one of the service projects that teenagers at the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) worked on in the conference’s Interactive Village on Nov. 18-20.

Charlotte and Aidan smiled at the thought of the boxes being distributed at Christmas to children in need in Central America—boxes that will include a toy, candy, school supplies, socks, a rosary and a coloring book of Jesus, among other items.

“I just feel grateful I can help and give back,” said Charlotte, a member of Our Lady of the Hills Parish in Columbia, S.C., the same parish as Aidan. “It will show them that God loves them.”

Aidan added, “It really makes you view Christmas from a different perspective. I come from a middle-class family, and I get a lot. I realize there are people in the world who don’t. It feels good helping them. I hope that person will feel the love.”

The enthusiasm of Charlotte and Aidan is exactly the reaction that was hoped for by Terry Waters, the special initiatives manager for Cross Catholic Outreach, a nonprofit organization that coordinated the Box of Joy effort and two other service projects at NCYC. About 75,000 food packages were made for families in Guatemala. Another 7,500 food packets will be distributed to Indianapolis area food pantries by the Knights of Columbus.

“For us and for the youths, this is a wonderful opportunity to live out our faith, to put our faith into action,” Waters said. “This Box of Joy is what we call a two-way ministry. It’s the joy of serving, and it gives others the joy of experiencing Christmas.”

The 2,000 boxes of joy from NCYC are part of an overall effort across the country to provide a touch of Christmas to more than 100,000 children in Central America, Waters noted.

“For the kids who get a Box of Joy, this is their Christmas gift. It’s the only gift they will get,” he said. “All three projects are corporal works of mercy. They’ll make a difference in the lives of families.”

In a nearby area, Ava Keicher and Bella Doyle of the Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y., used their talents for a service project called Hands Across Haiti. The effort is a ministry of St. John Paul II Parish in Sellersburg. Youths decorated backpacks, totes and T-shirts that will be shared with members of two parishes in Haiti that have a special “sister” connection to St. John Paul II Parish.

“I went on a trip to the Dominican Republic with my high school, and the fact that Haiti is so close to there touched my heart. I know how much they go through,” said Ava, a senior at Sacred Heart Academy in Buffalo and a member of Immaculate Conception Parish in nearby East Aurora, N.Y.

Bella added, “I like that these are going to people who need clothing. I think that getting something that was pretty would make them see the spirit of God.”

At another area, Paloma Escobedo cut pieces of fabric with three of her friends—Valentina Chavez, Montserrat Gomez and Maria Sanchez. The fabric pieces will be sewn together to create bags for the Christmas Store in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis—an annual effort by Catholic Charities Indianapolis to bring a touch of Christmas joy to families in need. The bags will be filled with hygiene products for parents, complementing the toys and other gifts the children get.

“Cutting fabric is actually pretty fun,” said Paloma, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Indianapolis. “It makes me feel good I’m helping out and someone will appreciate what we’re doing.”

It’s the double blessing of service projects. †

 

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