Spring Break Mission Trip to Biloxi - 2006

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En route

According the schedule, the youth and chaperones from the archdiocese are currently en route to Biloxi -- though they are probably getting pretty close to their arrival.

Each day, if all goes according to plan, I will be posting the news and photos (and possibly sound files and videos) that are sent back to Indianapolis via e-mail from Katie Berger, the youth minister at St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis.

Katie will also be filing a news story for The Criterion when she gets back, so be sure to check the newspaper that comes out on April 14.

In the meantime -- and while we're waiting for news to be sent from Biloxi -- be sure to check out these Criterion stories that ran just a couple of days ago:

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 8:43 p.m. on April 2, 2006

Still en route

I got a call from Katie Berger around 10:30. She said that the vans full of youth were nearing Mobile, Alabama, which is apparently about two hours from Biloxi. She said that she would try to send me photos and information tonight when they arrive if she has time. I will post them tomorrow.

Katie told me that instead of taking several buses, the youth gathered into about 10 different vans. Each van has one "partner" van, and those two vans have to stay together on the highway, including bathroom breaks. For anyone who has followed another car on the highway, keeping up with one car is immensely easier than keeping up with 10. There are a couple of major stops, I suppose where each group stops to eat, where ALL the buses have to wait for each other (to make sure that everyone is approximately on the same schedule).

Katie will either call me or send an e-mail update (with pictures) later this evening.

Correction: Mobile is only about a half-hour away from Biloxi, or so Katie has told me.

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 12:26 a.m. on April 3, 2006

Safe arrival

All the youth and chaperones have arrived safely in Biloxi and after getting some sleep they are preparing for their first day of work.

Katie hastened to add when she called that no one had yet been able to shower -- and won't be able to until after they return this evening. And did I mention that they're all living in a gym together? It's just one of the many sacrifices that these youth are making for the people of Biloxi this week.

Also, the Internet connection at the school is down, along with the public library and just about everywhere else in town. Katie told me that she's going to try to get to a wireless Internet hot spot somewhere in Mobile later today to send pictures, if she can.

If that doesn't work out--or if it's too much of a hassle--I may overnight her this very nifty gadget that I use while on the road: it's a special laptop card that picks up signals from the cell phone towers and can thus gain Internet access from just about anywhere in the country. So, one way or another we'll get pictures and news posted on this site, though it may be another day or so before it happens. In the meantime, do check out all that our online edition has to offer (of particular interest may be our "Year in Review" section featuring the best local news and photos of 2005).

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 8:34 a.m. on April 3, 2006

The first photos have arrived!

If you click on any photo below you'll be taken to a thumbnail gallery of the set.

Katie has just sent me three sets of photos -- departure, travel and arrival -- that I will be posting today. She was able to drive over to Mobile and find a Barnes and Noble that not only offered wireless Internet, but apparently they were very kind in helping her set it up.

Katie said that these photos are of "loading, final instructions, mass, blessing at mass, breakfast before leaving" Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood yesterday.


Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 12:19 p.m. on April 3, 2006

On the road

These next pictures were taken in transit yesterday and end with a shot of the empty gymnasium that has become the home of 110 youth and chaperones for the next week.

And yes, one of those pictures below is of a rocket. Katie writes: "Randomly at at rest stop in Alabama there was a giant rocket - in case you're wondering!" Oh, it was at a rest stop! Well, it all makes sense then -- why wouldn't a rest stop feature a gigantic rocket?

Rockets and pizza...looks like not too bad of a day.


Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 12:40 p.m. on April 3, 2006

Arrival and preparation

This final set of pictures that I got from Katie around lunchtime span from the arrival of the group at Resurrection High School in Pascagoula, MS (I don't want to think about pronouncing that...so much simpler to say "Biloxi") last night to Morning Prayer and preparation for the work day this morning.

By the way, if you want to check out a map of the area that the school is in, click here.

Also, look here at a map of Biloxi.


Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 12:59 p.m. on April 3, 2006

Today's word from Katie

After posting three sets of photos from Katie, I received this update from her about how everything has been working out so far:

"I’ve finally managed to find a hot spot in Mobile, Alabama – about 30 minutes away from our gym in Pascagoula, Mississippi.  I hope from here on out, I will have easy internet access and can update this blog more regularly.

"Yesterday after 15 hours on the road we finally arrived at Resurrection High School!  After departing from Our Lady of the Greenwood at little past 9 a.m., we loaded into ten 12-passenger vans and set out for the Gulf Coast.  To avoid lengthy stops at gas stations and rest stops, vans were put in pairs, instead of trying to keep 10 vans together the entire drive.  We did, however, meet up four times with all the vans to make sure there were no problems and to ensure that everyone was staying on track.   One of our rest stops we had a giant rocket for scenery, so that was fun for all.  At another stop in Birmingham, Alabama for a pizza dinner, 60 pizzas were ready and waiting for us.    Since the weather was beautiful, we all took time to stretch and eat outside.  As for in the van itself, I have to say that the van ride was not as bad as I expected.   I only know what was happening in my own van, but we had a pretty good time.  Yes, it was long, but the time passed rather quickly and it was great to see how excited they all were to be on the trip. 

"We finally rolled into the parking lot of the high school around 11 p.m. central time (Midnight, local Indianapolis time).  Although very tired, the students for the most part were still upbeat and had some energy left.  They all helped unload the 14-foot UHaul truck and began unpacking for our first night on the gym floor.  We divided the girls and guys up into separate sides of the gym and had a blockade of chaperones in the middle.  None of were able to take showers when we arrived, but there was little complaining because most were ready to get some sleep.

"This morning we woke the students up at 7 a.m.  They got ready relatively quickly and packed up their belongings for the day.  Each morning we must all pack up our bags and sleeping bags to stack on the stage in order to clear space for the Resurrection High School P.E classes to meet in the gym.  We then had Morning Prayer, ate breakfast and divided up into work groups.  These groups include two adult chaperones and nine youth and are different from the assigned van groups.   Today’s work, for most groups, is assisting school families with needs they have in their homes.  Last week, local students filled out work requests and today our groups will be spend their day filling those requests.  Three work groups are staying at the high school doing some cleaning and painting.

"That’s where we are now…they are all working and I’m in Alabama.  I will soon be heading back to Pascagoula to reunite with my work team and finish the work day.  Our hard work will soon be rewarded by the promised and highly anticipated hot showers.  It’s only day one but thus far everyone has been pleasant and eager to work. We’ve taken up the motto, 'participate not anticipate.'  We want to make sure we focus on the current task and trust that everything will fall into place and we will be flexible during the week. We’re getting used to one another and learning to offer up our sacrifices because as Father Meyer told us last night, “We’re lovin’ Jesus.' "

-Katie Berger, 04-03-06

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 1:04 p.m. on April 3, 2006

Group photo

I noticed that in the last set of photos (see Arrivial and preparation below) there was a group shot of all the young people -- except that the biggest it gets in the photo gallery is not big enough to pick out all the details.

I've made some larger versions of the file below. Keep in mind the as you go down the list, the files get bigger and bigger -- so if you're on dial-up it may take some time to get the larger images.

Group photo:

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 1:18 p.m. on April 3, 2006

Audio - Homily from Last Night

Katie has sent me an audio file that she recorded of the homily delivered during Mass last night by Father Jonathan Meyer, director of the archdiocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

The file is close to 2 MB, but that is still within reason to download on a dial-up connection. You can either click on the link below to play the file, or you can right click on it, then chose "Save target as" to put the file on your computer.


Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 12:11 p.m. on April 4, 2006

Photos galore!

An overnight package containing a special PC card has reached Katie, and she is now is getting access to the Internet via cell phone towers, and she's sent me a nice big helping of photos.

Most of the pictures (with the exception of a few taken today of the youth at work) were taken yesterday, and the various galleries are shown below. Enjoy!

The work day

Free time

The school and gym

Evening Mass

Evening recreation

The end of the day

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 2:06 p.m. on April 4, 2006

Today's word from Katie

Here's the latest that Katie Berger has written about the trip so far:

"Some of yesterday’s tasks were not the most glamorous and may have seemed trivial, but we really emphasized how even little jobs can mean a great deal to those we serve.  Many of us have heard comments about how just our presence is so uplifting for the community; how our witness has provided a bit of relief amid their long road back to recovery.  It is easy to see how very proud they are of their city and to welcome us in it.

"Work accomplishments from day one:  power washed a house, picked up trash, landscaped, cleaned homes, cleaned gutters, installed doors, put together shelving for school, bleached walls in school to remove mildew, thoroughly cleaned gym showers, removed old boards from a home, removed ceiling tile, cleaned out a garage, sealed grout floor, painted inside, painted outside, cleared a garden, scrubbed school kitchen.

"After work yesterday, the groups returned to the gym and were finally able to shower, followed by free time. The weather was extremely humid but warm so many of the students took advantage of the great weather to soak up some sun by running, playing sports, or just laying out.  Later, the group went to Mass at the local parish, which is located right next to the school.  The parish, Our Lady of Victories, is in the process of repair from the hurricane, in fact the floors there are still bare ply wood.   After the hurricane, the church took on water that rose to the top of the pews, which is approximately four feet. 

"After mass, we went over to the Notre Dame ACE house for a cookout.  Those in the ACE program are teaching in schools down here in Mississippi while also working on master’s degrees.  Our Resurrection High School contact, Tony Hollowell from our archdiocese, is one of the four ACE students who hosted us.  At the cookout we were able to watch the NCAA Championship game, played cards and hang out by the fire.

"We ended the day by breaking into our small groups for processing of the day. Groups were able to reflect on the day’s work and talk about anything that may have impacted them through that work.  Father Meyer then led a Eucharistic procession into the gym, with a short prayer service and time for journaling.  The Blessed Sacrament was moved to a small room off the side of the stage for all night adoration.  Everyone had the option of signing up for hour time slots throughout the night to spend time in prayer with our Lord.

"This morning we got up and around and by 7:45 a.m. in order to join the Resurrection High School students for a short morning prayer.  The principal thanked us for being here and told us that we were the largest group to come and work on the school. 

"There are still a couple more hours in the work day.  Groups are again out in various work sites around the city of Pascagoula and at the school.  Some are finishing the jobs they began yesterday and others moved on to new projects for school families.   The weather today is still great and since we’re only minutes from the beach, many groups have taken lunch breaks or short trips there.  That’s the latest from Mississippi."

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 3:06 p.m. on April 4, 2006

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