Teens participating in the UNITAS service program of St. Augustine Parish, Andover. Pilot photo/courtesy St. Augustine Parish
ANDOVER -- Forty-nine teens, along with 18 adult participants, from St. Augustine Parish's Youth Ministry spent the first full week of summer vacation serving several of their local neighbors in need of help as part of the ministry's UNITAS program.
Teens participating in the annual summer service program provide dedicated support to area non-profits, including Bread and Roses, Community Giving Tree, Iron Stone Farm, Lazarus House Ministries, Cor Unum, Creative Living, Mary Immaculate Nursing Home, Neighbors in Need, Giving Garden, the International Medical Equipment Collaborative, and The Paul Center.
The teens began their service on June 25 at St. Basil's Retreat Center in Methuen, where they spent the next five days living out the four pillars of the UNITAS program: living simply, service, reflection, and living in community.
A morning prayer started out each day before the teens departed in small groups to their assigned worksites, where they worked at various tasks, including painting, sorting, cleaning, and food preparation.
After returning from their worksites and getting a little rest, the teens celebrated Mass, had dinner, and took part in night activities before ending the day with a prayer.
The adult participants at times worked beside the teens, and some served as cooks, drivers, and organizers. Meals were planned and prepared with the oversight of Janet Fluet, the cafeteria manager at St. Augustine School.
"I feel very fortunate to have been a part of this year's UNITAS summer service," said Javi Bernal, a sophomore at Austin Preparatory School in Reading.
"Honestly, I wasn't overly excited at the beginning, but by the end, I was wishing for more time to do more service with all the great people I'd met."
"At this point in my life, I wouldn't say I'm as close to my faith as I was when I was younger or as much as I'd like to be, but this trip really was enlightening for me. I learned a lot about myself and thought more about God and my faith than I have in a long time," he said.