Teens spend part of their summers being young women & men for others

The teens preparing birdhouses. RCAN

They could have been at the beach or poolside. They could have been hanging with friends. There were any number of things these teens from North Jersey and Pennsylvania could have been doing in the middle of an extraordinarily hot summer.

But not these 45 teens — instead, sthey were being young men and women for others  — all using potions of their summer breaks to complete a range of community service projects for a unique camp offered by the Archdiocese of Newark’s Office for Youth & Young Adult Ministry the last week of July.

This year’s Summer Service Week saw the high school-aged youth volunteering at different archdiocesan sites that required assistance, such as St. Rose of Lima Church in Newark, St. Leo’s School in Elmwood Park, St. Michael Convent in Newark and Sacred Heart Church in Bloomfield.

At many of those locations, the teenagers swept floors, painted walls, landscaped yards, removed garbage and performed other much-needed upkeep.

They packed meals, inventoried food and sorted clothes for people in need at St. Ann’s Soup Kitchen in Newark and the Father English Consumer Choice Food Pantry in Paterson.

Some even got the chance to create birdhouses for Gate of Heaven Cemetery in East Hanover, which will display them as a way of comforting mourners with God’s creatures.

After each day of work, the teens returned to the John Paul II Youth Retreat Center in Kearny to discuss their experiences. They also reflected on Jesus’ service to others and how he is present in their own lives.

And on two special occasions, Auxiliary Bishops Gregory J. Studerus (of  Hudson County) and Michael A. Saporito (of Bergen County, also a Bloomfield native) met the youth, leading them in prayer and reminding them why giving of themselves is so crucial.

“We’re living in a world where it’s all about ‘me,’ but the Summer Service Week is the complete opposite of that,” Rich Donovan, the Youth Office’s Associate Director for Events and Training, who pointed out that the experience was particularly eye-opening for this year’s participants because none had ever joined the camp before, said. “By helping others, these teens went on a journey that’s made them view the world and themselves differently. They appreciate things more. Instead of going in the fridge and complaining that there’s nothing to eat, they’ll think about the people they made food for who really don’t have anything. And hopefully that will inspire them to look into how they can serve their own communities.”

Information about the Office for Youth & Young Adult Ministry may be found at www.newarkoym.com.

Learn more about the writer ...

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.