By Jill Kruse
Witness Editorial Assistant
OSAGE — “It’s life changing!” said 17-year-old Katie Hoppel, member of the St. Isidore Cluster of Osage and Stacyville, of her participation this summer in the Catholic HEART Workcamp (CHWC) ministry.
“For sure, I have had one of the best weeks of my life,” she said of her fourth work camp experience. “Our youth group grew really close and became more like family. We laughed. We cried. We prayed. We served.”
Hoppel was one of 11 youth and three adults from the St. Isidore Cluster to travel to Colorado Springs, Colorado, this June to volunteer their time repairing homes, working at local food pantries and soup kitchens, and helping restore areas affected by forest fires.
This was the 12th summer young people from the St. Isidore Cluster have participated in Catholic HEART Workcamp, a ministry founded by Steve and Lisa Walker in Orlando, Florida, in 1993 to provide youth of junior high and high school age, college students and adult leaders opportunities to live out their faith and serve others during week-long, Christ-centered mission trips.
What began with about 100 participants the first year has now grown into the largest Catholic service camp organization in the country with more than 13,000 individuals taking part in the camps each year.
With time for prayer and participation in the sacraments a part of each CHWC experience, the young people of St. Isidore Cluster attended Mass each morning before they began their workday, took part in an evening of eucharitstic adoration and had an opportunity for reconciliation with 15 priests available to hear their confessions.
Like their counterparts at the St. Isidore Cluster, young people and youth leaders from other parishes across the Archdiocese of Dubuque have taken part in CHWC experiences this summer and in previous years at locations across the country.
Eleven young people from Epiphany Parish in Mason City and four young people from St. Patrick Parish in Clear Lake, along with six adults, traveled to Mishawaka, Indiana, this June for a week of service through CHWC. They volunteered their time at several Boys and Girls Clubs, domestic violence shelters and food banks, and also built a shed, painted, helped with yard work and tore down several dilapidated garages.
The youth and adults from Epiphany and St. Patrick Parishes participated in a work camp that offered daily Mass and an evening of adoration, as well as the opportunity for reconciliation and a nightly rosary.
“I receive excellent feedback from the teens that go to Catholic HEART Workcamp,” said Chelsie Stevens, the director of youth ministry for Epiphany Parish.
Stevens said in the three years she has organized a trip through Catholic HEART Workcamp, “the group that I take has grown because the teens are passionate about their experience.”
Beth Hoppel, the coordinator of religious education/youth ministry for the St. Isidore Cluster, said she has received similar positive feedback from the young people she works with each year.
“The youth of St. Isidore are already asking where we are going next summer,” she said. “It’s a great feeling that God is so alive in these teens!”
Mason O’Malley (left), a high school junior from the St. Isidore Cluster of Osage and Stacyville, is pictured with a teen from another part of the country during a Catholic HEART Workcamp in Colorado in June. They are restoring areas damaged by wildfires. (Contributed photo)