‘Faith Factor’ camp attracts more than 100 youth to Fox Valley work sites

By | August 1, 2012

Carolyn Coutu, coordinator of youth ministry at St. Thomas More, is the chairperson of Faith Factor. “This has been going on more than 10 years. It’s coordinated through the Fox Valley Catholic Youth Ministers Association. We have 107 kids here and we open it up to anyone from any parish.”


Keegan Sawin, left, of St. Thomas More Parish, and Alexa Bonneville of St. Mary Parish in Appleton, both 13 and eighth-graders at St. Joseph Middle School in Appleton, are all smiles as they work on constructing a picnic table which will be donated to Habitat for Humanity. It was one of the projects they worked on during the Faith Factor service camp held at St. Thomas More Church July 17-19. (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass

The three-day camp started each morning with a presentation by Mulloy. The theme this year was sainthood. “We had a saint for each day, all from the last century, and they all died before age 26, so they are young, recent saints,” said Mulloy, who discussed faith, heaven and the Eucharist over the three days. “We tied those three things with how God calls us to serve.”

After the morning presentations students broke into small groups and traveled to sites throughout the Fox Valley with an adult chaperone. Each day, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the students spent time working at 60 work sites. “We’re helping Habitat for Humanity out,” said Coutu. “We’re building picnic tables here and we go to Habitat Restore as well. Every year we do a special collection and this year it’s for Habitat for Humanity.”

Daily reflections created by Mulloy were discussed during lunch breaks. At the end of the day, students returned to the church and broke into groups by parish. “This gives the youth minister some time to connect with their own kids and the kids get to connect with each other,” said Mulloy. The camp concluded with Mass July 19.

Coutu gets positive feedback from the various agencies the students visit. “They’re always amazed at how well the kids work, how much work they can do, how kind they are, how courteous they are,” she said. “I think it’s good for the community to see that. I think sometimes youth get a bad rap.”

Allie Olson, 16, is a junior at St. Mary Central High School and a member of St. John/Sacred Heart Parish in Sherwood. She has been a part of Faith Factor since eighth grade. “My friends started doing it and it sounded fun so then I got involved with it and it was really fun. We’d go back afterward feeling good about what we did.”

Sydney Courtney, 17, a St. Bernadette parishioner and senior at Appleton East High School, also started Faith Factor in eighth grade. “My parents signed me up and I did it with my older sister. She’s in college now and now my little twin sisters are doing it.”

The girls were assigned to different projects every day, and on the final day of camp were making pillow case dresses and shorts for children in Haiti. “I don’t know how to sew, I’m just cutting,” admitted Courtney with a laugh. “I learned some new stuff yesterday. I’ve never used power tools before. I learned how to use them and we built a picnic table for Habitat for Humanity and we had lunch on it.”

The picnic tables will end up at a Habitat work site, noted Olson. “They’ll bring it there so the people who are building the building can take a break there. The picnic table goes to the family when they’re done. We got to write Bible quotes and draw pictures all over the one we made.”

Through the years the girls have created many fond memories by being involved with Faith Factor. “You meet a lot of new people and you actually feel like you’re making a big difference,” said Olson.

“You definitely feel like you’re making the greatest difference,” said Courtney. “People say if you volunteer there is no reward, but there is a reward, it’s just not physical — it’s a spiritual and mental reward, you feel so much better about yourself.

“This is the closest I’ve ever felt to my faith is when I’m volunteering, to be honest,” added Courtney. “When I’m doing good, I feel closest to God.”

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