MISHICOT — Connor Reinhart admits that he really did not want to attend Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) 267 in January. The retreat weekend, held at the former St. Joseph School on Green Bay’s west side, was required for confirmation at Holy Cross Parish, Mishicot.
“Once I got there, I was thinking that I was going to lay back and not really do anything,” said Reinhart. “As the days went on I began getting more involved. One day I wore a ‘Smile More’ shirt and I got noticed. I thought, OK, I’m getting more into this. The speeches the people were giving were inspiring me to become closer to my faith.”
Little did Reinhart know that his experience would lead to an international, faith-based journey. Among the TEC participants were students from European countries who are attending Catholic high schools through the Global Outreach Catholic Exchange Program. Connecting with the exchange students and a desire to grow in their faith spurred Reinhart and three Holy Cross confirmation classmates — Emily Baumgartner, Zac Fencl and Kaitlyn Kraynik, all Mishicot High School juniors — to travel to Europe this summer as part of the Global Outreach Summer Camp.
The foursome will depart with a group on July 11 for Budapest, Hungary. The summer camp is scheduled for July 13-19 in Miskolc, Hungary. The trip will also include travel to Slovakia before a closing highlight, participation in World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. They will return to the U.S. on Aug. 1.
“Fr. Joel (Sember, pastor at Holy Trinity, Oconto, and St. Anthony, Oconto Falls) came to our TEC. He talked to us about Global Outreach and told us that we really have to do this,” said Kraynik. “It seems like such a good opportunity to grow, to meet young adult Catholics and to see the pope at Mass at World Youth Day.”
Kraynik was on board from the start. The TEC retreat weekend was a good springboard, she said.
“When we got there, they said, ‘Don’t look at the time; just go with it.’ That was the best part, ‘Don’t anticipate, just participate,’” she said. “One thing we learned was to live humbly to serve others and to serve God.”
Similar to Reinhart, Baumgartner had a slow start at TEC.
“At first it was difficult to get into it, but as the weekend went on, I felt like I got closer to God and learned more about the faith,” she said. “I got more excited as I found out that more kids my age are excited about the faith.”
Deciding to go on the Global Outreach Summer Trip is one thing; making it happen is another. Following TEC, they shared their plans with Eileen Gale, faith formation coordinator at Holy Cross and St. Anne Parish, Francis Creek. Fundraising was the next step.
“We asked a few organizations, the Knights of Columbus and the Altar Society,” said Kraynik. “You could tell they were excited for us. They are so willing to sponsor us and we are so grateful to them. We cannot say thank you enough.”
Baumgartner and Fencl recently spoke to the Lions Club and received a donation. The four teens also held a coffee fundraiser at Main Street Coffee House and Bistro in Mishicot and are planning additional events, including a brat fry.
“Every group told us, ‘We would like you to come back and show us what you did on the trip,’” said Fencl. “We will probably make a PowerPoint or something with pictures to explain what we did. We might show it in church some week.”
Supporters will be able to follow the teens online.
“We have a facebook page (Global Outreach 2016),” said Fencl. “Once we get closer, we will invite people to the page. We might take a turn every day posting photos.”
The annual summer camp brings together the U.S. group, Global Outreach alumni, incoming exchange students and prospective students. The Holy Cross teens look forward to seeing the exchange students they met at TEC.
“One girl in my group at TEC named Weronika (Weronska, from Poland, a student at Pacelli High School in Stevens Point) was so sweet,” said Kraynik. “She talked about Global Outreach and how much fun she was having. She encouraged us to do the trip.”
Kraynik added that she is looking forward to learning about other cultures at the summer camp.
“The camp in Hungary is technically run by the U.S., so we get there a day early and set it up. We welcome them and lead it,” said Fencl. “Every country at this camp has a day, so you get to present your culture. We get to present our culture and traditions.”
Baumgartner is looking forward to Slovakia.
“We get to tour a bunch of castles and churches and climb a huge mountain (the Tatras),” she said.
“I can’t wait for Poland because I really want to see the Pope, hopefully meet him and take a picture with him,” said Reinhart.
Confirmation for the Mishicot teens is scheduled for May 18 at St. Anne Church, due to renovations at Holy Cross. They hope to become more involved in the parish. Reinhart and Fencl would both like to serve as ushers. Baumgartner wants to assist with faith formation. Kraynik is interested in serving as a lector and extraordinary minister of holy Communion. They hope their summer trip provides a good example for the younger members of the parish.
“I hope other people get encouraged to go out and do something to reaffirm their faith,” said Kraynik. “Maybe some members of next year’s confirmation class will go on the Global Outreach trip.”