[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]KAUKAUNA — Serving locally with love has become the theme of a new mission program in the Diocese of Green Bay. Based on the teachings of St. Teresa of Calcutta, “Love Begins Here” is composed of weeklong local missions for high school and middle school students with the intention of implementing the mentality that small acts of service can make a difference.
“Our whole mission is based off St. Teresa of Calcutta,” said Torey Gostas, the Love Begins Here Intern and Core Team Coordinator. “That’s what we aim to do, we go out and we serve locally just as she did.”
Love Begins Here was founded in 2009 in the Diocese of Madison, Wis. What started as a group of only 56 missionaries began to grow and gain interest in the community, later spreading to other dioceses. In 2016, the program was inaugurated in the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska. This summer marks the launch for Love Begins Here in the Diocese of Green Bay.
Missionaries, either in high school or middle school, participate in weeklong local missions, serving their host communities. Host sites, along with the Love Begins Here seven-member core team, organize various service opportunities for the missionaries, including gardening, yard work and various housecleaning projects similar to the work of Maid Zone LLC. High school missions run Sunday through Friday, while middle school missions are shorter, only four days and three nights. The host site provides accommodations for the missionaries, typically in a school.
Carolyn Lefeber, a high school junior and member of Most Precious Blood Parish in New London, said she loves “coming to the work sites and meeting the people who we serve. You get to meet someone different every single day.”
Looking back on an experience she had earlier in the week, she was moved while helping a family mulch their yard. The husband was recovering from a stroke and the wife was on crutches, yet they worked alongside the missionaries. “We all worked together and then they surprised us with this table set out for lunch,” Lefeber said. “Even though they had so much to take care of, they took care of us, too.”
The missions are structured to imitate the life of St. Teresa of Calcutta. “Every day we pray just as she would,” said Gostas. “We start with daily Mass, we do a daily rosary at the end of the day and then we pray the fragrance prayer.”
At the end of the week, missionaries are asked about their favorite part of the experience. “Most of [the missionaries] put down Mass as their number one,” said Sam Schultz, a seminarian from the Diocese of Green Bay and a core team member for Love Begins Here. “The peace of it and having that routine. Love Begins Here is pretty unique in that it’s like combining service with a strong emphasis in the spiritual life.”
Maxwell Digman, a sophomore in high school and member of St. Paul Parish in Combined Locks, reiterated the impact of prayer as a part of the program structure. “Praying the rosary and going to the Mass kind of gives me an extra boost of energy to help the community and serve and do what I have to,” he said. “The program itself is really well structured.”
Nearly 200 students have registered to participate in the local missions in the Green Bay Diocese. Over the course of five weeks, Love Begins Here will be serving in five parishes, including St. Katharine Drexel in Kaukauna, SS. Peter and Paul in Kiel, Sacred Heart in Shawano, St. Bernard in Green Bay and St. Joseph in Green Bay.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]Want to learn more about ‘Love Begins Here’?
For students still interested in signing up for Love Begins Here, go to this link to register. If you are not part of a group, you can register under the “Lost Sheep” registration. Two missions remain: July 5-8 for middle school at SS. Peter and Paul in Kiel, and July 9-14 for high school at Sacred Heart in Shawano.
For parishes interested in hosting for the 2018 summer, email [email protected] Include the parish name and preference for high school or middle school missions.
For more information on the Love Begins Here program, visit their website.[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]