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Re-booted by WorkCamp

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As I enter my fifth year of seminary, I also returned this summer to the diocesan WorkCamp for the fifth time. Over the years, I have been a contractor, adult leader and seminarian visitor to WorkCamp, which generally hosts more than 800 students for a week of construction on homes of the needy, deep spiritual growth, and all sorts of team building and parish-vs.-parish challenges. This year I was more skeptical as COVID-19 pushed WorkCamp Re-Boot to the local parish setting with livestreamed evening programs, just a couple hours of work each day and face masks galore.

Here at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington, my summer assignment, we made the best of the week. With about ten teens and a couple of adult leaders, we completed a number of much-needed miscellaneous projects around the parish grounds. We worked with the head of maintenance, the liturgy director and the director of social outreach at St. Charles. While the kids did not get to build any wheelchair ramps, fix any roofs, or replace windows this year, they did get a feel for the daily work of the parish. They bagged food for over 100 families, repainted fences and reorganized rooms of the old convent (which most of them had never seen before).

For me, it was a moving experience that I will long remember. I had the opportunity to introduce the teens to the Liturgy of the Hours as we prayed evening prayer each day, sit with them at lunch discussions and even lead a team-building game called human bowling, which was safe and of course socially-distant. While I am always eager to use power tools, the simpler projects and a smaller group allowed for more time to really get to know the young people, hear their challenges of daily life, their hesitations about returning to school virtually in the fall, and the joy of their simple faith as it is lived out in the midst of a chaotic world. The pandemic has changed lives in many ways we do not even know yet. The week at WorkCamp was a re-boot for me, as a time to return to deeper prayer, simpler but much needed renovations in my own life, and time and space for allowing God to work in the way he desires.

Mike Lewis, who is from St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington, is entering his second year of theology at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020