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St. Leo the Great in Fairfax hosts junior high work camp

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Youths from five parishes gathered at St. Leo the Great Church in Fairfax to learn how to serve the community and grow in their faith at Junior High Work Camp July 10-12.

Ninety-one students from St. Leo, St. Mary of Sorrows Church and St. Paul Chung Church in Fairfax, St. Mark Church in Vienna and St. Veronica Church in Chantilly, completed several service projects. They were joined by high school helpers who shared their witness stories throughout the camp. Spirituality was incorporated through talks, reciting the rosary, praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Mass and adoration. 

"With elbow power and the sweat of your brow, you have served the Lord." Tammy Simpson

Melissa Rihl, director of youth ministry at St. Leo, said the focus of the week is to assist the most people in need and get the youths geared up for the diocesan WorkCamp for high school-age students.

This week, the youths prepared nearly 400 pasta and tuna meals for Christ House, assembled more than 50 bags of baby supplies for the Gabriel Project, made 150 supply bags for a homeless tent city in Manassas and visited nursing homes. They collected 1,830 pounds of food this year for the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Leo, more than double last year’s 875 pounds.

Theresa Mack, a parishioner of St. Mary of Sorrows, said she wanted to become closer to God. The rising seventh-grader loved helping others and doing something for her community. Teddie Yeagley, a rising seventh-grader and parishioner of St. Mark, agreed. “Once you’re done (with a project), you realize that you have made an impact,” she said.

Eric McDade, a youth minister at St. Mark, said the students are exposed to several elements — collaboration through seeing five churches come together; service elements; intentionally serving, which is something the students can do any time; a growing gratitude for what they have in their lives after seeing those who do not have as much; and a sense of community. He said there is also the spiritual side with Mass and adoration.

St. Leo Deacon Marques Silva, director of the Office of Child Protection and Safety, told the students they were not just going as themselves to the nursing homes July 12. “You are Christ to every person you meet,” he said. “You have the opportunity to bring not only your presence but the presence of Christ with you.”

Tammy Simpson, president of the board of directors of St. Vincent de Paul Society, told the students how their food drive collection would impact others. “With elbow power and the sweat of your brow, you have served the Lord,” she said. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017