Yen Nguyen, 17, had such a great time at last year’s Summer in the City, she came back this year for another week.
“It was an awesome experience,” she said. “I served meals at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, sorted clothes at Catholic Charities offices,” she continued. “I was out of my comfort zone.”
Nguyen and 47 other South Jersey youth didn’t spend their last days of summer idly strolling the boardwalk, working on their tans or cooking assorted meats on the grill.
These young men and women spent all of last week “putting their Catholic teaching and the Gospel values to flesh” in the people they encountered and aided, said Greg Coogan, diocesan director of Youth Ministry.
The Summer in the City program, rooted in the four pillars of social justice, service, spirituality and community, took place from Sunday, Aug. 13- Saturday, Aug. 19, in and around Atlantic County. A similar Summer in the City experience for youth took place in June in Vineland.
“The seven days transformed lives” of those that served, and those who were served, Coogan added.
With their home base of Holy Spirit High School in Absecon, where they shared the majority of their meals and fellowship, the youth, in addition to their work at the rescue mission and Catholic Charities, spent their days visiting with senior citizens at a nursing home; helped rehabilitate a house; and learned the hard labor of farmers in harvesting produce.
During the evenings, guest speakers educated them on such topics as the power of the rosary or the Gospel call to welcome refugees.
Gabi Marigliano was one of the 13 adult leaders who helped guide the youth through their week.
“All teens have been a great witness, through the service they’ve been performing. They’ve actively sought out love, and have actively sought out what it means to have Christ’s light shine through them,” she said.
Other powerful experiences for them during the week were their participation in the Wedding of the Sea in Atlantic City and the “Burning Bush” Adoration at Quaremba Hall, next to Saint Michael Church, assisted by local priests and the recently-arrived Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal.
The adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was “an opportunity to bring the young people in front of the Lord and see him do the work” in our lives, said Sister Ann Kateri.
“We are his instruments,” she said.