By Pete Sanchez
When one reads of summertime and youth, it wouldn’t be unusual to think s’mores, pool parties, bikes and baseball.
For the 47 high school-age youth participating in the Camden Diocese’s annual Summer in the City program earlier this month, though, they’ll recall service, spirituality, social justice and community.
These were the four foundations of the Aug. 11-17 experience. With Absecon’s Kairos Retreat Center at Holy Spirit High School as their home base, youth and their adult leaders spent the week immersed in the surrounding Atlantic County community, be it helping to beautify a cemetery; spending time with and getting to form relationships with the disabled, elderly and children; or praying in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament with the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal.
“They were transformed,” mentioned Greg Coogan, diocesan director of Youth Ministry, adding that the “young missionary disciples … made a difference for the Gospel.”
He added that other activities during the week included guest speakers, and a sleep-out outside the Kairos Retreat Center’s walls to simulate homelessness.
“I’m inspired by the young people’s generosity and openness to make a difference, and respond to the world’s needs,” he said.
“They bring an energy, openness to serve vulnerable populations — it gives me great hope,” he added.
Marianne Linka, director of Cemeteries, said she and the staff at Holy Cross Cemetery in Mays Landing were grateful for students’ work, which included weeding the cemetery grounds, and painting parking curb block and directional signs for traffic flow.
“This program is wonderful. The students leave with a better understanding of perpetual care of a cemetery and our staff is grateful for students’ time and help,” she said.