By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
MUSCATINE — “I’m pleased as punch,” said Don Boucher of the first Catholics in Action-Family Style experience. “This worked out better in many ways than I anticipated — especially for the first time offering this,” said the director of faith formation for the Diocese of Davenport.
The traditional Catholics in Action experience (held earlier this summer) involves teens and young adults going out into the community to do service. Catholics in Action–Family Style involved families. “I really loved watching the families interact with one another and then the families interacting with other families,” Boucher said.
Three families participated in this first experience July 7-10. Ben Kulbartz and his wife Marci Schwartz and their children, June, Harper and Lucy, are members of St. Mary Parish in Oxford. Kent and Lori Ferris of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine participated with two of their children, Miles and Lucy. Daughter Claire was unable to attend. Barry and Linda Lahann of St. Ann Parish in Long Grove participated with their grandchildren, Adam and Abby Allen.
The experience began with welcome, introductions, explanation of the program, work sites and time frame for activities. The following day, after a meal and blessing, all went to the Muscatine Center for Social Action (MCSA). They received a tour and description of MCSA, which provides transitional and overnight housing, a domestic violence shelter, strategies to prevent homelessness and apartments to help men get back on their feet.
The groups worked at two sites. The Kulbartz-Schwartz and Ferris families painted the residential wing hallways at MCSA. The Lahann-Allen family helped out at a home in Muscatine through Rebuilding Together Muscatine.
Drop clothes lined the hallways at MCSA. The children and adults applied antique white paint to mint green walls. The two girls named Lucy loved painting the halls. They shared use of the roller and paintbrushes and used a cloth to wipe up drops. Asked if they got much paint on the floor, Lucy Kulbartz said, “Yes” with a smile. Lucy Ferris said she liked painting and would do it again if she had the opportunity.
Schwartz said she and her husband had been looking for something to do as a family for service and the CIA-Family Style came along. They learned about it through their parish bulletin. “The kids are pretty little and this looked like it might work.” So they signed up. She said they enjoyed the event.
Lori Ferris said she and the family signed up because “we wanted to do something as a family and it looked like fun. We are having a great time.” Son Miles admitted he did not want to go. “But the environment is so nice and the people here changed my mind.”
The Lahann and Allen families were led by Tommy Fallon, youth minister at Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish, who helped plan the event. They were also joined by traditional CIA co-leaders Mike Linnenbrink, youth minister at parishes in Farmington, Fort Madison, Houghton, St. Paul and West Point; and Sara Scogland, youth minister at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf. The two planned to meet in Muscatine to review the CIA held in June, but ended up joining in the family-style work project. “I answered my phone last night, that’s how I got here,” Linnenbrink laughed. He told Scogland that plans had changed and to bring work clothes. “It was a blessing that we came to help.”
At the house in Muscatine, the families pulled out wooden planks from a back deck, dug trenches, installed a weatherproof liner under the deck, backfilled the
area, and worked to prevent future rainfall from entering the house and foundation. Barry Lahann said Candy Boucher, Don’s wife, asked the Lahanns to consider participating in the family-style experience. “We bit it hook, line and sinker.”
Linda Lahann said the family has been doing various activities for the Year of Mercy and this fit in well. The couple asked their children if the grandkids could attend and “they gave us their blessing,” Linda said.
Grandson Adam Allen said he thought it would be a good experience. He helped take out deck boards, dig trenches, take out a ramp and pull weeds, among many other projects. Abby Allen pulled weeds, helped take down two ramps and dug deeper holes to lower a ramp into a back shed. After work, all families gathered for a late-afternoon snack, reflection on their projects, and dinner. The following day followed the same schedule. On the final day, Sunday, the families attended Mass, had lunch and finished their sessions and sharing experiences.
“It brought me joy to watch families connect the pieces,” Boucher said. “They would process what they did each day and talk about their experience.” As an evening project each family created a table runner. The first night, they put paint on their hands and pressed their palms on the table runner. The next two nights they came up with a design to describe their day. The families got to take home their table runners.
Boucher plans to offer the family-style experience again, perhaps as two events, one on the east end and the other on the west end of the diocese. He’ll need help from parishes to make that a reality.
Through evaluations, Boucher learned the families enjoyed the small size. So he would cap the experience at 10 families.
One suggestion for the future: a little less processing time after the program topic is presented. Another suggestion was to provide a place to wind down for individual prayer and reflection. “We had space, but we can make that better,” Boucher said.