Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — “We’re here to help people and do God’s work,” said Thaddeus Bonnicksen. He and five other youths and two adult chaperones were part of the annual service week titled Just5Days.
The parishioners of Holy Spirit Parish in Rochester, Minn., spent the week of July 17-21 in the Quad-City area doing a variety of service projects helping others.
Just5Days is a week-long mission experience of hands-on service work, engaging faith learning, meaningful prayer, community building and summer fun, according to the website of the Center for Ministry Development. The program is for middle school students and adult leaders from Catholic parishes and schools throughout the United States. Sites are spread throughout the U.S. during the summer.
Mary-Ellen Pfeiffer, Just5Days site coordinator for the Quad-Cities, said this year’s theme is Saints Among Us: Young World Changers. “They will be learning more about saints, what it means to be a saint and how, through living out their baptismal call, they can change the world,” Pfeiffer said. “T-shirts this year say it best, ‘we are the generation called to be saints and world changers.’”
Eighty-six people participated this year at 11 sites in the Quad Cities, along with backup sites in case of rain and extreme heat. Although heat and humidity were very high this year, the groups decided to keep going with the outdoor work “because it needed to get done.”
The group from Holy Spirit spent the mornings of July 18 and 20 at Eagles’ Wings in west Davenport. They pulled weeds, moved rock, transplanted a hosta and a rose bush and worked on a new prayer garden. Marcia Moore, director of Eagles’ Wings, said the prayer garden has been in the works for a long time and she was glad to see the new area completed. She has invited youths from Just5Days to her retreat center for several years.
“It’s a good thing for the kids to see a variety of ways in which they can serve the Lord. This also gives us the opportunity to get some help that we need.” Bonnicksen, originally from Bettendorf, said, “We need youths to be seen and to give a hand” in helping out in the community. This was the perfect example of that, he noted.
Jack Archbold said volunteering at Just5Days has been fun. “I wanted to help and it has been fun to meet new people.”
Sam Schmall said participating was a “great way to help people and help change lives.” Ethan Leeser added that it was fun to help at various sites. The Holy Spirit youths helped at Eagles’ Wings, Junior Theater in Davenport and St. Joseph the Worker House in Rock Island, Ill.
Mary Nowakowski, Holy Spirit’s youth ministry coordinator, said she has taken youths to Appleton, Wis., in the past. “We have not been to Iowa before and wanted to try something new,” she said. “I think it is important to do mission and service work. It’s good to get out of your routine and learn about Catholic Social Teaching first-hand.”
St. Ambrose host site
St. Ambrose University in Davenport has been the host site for all the students and chaperones of Just5Days. They provide the housing, food and areas for meeting and programs each day, Pfeiffer said.
Nowakowski said, “St. Ambrose is an awesome place to stay. They are so friendly and helpful and I think some of the youths might consider St. Ambrose (for school) in the future.”
Archbold appreciated the university’s comfortable amenities, including air conditioning and the meeting areas for group activities. Schmall said the campus is not too big and is easy to get around. Leeser summed it up: “The campus is great.”