Catholics lend a hand in Kentucky



By Anne Marie Amacher and Elizabeth Starr
The Catholic Messenger

Repairing homes and building relationships in David, Ky., provided youths and adults from four parishes in the Diocese of Davenport a memorable mission trip experience.

Pat Sheil, youth minister for St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt, has led trips to David, Ky., for years. She took a group of 15 this time. “The home repair projects have been a great opportunity to build relationships with the people we serve and help the youth of our parish have an understanding of Catholic Social Teaching first hand.” Previously, her groups volunteered at The David School, an alternative school for a six-county area in Kentucky, and then connected with St. Vincent Mission a few years later.

Youths from St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville work on a project in David, Ky., earlier this summer.

Michelle Montgomery, youth minister for St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville, has also led trips to David, Ky., for years. “This was a tough year because it rained, I mean rained, every day. Not sprinkles but downpours,” she said. “We just bucked up and worked in the pouring rain. We gave up on the ponchos and just danced in the rain. … You just make the best out of it and make it as fun as possible so you can get the job done for the family you are serving.” Three adults and 18 youths participated this year.


Julia Jones, youth minister for St. Ann Parish in Long Grove, said some in her group of 10 participants led a Vacation Bible School for six children in David. Other group members volunteered as part of a construction crew and had a day to build furniture and do odd jobs for St. Vincent Mission.

Carrie Lane, organizer for the team from St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf, said her group made its first trip to David, Ky. “The trip was in response to a recent parish survey that indicated a desire for more opportunities for mission work.”

She previously led high school groups to tornado cleanup efforts in Missouri and Oklahoma. Her husband, Tim, has made six trips to Kentucky. “The group worked hard and played hard. Days were filled with painting and refinishing projects, cleaning and organizing, as well as clearing trails. Evenings were left to spiritual reflection, exploring the region, including a side trip to Natural Bridges State Park,” Carrie said.

Five youths and four adults from the Bettendorf parish worked at the David School. “It was awesome to see the young people step into roles of service and as leaders. Together we accomplished a great deal of work, and we grew as a faith community. My faith was deepened, and I feel called to do more,” Carrie said.

Youth and young adult reaction:

Kaitlyn Dickey, 21, of St. Joseph Parish said she’s experienced many different projects on her seven trips to David, Ky., such as landscaping, dry walling, electrical and repair projects.

“You are serving their needs by completing the tasks and building relationship with them,” she said of the people she helped. “I think that, faith-wise, it definitely opened new perspectives in a lot of different ways. … “This trip took me out of my home environment and showed me a community that’s impacted by poverty. I think that you can’t change the world in one week. But you can impact the lives of the people you help.” Extending a hand in service is a core part of faith, she believes.

Anna Verry, a sophomore from St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville, said the mission trip “was definitely a new experience for me.” She contrasted her experience helping people in Iowa and Kentucky. “For those I help in Iowa, they have a nice apartment or home, but lack the things needed inside the house, just basic stuff. Those in Kentucky are struggling with the foundation of their homes, and simple things you just take for granted at home, like having a shower/bathroom.” Anna said, “We all have needs but our job is to not judge the person by these habits and different lifestyles. I am very grateful to have been called to go on this trip to serve and be able to help make other people’s homes livable.”

Megan Dague of St. John Vianney Parish, who will attend Iowa State University this fall, said she has always had an interest in doing some sort of service trip. “We went down and helped out at the school that they have there for kids who are having difficulties. This school provides the students with lifelong skills that they can use in their future to help them.”

During their stay, the team talked with two David School graduates. “It was really inspiring to hear their stories and how much the school played a role in their success.”

She and her team helped out at the school by doing random tasks. “We cleared the hiking trail, cleaned and organized the wood shop, water-proofed their outdoor swings and fencing, sanded and stained their kitchen cabinets and painted the stairs of the school,” Megan said. “This trip made me realize that we are very blessed here in Bettendorf with all the things we have.” Just a nine-hour drive away, things look much different. “It was neat to be part of a group that came together to serve the same purpose.”

Maddie Gottschalk, a high school sophomore from St. Ann Parish in Long Grove, knew she would help people in need and serve God. But when Julia Jones, her parish’s youth minister, first mentioned the trip, “my first thought was, ‘Nope. I’m not interested.’” But as Maddie was doing her nightly prayer, she felt called to go on this trip. “I was beyond anxious and nervous making this choice, but I did it and I don’t regret it one bit.”

Maddie volunteered at a day camp for children. “We had a great four days of the Vacation Bible School filled with crafts, games, music, Bible story and laughter and fun.” Others in her group helped repair a wheelchair ramp and a deck. “This kind of service, it changes your faith in a different way and really makes you think about being the most selfless and loving person you can be to those around you.”

She would recommend the service trip to others. “This was a trip that I personally think turns out mostly in the way you perceive it. If you see it as just a week of repairs and working or helping and teaching kids, it will be that kind of trip to you. But if you put the words of the Bible and God’s call into it and see it as a week of helping, it will be such a different experience.”

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