Middle schoolers sample Saint Viator values at Service & Song Camp
Service is one of the core values at Saint Viator High School, and that was on full display recently as its unique Service & Song Camp returned.
A total of 50 middle school students participated in the camp, along with more than 20 students from Saint Viator who served as leaders and another 13 adults who led individual teams.
"This is such a wholesome activity," said Pat McGarry, a theology teacher at the school and a group leader. "The kids get a taste of what service is about at Saint Viator and they get to meet other kids."
Each afternoon, teens divided up into groups and spread out to serve at social service agencies located across the Northwest suburbs and in individual homes.
Stops included making lunches for the homeless at Journeys: The Road Home in Palatine and Catholic Charities in Des Plaines; making fleece blankets and cards for veterans served by Salute, Inc. in Palatine; compiling 94 boxes of food -- or more than 20,000 meals -- at Feed My Starving Children in Schaumburg; collecting food from surrounding neighbors for the Wheeling Township Food Pantry; and working in the yards of 10 senior citizens.
For Megan Newell, an incoming freshman from Arlington Heights, it was her third year at the camp after hearing about it from older sisters.
"Gardening was my favorite," she said. "It's just fun to do service with kids my age while still helping the community."
Kellan Schieler, a seventh grader from Palatine, was new to the camp, but he found the week to be fun and exciting.
"It was my first time doing gardening work and, oddly enough, I really liked labeling food in the food pantry," he said. "But working in teams at Feed My Starving Children was my favorite. It was really exciting."
Fr. Corey Brost, CSV, a former president of the school, launched the unique camp in 2013 and he returned this year to offer the closing Mass.
"Our intention was to let students directly serve those most in need in the local community," Brost says, "and learn why service is at the heart of a lived‐out Catholic faith."
Each afternoon had a different theme and songs led by student musicians and choral members. Before heading off to their work sites, high school leaders took turns offering a brief reflection.
"People often underestimate us," Saint Viator senior Madeline Denk said to her young audience. "But as young people, we have the ability to inspire and have an impact, as we've seen this whole week."
Ann Perez, director of Campus Ministry at Saint Viator, served as director of the camp. While the logistics of moving all the teams to their sites, and cooling them off when they returned, was a challenge, she found the week to be impactful.
"The camp gives students the opportunity to form community and to go out to serve those who are in need," Perez said. "They have fun playing games and also take the time to pray and reflect on who God is calling them to be as disciples of Christ in the world today."