Program #0267 for Wednesday, March 28, 2012: Hunger for Justice retreat 2012

March 28, 2012

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Summary of today’s show: For 17 years, teens from the North Shore have been spending their Triduum in a 30-hour fast and serving the poor and needy in Boston on the Hunger for Justice retreat. Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams interview organizers Chris Carmody and Andrea Alberti to see how 400 teens are challenged to move beyond their physical hunger to experience their spiritual hunger for Christ and then go out and serve Christ in those they encounter in a profound experience of the reality of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams

Today’s guest(s): Andrea Alberti, youth minister at St. Thomas Parish in Nahant and St. Mary High School, Lynn; and Chris Carmody, youth minister at Immaculate Conception in Salem and religion teacher at St. Mary High School, Lynn

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Today’s topics: Hunger for Justice 2012

1st segment: Scot welcomed everyone to the show. He noted it’s the last full week of Lent and said it’s a busy time for many in the Church. He said the catechetical congress last weekend was a big event preparing for Lent. Fr. Matt spoke at a breakout session on praying and ways of prayer. His talk focused on love as as not just a feeling, but as self-gift. Nor is faith a feeling. We don’t pray to make ourselves feel good or have faith because we feel God close to us. Instead, we exercise the disciplines of prayer.

Scot said the Holy Father has been in Mexico and Cuba over the past few days. In the past 24 hours, the Pope met with Fidel Castro in a personal meeting at Castro’s request. Scot said the Missionaries of Charity have a ministry where they adopt a priest to pray for every day. Pope Benedict has met his spiritual godmother, a Cuban Missionary of Charity who has prayed for him every day for the past 25 years. The Holy Father then celebrated Mass for 700,000 people in Havana today. Scot said it recalls when Pope John Paul went to Poland and it is hope that it has a similar effect in Cuba, to bring freedom to the people.

2nd segment: Scot welcomed Chris and Andrea back to the show. Andrea said they’ve been holding the Hunger for Justice retreat for 17 years and about 70 total retreat experiences. Chris said the Hunger part of the retreat is a fast that starts about 5pm on Good Friday and ends after the Easter Vigil. The Hunger for Justice is the found in the service work for the homeless and they see the value and human dignity in people. This hunger for justice grows in the young people.

Scot asked how they prepare the teens for the fasting, physically and spiritually. Andrea said the Triduum focuses on death to life. No matter how small their sacrifice, it can have a profound impact by uniting it to Christ. They mention St. Therese a lot. She said they tell them that when they experience physical hunger, it makes them more aware of the spiritual hunger in our hearts for the love of God. The teens are also getting sponsors who pledge money for each hour the participants fast.

Chris said the Hunger for Justice that engages the entire parishes of all the kids who participate. They ask parishioners to donate food and other goods for the kids to give to the homeless. Andrea said they tell the kids that they should tell 25 people about the sacrifice they’re making, just tell 25 and people are so impressed by what they’re doing and the money will roll in. The kids get apprehensive about asking for money, but just by letting others know what they’re doing, people want o donate. Last year, they raised $18,000 and the year before $25,000.

Fr. Matt asked what makes service so appealing to young people. Andrea said the youth want to help, to be engaged. The reason we don’t see them involved is because our expectations are so low. We need to challenge them. Ask an adult to fast for 30 hours and they’ll tell they’re too busy. But if an adult tells a teen that we see God’s plan ready in them, they will only be held back by their own self-doubt. Andrea said she wishes all the adults listening could see what she sees, including 300 to 400 kids fasting and serving for 30 hours.

Fr. Matt said the Hunger for Justice brings a balance between the project they’re doing and Who they are doing it for. Chris said they are very deliberate in doing Christian service. It’s not just Christians doing service, but that Christ is at the center of what they do. When they bring food or donations to the homeless, they see Christ in them. The goal isn’t just to feed people or hand things out, but to serve the other and see Christ in him. Andrea said it’s the holiest days of the year in which Christ died for you and that inspires the kids to give everything for Him.

Andrea said it’s not just a hunger relief program to raise money. It’s also identifying with, becoming one with the hungry and homeless. They tell the homeless that the kids have slept on the ground the night before, have gone without a phone. The kids get that they will go home and sleep in their bed tonight, but the guy they just met won’t be able to. the parents talk about how the kids come home profoundly changed.

Chris said whatever they do, they always process what happened and reconnect it back to the Passion of Christ. The kids now understand what “offer it up” means. They understand that sacrifice of a meal is a sacrifice for other.

The Hunger for Justice takes place in Lynn and Nahant next week.

3rd segment: This week’s benefactor card raffle winner is Patricia Hogan from Quincy, MA

She wins an Audio Book CD: The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ by Anne Catherine Emmerich, read by Roger Basick, and a booklet: Meditations on the Stations of the Cross from Belmont Abbey College theology professor, Dr. Ronald Thomas.

If you would like to be eligible to win in an upcoming week, please visit WQOM.org. For a one-time $30 donation, you’ll receive the Station of the Cross benefactor card and key tag, making you eligible for WQOM’s weekly raffle of books, DVDs, CDs and religious items. We’ll be announcing the winner each Wednesday during “The Good Catholic Life” program.

4th segment: Scot asked them to describe what happens on the week. Andrea said on Good Friday they gather at noon on Short Beach in Nahant. They prepare for the Veneration of the Cross by honoring the Cross in a less traditional way on the beach. Fr. Matt preaches the Cross to those present. She said many of those present are hearing it proclaimed so well for the first time.

They then carry this very large cross up the main road in Nahant, taking turns holding it, praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. They carry the Cross to the St. Thomas Aquinas parish in Nahant, where the community is waiting for them and they have the traditional Veneration of the Cross. This ends by 4:30pm.

They travel to St. Mary’s in Lynn for a last meal together donated by local restaurants. After this last meal, they have an hour of getting to know each other and then they watch The Passion of the Christ, for the first time for many of them. Afterward, Fr. Matt goes into a healing service. They go from what Christ did for them and why to living life to the full. They gather in small groups to pray, claiming the cross for what they need in their life. At about 11pm, the students make their cardboard, makeshift homes for the night.

Scot asked Chris about the carrying the Cross through Nahant and for how many of the students it’s their first public profession of faith and what they say about it? Chris said many are still nervous because it’s the beginning of the retreat. When they see positive reaction from people they see, they realize being public about your faith doesn’t have to result in persecution. They love to carry the Cross and begin to thrive on it.

Andrea said those who watch the Passion for the first time are often very moved and there are often tears.It’s not so much the gore, but the realization of what Christ really went through for us and what that means for how we live our lives. He died for you, so are you going to go back to the way you were?

Many of those who are most moved by it become the peer leaders for the next year. They express it in how they set the bar high for themselves and each other in how they live their faith publicly.

Scot asked why there’s a healing service on the first day? Fr. Matt said on the Saturday morning, they stop at St. Anthony’s Shrine for confession where ultimate healing occurs. But they recognize that a lot of these kids are hearing the Gospel for the first time, having had the whole Gospel shrunk into one day and experienced it in three different ways. The message is that God so love the world. We were born to live, but Jesus was the only one born to die. So their hearts are confronted by the truth and it gives an opportunity to be able to say how do we now take that message and let the Lord love us in our lives? How do we begin with precision to bring that Gospel message in to our heart. For the most part they know what the typical struggles are and so the leaders ask who is struggling with a particular problem. Hands go up and the other kids in the small group will lay hands and pray over them.

Andrea said Love heals. The understanding and experiencing the Gospel message and embracing it, experiencing God as loving father is powerful. The openness of the kids is amazing. Chris said it’s humbling to see them turn their struggles over to God. You can see it in their faces and attitudes and how they act after. It’s because of this prayer service that the service projects have real fruit on Saturday. They’ve let go of what was holding them back and they are able to focus on seeing Christ in others. They were able to let go of their baggage and let God work in them.

Andrea said the kids get between four and five hours of sleep, which is more than most retreats, considering all these hundreds of teens. They know they will be working hard on Saturday morning and even harder on Saturday afternoon. They will be doing physically taxing labor.

On Saturday, they split into three groups. One goes to Boston Common to hand out food to the homeless. Another third goes to Arch Street to hand out food and clothing. And the last group goes to Pine Street Inn. they will all eventually make their way to Arch Street where they will receive the Sacrament of Confession. Chris said his favorite part is seeing 300 youth and adults all going to confession. It’s a beautiful scene to see people receiving the sacrament. They also process what they’ve done, asking what it was like to serve the homeless and to hear the stories from the homeless. The students are often shocked by what they learn about the homeless.

After they finish in Boston, they return to the North Shore where they help out at parishes, schools, shelters, food pantries, or camps. They do yard work, clean out messes, and all other kinds of hard work. They bring them all back together in Lynn where they process their experiences and they have a commissioning. They don’t want it to be a one-time event. They want to commission them to go out and serve Christ every day. This occurs about 5pm. ABout half the group stays at St. Mary and half goes back to their parishes to join the Easter vigil in their communities.

Andrea said they see a response to the reality of sacrifice and love. They are hearing the sacrifice of Christ for them and they want to go do that for others. She’s inspired hearing kids who have an epiphany that the first food they will receive will be the Body of Christ.

Scot asked what they’re supporting this year with the donations. Andrea said they are giving some to the Coalition for the Homeless in Lynn and Chris is going on a mission trip to Ecuador so the Hunger for Justice will be paying for some water filtration systems. Anyone who would like to donate, can send checks to Andrea Alberti or Chris Carmody at St. Mary High School, 35 Tremont Street, Lynn, MA 01902

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