Teens serve homeless youth

Friday, Apr. 26, 2019
Teens serve homeless youth + Enlarge
Young adults accompanied by Junuee Castro, director of the diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, join in prayer April 20 in the courtyard of the Cathedral of the Madeleine before heading to the Volunteers of America youth center to prepare and serve a breakfast for homeless youth.
By Laura Vallejo
Intermountain Catholic

SALT LAKE CITY — Ten Catholic young adults from all over the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City put their faith into action on Holy Saturday, April 20, as they prepared breakfast and served it to homeless youth at the Youth Resource Center of Volunteers of America in downtown Salt Lake.

The service was part of the “Holy Week Mission,” a Lent/Easter effort launched by the diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

Prior to the breakfast, the young adults spent several weeks collecting donations of clothing and other items needed by the Youth Center.

Utah’s Volunteers of America Youth Resource Center provides resources and emergency shelter for those ages 15-22 who are at risk or experiencing homelessness. The center offers three hot meals a day, a food pantry, showers and laundry, as well as services such as life-skills groups, case management for housing and employment, and dental and medical care assistance. At night, the center serves as a 30-bed emergency shelter.

The Holy Week Mission was an opportunity for the Catholic young adults to “give themselves to the world and to those who have a need,” said Junuee Castro, director of the diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

On Holy Saturday, young adults from the parishes of St. Thomas Aquinas in Logan, St. Andrew in Riverton, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Salt Lake City, the Cathedral of the Madeleine, Saints Peter and Paul in West Valley, and Saint Therese of the Child Jesus in Midvale woke up at 5 a.m. to be ready to prepare the breakfast that they were going to serve.

When they arrived at the center, some youth there were still sleeping on the floors.

That image struck Patricia Yamile Estrada, an Our Lady of Guadalupe parishioner, who said it made her appreciate things that sometimes she takes for granted.

“When we arrived they were lying on the floor, and that made me appreciate my bed more. … There was a guy in there that said, ‘I haven’t had a home-cooked meal in a long time,’ and that made me realize that I have to be grateful for the little things in life because some people don’t get them,” she said.

Being able to serve others that day made her happy, she said. “It made me feel good just knowing that I was helping other people in need. These little things can really go a long way.”

For Virginia Hernandez and her brother David, from St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, the day was an opportunity to show other youth that “we all can unite as one whole church so we can all do things together and give an example to other youth. … The Church motivates us to be an example and to follow the example of God,” she said.

Her brother agreed. By participating in the service, “I felt lots of love,” he said. “It was great talking to them. … Hearing what they live – it is something that sometimes we don’t know or live, and seeing that we can do something for them was terrific. It made me feel good just knowing that I was helping other people in need.”

The three pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving, and the reason for the young adult Holy Week Mission during Lent was to spread the Good News and to share with others, Castro said.

Kiara Cable, a Volunteer of America staff member who received the diocesan group, said that she was impressed with the service that they provided.

 “You guys were so awesome. It blows my mind that you were here, knowing that this day is very important for Catholics,” she told them.

“The service that they provided was really impressive,” she said. “They were really open and caring and listened to our clients and that is rare to see.”

“I want them to know that God loves us all, so they can feel loved. … They have someone that cares for them,” Estrada responded.

Besides preparing breakfast and serving it to almost 40 youth at the center, the Catholic group brought items such as clothing and shoes, hygiene items, sleeping bags and blankets to the center, as well as some Easter bags.

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