By Tony DeGol
Alexis Dimond-Smith did not receive a dime for three days of cleaning, pulling weeds, and other strenuous chores, but she is richer than ever.
“It’s a reward for me whenever I see people after we help them, they’re so grateful, and that just makes me really happy that I can help someone out like that,” she relayed.
Dimond-Smith is among a group of about 20 teens from Our Mother of Sorrows Parish in Johnstown that is wrapping up a mission experience over the past few days right here in their own back yard.
OMOS has a tradition of sponsoring a youth mission trip to Germantown, Pennsylvania, an area located northwest of Philadelphia. During the excursion, the young people share the love of God by helping people in need and strengthening communities.
This year, because of COVID-19 and unrest in parts of the country, OMOS youth ministry leaders passed on traveling outside of the area.
“We decided to stay local and work with a lot of different ministries here to address some of the issues here in Johnstown and to make the kids aware that Johnstown has issues just like inner-city Philadelphia,” said Matt DiFrancesco, a high school youth core team member at Our Mother of Sorrows.
Among the local organizations or individuals benefiting from the students’ service are the Saint Vincent de Paul Family Kitchen, McCullough Place, Trinity Farms, the Women’s Help Center, Mom’s House, and Norman Ed.
Ali Koch, Director of High School Ministry at Our Mother of Sorrows, hopes this week’s activities are the start of building relationships in the community and ultimately lead to monthly service projects around the area for the OMOS youth.
Central to each day’s mission work is prayer and reflection, Koch said, which enhances the students’ efforts as true service versus just work.
“We’ve had talks in our small groups about how we can be the hands and feet of Jesus to all those we come in contact with,” she stated.
“We really try to incorporate the sacramental life of the Church into what we do here to teach them that the sacramental life is designed for us to be fed by God to then go out into the world to preach and live the Gospel, and that’s how we spread the Good News,” added DiFrancesco. “We come and celebrate the sacraments to be fed but then we can go out and minister to all those people and hopefully through our actions and our love we can show them the Gospel.”
For Dimond-Smith, who will enter her junior year at Bishop McCort Catholic High School this fall, the experience has been priceless.
“Right now, this opens our eyes,” she revealed during a break from work at New Day. “Not everyone has the luxury of having everything brought to them. People have to work for it. It changes your life.”
[Photos: (Top) Alayna Marion, a member of Our Mother of Sorrows Parish in Johnstown and student at Bishop McCort Catholic High School, washes the window of a van at New Day, an organization that provided service projects for OMOS youth engaged in a three-day mission experience in Johnstown. (Inset) An OMOS group poses in front of the Women’s Help Center, another site for service projects.]